As drivers ourselves, the legal staff at the Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC, spends a fair number of hours every month operating our own motor vehicles on the beltways, interstates and city streets of Maryland. It goes without saying that every one of us has, from time to time, caught sight of the result of yet another tragic passenger car or commercial trucking road accident. Although the majority of the general public is not subjected to the sheer volume of traffic accident news and data as those who are involved in the business of tracking highway injuries and deaths, one thing is certainly true -- the tragedy of any motor vehicle wreck is only amplified when the reason for that crash is negligence.
Pure and simple, injury-related collisions -- and most especially, fatal car and truck accidents -- are much too common for anyone to be blasé about the topic. For us, as Baltimore personal injury attorneys, we know that caution behind the wheel is one of the best approaches to staying out of trouble, whether you live in Bowie, Rockville, Annapolis or the District. That said, anybody who even hopes to avoid being involved in a Maryland traffic accident is well advised to keep his or her mind on the road and follow a number of simple safety tips.
One way to avoid being the cause of a roadway accident is to follow the recommended maintenance schedules publish by most every vehicle manufacturer. Driving a car or truck that is in need of repair may seem like a way to save money, but the danger of not keeping one’s vehicle in top shape could lead to a very expensive accident. Never mind the cost of having a vehicle fixed or replaced due to a serious crash, but the potential human toll that a bad traffic wreck can take is sometimes unthinkable, especially in situations involving fatalities.
Unfortunately, for some drivers keeping their own vehicle up to par is not the issue. In fact, even for those motorists who own and drive a brand new car, truck or SUV, there is always the chance that someone else who hasn’t maintained their vehicle properly will cause a crash that winds up hurting you and possibly others in your family. As an innocent victim of another person’s mistake or careless error, the last thing anyone needs to think about is how to pay for the medical treatment. This is where the lawyers at Lebowitz & Mzhen can help.
As professional trial attorneys, our legal experts understand how simply surviving a car, motorcycle or commercial trucking accident is only the start on a long road to recovery for many unlucky people. Sustaining extensive and sometimes life-threatening injuries because of another driver’s carelessness can be very upsetting. In the case of collisions involving a commercial truck, not only must the actions of the trucker be investigated, but also those of the trucking company and maintenance facilities that may have serviced the vehicle prior to the crash.
It is essential to identify all of the potentially responsible parties when filing a personal injury lawsuit. This is equally true in cases involving the death of a family member. In cases of wrongful death, Maryland law allows for certain individuals to file a claim against another party. Under Maryland’s legal statutes, the “beneficiaries” of the wrongful death claim -- those who may file a lawsuit -- include a child, parent or spouse of a deceased victim. These are the only individual who may bring a wrongful death suit against another person or entity.
It is important to remember that damage claims in wrongful death lawsuits will often be contested depending on the facts and circumstances surrounding that of a fatal automobile or trucking-related traffic accident. Maryland’s legal statutes covering wrongful death claims are specific when addressing the topics of economic and non-economic damages. Under the right conditions, a wrongful death claim can include the deceased victim’s lost earnings, which by law has no cap. This is why many wrongful death lawsuits can result in very high awards to the victim’s beneficiaries.
On the other hand, non-economic damages are limited by state law. What this can mean to a family of a loved one killed in a commercial trucking collision is that the amount of money the beneficiaries may be awarded for “intangibles” -- those things that are difficult or impossible to quantify, like loss of emotional support, companionship and love -- can be limited. Whatever the approach, the facts of the case must be accurately determined before a lawsuit can ever be won.
One important area of any commercial trucking accident investigation involves the question of proper vehicle maintenance. This particular area is often one of the more critical aspects when mechanical failure or defective vehicle equipment is suspected, but it can also point to a failure in the correct servicing of a CMV or the lack of proper preventative maintenance. While the company that owns the CMV has a responsibility to maintain its critical safety systems, the driver is also legally responsible for checking numerous critical parts and components before each run.
Here in Maryland, the state has a trucking safety program known by the name, “Preventive Maintenance Program,” or PM Program (found in the Code of Maryland Regulations, Title 11, Subtitle 22), which requires that every CMV be “systematically inspected, repaired, and maintained” every 12 months or 25,000 miles, whichever comes first. The program covers Class “E” commercial vehicles registered or operating at GVWR over 10,000lbs, as well as Class “F” semi tractors and Class “G” trailers or semi-trailers registered or operating at a GVWR of more than 10,000lbs.
In addition, Class “P” passenger buses; Class “M” multipurpose vehicles that accommodate 16 or more passengers people; or vehicles previously registered under the category of Class “H” school buses or Class “P” buses are also included in the state’s preventive maintenance program.
As stated in government documents, it is up to the vehicle owner to either perform the inspection or have another party do the inspection. Ultimately, it is the responsibility of the CMV owner to be sure the vehicle meets the legal requirements pertaining to vehicle maintenance. Some of the more critical areas that must be systematic inspected and repaired as needed include the following parts, components or systems:
Sadly, some transportation companies and even the truckers themselves have been known to do only a cursory maintenance check of these large and complicated machines. As such, potentially dangerous safety-related problems can go unnoticed until there is a catastrophic failure that results in someone’s being badly hurt or killed -- sometimes even the driver himself. As personal injury lawyers skilled in the laws pertaining to commercial trucking, the legal team at Lebowitz & Mzhen considers both the possible direct and indirect causes of injury-related traffic wrecks involving commercial vehicles.
Whether an accident has been caused by a failed truck component, tampering with or defeating a tractor-trailer’s braking system, or simply a case of distracted driving, our goal is to help the victim recover all of the damages due him under the laws of this state. If you or a loved one has been seriously hurt in a commercial trucking accident, our professional legal experts are ready to assist victims you. Take a moment to call us, toll-free at (800) 654-1949 to set up a free, no-obligation consultation. Or, you may email Jack Lebowitz or Vadim Mzhen to schedule a meeting to discuss your injury case.