Recently, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a personal injury case involving allegations that a local police department was liable for an accident that resulted from a high-speed chase that was initiated by police officers. The case is important for all potential Maryland motorcycle accident plaintiffs to understand because it illustrates the importance of ensuring that all procedural requirements are met when pursing a claim against a state or local government.
The Facts of the Case
The plaintiffs were riding a motorcycle on the highway when they were struck head-on by another motorist who was traveling the wrong way. One of the motorcyclists was killed in the accident, and the other was seriously injured. As it turns out, the other motorist was fleeing from police when he entered the highway going the wrong direction. As soon as the motorist got on the highway, police abandoned their pursuit.
The surviving motorcyclist believed she had a claim against the police department, arguing that it was responsible for the accident because the officers were negligent in initiating the pursuit. However, the plaintiff did not provide notice of the claim to the local government, as was required by law, but instead proceeded to file a personal injury claim with the court.
The police department claimed that the plaintiff’s failure to provide notice precluded the court from hearing the case. The plaintiff’s position was that the police department had actual notice of the accident, and it should have been on notice that a personal injury case was likely. In support of this claim, the plaintiff presented the accident report, which indicated that the cause of the accident was “Fleeing or Evading Police.” This, the plaintiff claimed, showed that the police department knew its actions were a cause of the accident, and thus, it should have been on notice that she might file a personal injury case.
The Court’s Analysis
The court began by noting the general rule that a claim against a government agency must be initiated with notice of the claim being given to the specific agency involved. However, the court acknowledged that if the agency has actual knowledge of the accident and should reasonably expect that a claim is going to be filed, an accident victim does not need to provide this notice.
The court explained that there are three requirements an accident victim must establish to show that the government agency had actual notice of the claim. Specifically, the accident victim must show that the government had subjective knowledge of 1.) the accident or death, 2.) the government’s fault that contributed to the accident, and 3.) the identities of the parties involved.
Here, it was uncontested that the first and third elements were met. However, the court found that the second element was not met. The court explained that the police report indicating that the cause of the accident was “Fleeing or Evading Police” was not the same as the police department acknowledging that it was at fault. The court drew a distinction between “cause” and “fault,” noting that the statute required knowledge of “fault.”
Importantly, this all could have been avoided if the accident victim had properly provided the government with notice, as required under state law. Under the Maryland Tort Claims Act, similar notice is required when an accident victim plans to file a claim against a government entity.
Have You Been Injured Due to a Negligent Government Worker?
If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a Maryland motorcycle accident due to the negligence of another party, you may be entitled to monetary compensation through a personal injury lawsuit. This may even be the case if the negligent party was a government employee. The dedicated Maryland personal injury lawyers at the law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen Personal Injury Lawyers have extensive experience representing victims in a wide range of personal injury matters, including motorcycle accident claims. To learn more, call 410-654-3600 to schedule your free consultation today.
More Blog Posts:
Establishing Liability Following a Maryland Hit-and-Run Accident, Maryland Motorcycle Accident Lawyer Blog, published March 21, 2018.
Court Dismisses Negligent Entrustment Claim in Recent Motorcycle Accident Case, Maryland Motorcycle Accident Lawyer Blog, published April 5, 2018.