Articles Posted in Government Liability

Recently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case requiring the court to determine if a group of city contractors that designed and landscaped the foliage around an intersection could be held liable after a motorist was killed at the intersection. Ultimately, the court concluded that because the city approved the work and the alleged hazard was readily apparent, the contractors were absolved from liability.

Motorcycle HeadlightThe case is important for Maryland car accident victims because, while the exact doctrine applied in Maryland differs slightly from that which was applied in this case, the concepts and considerations underlying the court’s rationale are consistent with Maryland law.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was the mother of a man who died after being struck by a truck upon entering an intersection on his motorcycle. The plaintiff claimed that the foliage surrounding the intersection obstructed the motorists’ view of the intersection as they approached, causing the accident.

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Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case that raises an important issue for Maryland motorcycle accident victims who believe that their injuries were due to a poorly designed road or intersection. The case required the court to determine if the plaintiff established that the government’s negligent planning and design of the road were the proximate cause of her injuries.

Dangerous IntersectionThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was a passenger on a northbound motorcycle being driven by her husband. The couple approached an intersection in which they did not have a stop sign. At the same time, a pick-up truck was traveling in a perpendicular direction and had stopped at a stop sign. The driver of the pick-up truck looked both ways before entering the intersection; however, as he pulled into the intersection, the plaintiff and her husband collided with the side of the truck.

The plaintiff was seriously injured, and her husband died as a result of the injuries he sustained in the accident. The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the government in charge of designing and maintaining the road, claiming that the road was negligently designed. Specifically, the plaintiff claimed that the government was negligent in failing to install a four-way stop at the intersection, allowing too high a speed limit, and failing to provide adequate signage in advance of the intersection.

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As a general matter, Maryland government employees, entities, and organizations are entitled to immunity from Maryland personal injury lawsuits. However, under the Maryland Tort Claims Act (MTCA), accident victims can pursue a claim for compensation against the government in certain limited situations.

Gravel RoadUnder the MTCA, victims can pursue a variety of claims against government entities up to the statutory limit of $400,000 per claimant per incident. However, certain conduct is removed from the MTCA and will not be covered. Namely, this is if the person or entity that caused the injury acted with malice or gross negligence or took actions not within the scope of the person’s employment. Other important exceptions also apply, and anyone considering a claim against a government agency or official in Maryland should consult with a dedicated Maryland personal injury attorney.

A recent case discusses one motorcycle accident plaintiff’s difficulties when attempting to bring a lawsuit against a local government for the condition of the roads that she believed caused the accident. While the state’s tort claims act involved in the case is different from Maryland’s, the case illustrates some of the common difficulties plaintiffs have when attempting to bring a lawsuit against a government entity.

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Earlier this year, a state supreme court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case raising an important issue for Maryland bicycle accident victims who were injured while riding on public property. The case presented the court with the opportunity to discuss whether a government landowner was entitled to immunity under the state’s recreational use statute when the path where the injury occurred was used for both recreational and non-recreational purposes.

Dirt RoadFinding that there was no language in the state’s recreational use statute requiring that land be used exclusively for recreational purposes in order for immunity to attach, the court determined that the government landowner was entitled to immunity. Thus, the accident victim’s case was dismissed.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was riding a bicycle with her niece along an asphalt path that was owned and maintained by the defendant municipality. The path was designated as a non-motorized path, and it was commonly used for recreational purposes. However, the path was labeled as “mixed use” and was also used by some commuters as a way to get to work.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case that presents a very important issue for the victims of Maryland bicycle accidents. The case required the court to interpret and apply the state’s recreational use statute, determining if the conduct of the government defendant in charge of maintaining the land where the plaintiff sustained his injuries rose to the level of “willful or wanton.”

Bike TrailFinding that the government’s conduct was not willful or wanton, the court determined that the government agency was entitled to immunity and dismissed the plaintiff’s case.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was riding his bicycle on a mixed-use trail on a summer morning. As the plaintiff approached a pedestrian on the trail, he rang his bell and began to pass the pedestrian by moving into the middle of the trail. However, as the plaintiff steered the bike to the middle of the trail, the bike’s tire got caught in a crack that was about three inches wide and two inches deep, and ran approximately four feet in the direction of travel. As the bike’s wheel got caught, the plaintiff lost his balance and fell, injuring his shoulder.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court in Kentucky issued a written opinion in a motorcycle accident case that illustrates a very important principle that also applies to many Maryland motorcycle accident cases. The case required the appellate court to determine if sufficient evidence existed to support the jury’s verdict in favor of the defendant. Finding that sufficient evidence did exist, the court affirmed the jury’s verdict.

Fallen TreeThe Facts of the Case

A few days after a major wind storm, the plaintiff was injured when he struck a fallen tree in the middle of the roadway. The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the county engineer, as well as the engineer’s supervisor, arguing that they were negligent in failing to follow their duty to maintain a clear roadway.

Initially, the engineer argued that he was entitled to government immunity because he did not believe tree removal to be a part of his job. However, that issue was appealed, and it was determined that the engineer was not entitled to government immunity merely because he was unaware of his full duties. After that decision, the case was sent back to the trial court to proceed toward trial.

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Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a personal injury lawsuit that presented an interesting issue that many Maryland bicycle accident plaintiffs encounter when seeking compensation for their injuries. The case involved the interpretation of a recreational use statute and required the court to determine whether the trail where the plaintiff was injured was covered under the statute’s grant of immunity. Ultimately, the court concluded that the trail where the plaintiff’s injury occurred was not the type the legislature intended to include within the statute’s text. As a result, the plaintiff’s case was permitted to proceed toward trial or settlement negotiations.

Bike TrailThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was injured while riding with a group of friends on a paved biking trail. Evidently, there was an area of the trail where the pavement had started to break away, due to vegetation that grew up through the pavement. The trail was paved and was painted with a yellow line to designate directional travel. The path was also used by an electric company to access power lines that ran to nearby neighborhoods. The path intersected not just with other mixed-use paths but also with several roads.

As the plaintiff was riding behind a friend, her friend fell off her bike, causing the plaintiff to fall as well. The plaintiff was seriously injured as a result of the fall and filed a premises liability lawsuit against the city that was in charge of maintaining the path.

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When a motorist negligently causes an accident with a motorcyclist, resulting in injuries to the motorcyclist, the at-fault driver may be held liable for their negligent actions through a Maryland motorcycle accident lawsuit. However, when the at-fault party is a government employee, there are often additional complications, due to government immunity that attaches in some situations.

Police CarGovernment Immunity in Maryland Motorcycle Accidents

It used to be that governments and their employees were never liable for any accident that occurred while carrying out official government business. However, with the passage of the Maryland Tort Claims Act, this official government immunity is waived in certain circumstances.

Under the MTCA, small claims against the government are permitted as long as liability does not exceed $200,000 per claim. It is important to note that these claims will not be automatically approved, and most need to be litigated before compensation will be available. Claims under the MTCA have strict notice and timeliness requirements that must be followed, or cases will be dismissed. Anyone considering filing a Maryland personal injury claim against a government entity should consult with a dedicated Maryland personal injury attorney.

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In the Washington, D.C. area, it is not uncommon to see government workers conducting official business while out on the road. Inevitably, government workers – like other drivers – will get involved in motor vehicle accidents. In these situations, the question often arises of when an accident victim can hold the government responsible for the actions of an employee.

Yield SignAs a general rule, state and federal governments cannot be sued without their consent. However, almost all states – as well as the federal government – have passed a series of laws that explain when a government will agree to be sued. Under the Federal Tort Claims Act, the federal government waives its immunity in cases involving personal injuries caused by employees under certain circumstances.

In order for immunity to be waived, an accident victim must show that the government employee was engaging in a ministerial task that was within the course of their employment when the injury occurred. This can be broken down into two elements:

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In most cases, after a motorcycle accident, the injured motorcyclist can pursue monetary compensation through a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault motorist. However, when the at-fault party is a government employee, the injured motorcyclist may discover that government immunity is a barrier to their recovery.

Sheriff CarGovernment Immunity in Maryland

As a general rule, state, local, and federal governments are immune from tort liability. However, in Maryland, the state legislature has passed the Maryland Tort Claims Act (MTCA), waiving immunity in many situations. For example, under the MTCA, when a government employee is acting within the scope of his or her employment and causes an accident, government immunity will not attach, and the government entity can be held liable up to $200,000 per person, per incident.

While Maryland law allows for recovery in many cases involving government defendants, there may be significant litigation over whether the government employee’s actions are within the scope of employment. If a government employee is determined not to have been acting within the scope of their employment, an injured motorcyclist may be able to bring a lawsuit against the motorist in their individual capacity, but they will be prevented from naming the government entity as a defendant.

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