Personal Injury Blog

In a Maryland Auto Accident Case, When May a Defendant Dispute Fault at Trial?

Authored by Matthew Tievsky

There are generally two issues that come into play in an auto accident case (as in personal injury cases in general): (1) Fault (also known as "liability") and (2) Damages. In many cases, defendants will admit they were at fault and only dispute the damages, i.e., how badly you were hurt. In other cases, the defendant will try to dispute their fault, all the way to trial.

However, if the facts and the law are sufficiently clear-cut, the Court will not allow the defendant to dispute fault at trial. This is a procedure called "summary judgment": If the facts are undisputed, and it is clear under the law of Maryland that the defendant was at fault, the Court will rule that the defendant was at fault, before the trial even begins.

It is unusual for a plaintiff to win summary judgment in a car accident case, because there is usually a dispute as to what exactly happened in the accident, or it is a judgment call whether the defendant acted negligently, or both. But you are most likely to win summary judgment in a rear-end collision: Maryland courts have ruled that, in general, if a plaintiff is lawfully stopped on the road, and the defendant rear-ends the plaintiff, then the defendant is automatically at fault, unless there are extenuating circumstances. (But there are a lot of things that may qualify as extenuating circumstances. For example, in the recent case of Raskauskas v. Leith, decided by the U.S. District Court for Maryland, the Court held that because there was debris on the defendant's windshield, obstructing her view, the Court could not grant summary judgment against the defendant even though she rear-ended a stopped vehicle.)

If you have any questions about proving who is at fault in your auto accident case, you should contact a Maryland car accident attorney at Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C.