On this blog, we have previously discussed the important Maryland case of Andrade v. Housein, decided back in 2002. In that decision, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals appeared to hold that the Court held that, when a plaintiff’s vehicle is lawfully stopped on the road, and the defendant rear-ends the plaintiff, then (absent extenuating circumstances) the defendant is automatically at fault.
Unfortunately, in the recent decision of Cooper v. Singleton, it appears that the Maryland Court of Special Appeals has walked back from that principle. Cooper was another rear-end collision case, where the plaintiff was stopped for a red light. The defendant admittedly caused a rear-end, chain reaction collision that injured the plaintiff. But the defendant claimed to have suffered a seizure, and that he uncontrollably lost control of the vehicle. The plaintiff argued that, under Andrade, it was the defendant’s burden to convince the jury that he unexpectedly suffered a seizure. Not so, held the Court of Special Appeals. The Court held that when a plaintiff is stopped and rear-ended by the defendant, the jury must decide whose fault the collision is, and it is the plaintiff’s burden to convince the jury that the defendant is at fault (which is generally true in a personal injury suit). Thus, in Cooper, it was the plaintiff’s burden to convince the jury that the defendant did not suffer a seizure; or that he should have known to expect a seizure.
Cooper should not deter you from bringing a claim after you are hurt in a rear-ender. Rear-enders are still usually the easiest kinds of motor vehicle cases to win. But Cooper does mean that more of these cases will have to be decided by juries, instead of the trial court automatically ruling that the defendant was at fault.
If you have been in a rear-end collision and have questions about the strength of your case, you should call the Maryland personal injury attorneys at Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C.