Rear end collisions in Maryland
Generally, the vehicle that rear ends another vehicle is at fault. Maryland law states that you may not follow another vehicle more closely than is reasonable and prudent. The driver to the rear must exercise reasonable and ordinary care to avoid injury to vehicles in front of him. Otherwise, rear end collisions occur.
Md. TRANSPORTATION Code Ann. § 21-310 Following too closely
(a) General rule. — The driver of a motor vehicle may not follow another vehicle more closely than is reasonable and prudent, having due regard for the speed of the other vehicle and of the traffic on and the condition of the highway.
It is the duty of the rear driver to keep a safe distance between himself and the vehicles in front of him. The rear driver must keep his automobile under proper control so as to avoid doing injury to the vehicle ahead and causing rear end collisions. What constitutes a safe distance depends on circumstances such as speed of the vehicles, the amount of traffic on the roadway and roadway conditions.
There are however exceptions to this rule. If one of these exceptions apply, then the car in the rear may be able to present a valid claim. Examples include sudden stops without warning, sudden stops for no reason, turning from the wrong lanes, stopping when turning without a signal, and malfunctioning brake lights.
- 21-604. Turning, slowing, and stopping movements; required signals
(a) Manner of making turn. — A person may not turn a vehicle at an intersection, unless the vehicle is in the position required by § 21-601 of this subtitle.
(b) Entering private roads or driveways. — A person may not turn a vehicle to enter a private road or driveway or otherwise turn a vehicle from a direct course or move it right or left on a roadway or from a shoulder or bikeway onto a roadway, unless the movement can be made with reasonable safety.
(c) Required signals. — A person may not, if any other vehicle might be affected by the movement, turn a vehicle until he gives an appropriate signal in the manner required by this subtitle.
(d) Where signals to be given. — When required, a signal of intention to turn right or left shall be given continuously during at least the last 100 feet traveled by the vehicle before turning; except that a bicyclist may interrupt the turning signal to maintain control of the bicycle.
(e) Stopping or decreasing speed. — If there is an opportunity to signal, a person may not stop or suddenly decrease the speed of a vehicle until he gives an appropriate signal in the manner required by this subtitle to the driver of any other vehicle immediately to the rear.
(f) Use of signal lamps. — The signals provided for in § 21-605 (b) and (c) of this subtitle:
(1) May be used to indicate an intention to turn, change lanes, or start from a stopped, standing, or parked position; …
Md. TRANSPORTATION Code Ann. § 21-605 Signals by hand and arm or signal lamps
(a) In general. — Except as provided in subsections (b) and (c) of this section, each required stop or turn signal shall be given:
(1) By hand and arm in conformity with § 21-606 of this subtitle; or (2) By signal lamps.
(b) When signal lamps required. — Each motor vehicle in use on a highway shall be equipped with and the required signal given by signal lamps, if the distance from the center of the top of the steering post to the left outside limit of the body, cab, or load of the vehicle is more than 24 inches.
Md. TRANSPORTATION Code Ann. § 21-606 Method of giving hand and arm signals
(a) In general. — Except as otherwise provided, each required signal given by hand and arm shall be given from the left side of the vehicle in the manner specified in this section.
(b) Left turn. — A left turn signal is given by the hand and arm extended horizontally.
(c) Right turn. — A right turn signal is given by the hand and arm extended upward; except that a bicyclist may extend the right hand and arm horizontally to the right.
(d) Stop or decrease speed. — A stop or decrease in speed signal is given by the hand and arm extended downward.
Finally, even if you are unsuccessful in filing your own claim, there are times when the rear driver can defeat the claim of the front driver including accidents caused by an emergency situation, brake failure, car malfunction, sudden driver medical incapacity, or sudden stops. Lead drivers are required to exercise that degree of due care which would enable them to be prepared to stop promptly for traffic light signals as well as orders to stop as well as orders to stop and for emergency situations. Leading drivers must give those behind them adequate notice of any intent to stop or decrease speed.
An emergency situation on the road that can be presented as a defense in a rear end situation is one in which a driver is faced with the sudden and real emergency, (car malfunction, sudden driver medical incapacity, or sudden stops) which was not created by the driver’s own conduct, the driver must exercise reasonable care for his or her own safety and for the safety of others. The reasonableness of the driver’s actions must be measured by the standard of the acts of other drivers of ordinary skill and judgment faced with the same emergency situation.
The drivers not required to use the same coolness or accuracy of judgment which is required of persons who has an ample opportunity fully to exercise judgment. An emergency does not necessarily make an accident unavoidable. Examples of emergency situations include, imminent collision with another vehicle, imminent collision with an animal, approach of an emergency vehicle, brake failure, robber forcing defendant to drive at gunpoint, vehicle driven sliding down a slippery incline with breaks in good working order, then. Placed in a position of imminent peril to himself or other vehicles without sufficient time in which to determine the best course to pursue.
Despite the defense of emergency, the vehicle in rear end collisions that strike the vehicle ahead of him may still found to be at fault if the court finds that he traveled too closely to the vehicle in front of him and did not maintain a safe distance between his vehicle and the vehicle in front of him. The law requires that the vehicle traveling in the rear be prepared for emergency situations within reason.
The defense of sudden emergency will not be allowed in the case of a defective vehicle under certain circumstances. It is the duty of the operator and owner of a motor vehicle to see that it is in a reasonably safe condition before is operated upon a public highway. A person is negligent who knows or should know of any unsafe condition in a vehicle and who drives or permits another person to drive the vehicle.
The operator and owner have a duty to properly maintain and inspect the vehicle. A defective condition which is a cause of the accident is evidence of negligence of an operator or owner who failed to properly maintain and inspect the vehicle. However, the operator owner may defend by showing proper inspection and maintenance in a sudden and unexpected failure without warning. Proper inspection means an inspection that shows that the vehicle or alleged defective part of the vehicle was in adequate working condition prior to the failure, provided the operator and owner did not have any reason to suspect the vehicle for the alleged defective part of the vehicle may be likely to fail in the course of the normal operation of the vehicle.
Defective brakes are often presented as an emergency defense. The operator and owner of a motor vehicle are required to exercise reasonable care to properly maintain and inspect the brakes. The failure of the brakes to operate properly which is a cause of rear end collisions is evidence of negligence of the owner. However, the operator and owner may defend by showing proper inspection and maintenance in sudden and unexpected failure without warning. The duty of an operator and owner to inspect a vehicle for defective brakes may be accomplished by operating the brakes and finding them in adequate working condition prior to the failure, provided that the operator and owner did not have reason to suspect that the brakes may be likely to fail in the course of the normal operation of the vehicle.
A person has a duty to take reasonable actions to be sure that he or she can safely operate a motor vehicle and avoid rear end collisions. However, a person may defend by showing that there was a sudden and unforeseen incapacity that rendered him unable to avoid or prevent the accident causing the injury. Unforeseen incapacity is one that a reasonable person would not have any reason to anticipate.
The rules of the road require that if there is an opportunity to signal, a person may not stop or suddenly decrease the speed of a vehicle until giving an appropriate signal to the driver of any other vehicle immediately to the rear. An appropriate signal may be satisfied by showing of a break signal light.
In Kaplan versus Solomon a cabdriver who gave both a hand and mechanical signal of his intention to stop in the middle of the block and who stop slowly was free from negligence in rear end collisions involving three cars in which he was the lead car.
Finally, sometimes the emergency stop may be made by the front vehicle due to imminent collision with an animal, or approach of an emergency vehicle. Under those circumstances, the rear driver may be found at fault due to the other driver’s emergency and the rear cars failure to anticipate the possibility of an emergency and allow a safe stopping distance.
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