Car Accident on Bay Bridge Shows How Tort Law Works

The Dunkirk, Maryland woman who was pushed over the rail of the Bay Bridge is obviously a very lucky woman.  She survived with what appear to be minor injuries.  In addition to being a miracle, her case illustrates some interesting aspects of car accident cases in Southern Maryland.

Ms. Lake will have a personal injury case against the truck driver and truck company for pushing her off the bridge.  Thankfully, her damages will be somewhat limited since she survived without major injuries from the car accident.  Ultimately, her damages determine her recovery.  The horrible nature of what she went through – being pushed off a bridge – does not make her case worth a lot more simply because of that fact.  It will certainly have an impact, but not as much as you may think.

Truck accidents are extra scary because a large 18 wheeler can do so much damage to the normal size cars most of us drive around.  Trucking companies usually have very large insurance policies covering them for the damages.  Most trucking companies carry multiple million dollar policies.

The way tort law works, the driver is the one who was negligent.  His company is not negligent, but they are liable for the acts of their employees because of a doctrine called “respondeat superior”.  So the insurance company that will have to pay is the insurance company for the truck company.  If they did not have enough insurance, Ms. Lake could get a judgment directly against the truck company and collect it by seizing their bank accounts or taking their trucks.  That never happens, of course, because companies do usually have enough insurance to cover these cases.

That is not so with individuals.  I have a case now worth at least $250,000 to my client, and we just found out the adverse driver was only insured for up to $50,000.  His insurance company has offered their policy limits to settle the case.  We are now doing an asset check of the driver.  From what I have seen so far, I suspect he does not have good credit and probably has no money.

When an individual hits you in a car accident, you must sue that individual.  If they have assets to protect, they really should have insurance to protect them. If they do not, you can get a judgment against them personally.  This is rare, as most people either don’t have assets, or they are titled jointly, or they go bankrupt – or they actually have insurance to cover them.

I hope we will find some more insurance or assets in my case. I don’t think Ms. Lake has to be concerned since a large company is on the hook for her case.

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