Wednesday, June 19, 2013

MARYLAND: Rear-end accidents – Presumption of Negligence

The Baltimore-Washington region traffic provides many opportunities for drivers to be involved in rear-end accidents.  Many people assume that the driver that does the rear-ending is always legally responsible for the accident, but that is not always true.  Whether you have been rear-ended or you have done the rear-ending, the question is: “who is responsible?”  While each accident is different, there are laws in Maryland which may help to answer this question.  First, Maryland has a rebuttable presumption that the operator of the striking rear-vehicle is negligent for failing to keep control of his vehicle and failing to keep an appropriate distance.  Rebutting the presumption can be difficult, but it sometimes can be done.  Second, Maryland Transportation Code Annotated, § 21-310(a) requires that a vehicle “may not follow another vehicle more closely than is reasonable and prudent” taking into consideration the speed of the traffic and the road conditions.  That is a vague standard, and what is or is not “reasonable and prudent” can be affected by the particular facts of the accident.  Therefore, there can be situations in which the driver who does the rear-ending is not solely responsible for the accident.  For instance, if a driver’s vehicle breaks down in the middle of a major highway during rush hour traffic at night but the driver has not turned on his hazard lights, that driver may be held solely responsible even if he is struck from behind.  Or, if a driver stops suddenly without a good reason and then gets rear-ended, that driver may be held legally responsible for the accident even though he is struck from behind.

If you are in a motor vehicle accident, it may not be easy to determine who is responsible for the accident and your injuries.  Take advantage of a free consultation with a Prince George’s County attorney at the law firm of Hartel, Kane, DeSantis & Howie, LLP to have the specifics of your case reviewed. 

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