A tough question arises when the defendant in a motor tort case argues that factors beyond the driver’s control obscured his vision. For example, if the sun’s glare or a dust storm obscures the truck driver’s view. Is this a legitimate defense?
Maryland law does not have a case directly on point. But the answer appears to be a question for the jury, not for the court, according to a majority of other jurisdictions. Most jurisdictions will not find a driver of a vehicle negligent as a matter of law in obstructed vision cases because the issue is one of reasonableness. I would expect a Maryland court to find that when vision is partially or completely obscured, the jury should determine whether the defendant’s failure to avoid the accident was reasonable under the general negligence test of whether the defendant acted as a reasonably prudent driver would have under all the circumstances.
Unfortunately, the rule’s byproduct is defendants’ lawyers in traffic wreck cases claiming that their clients violated the “rules of the road” through no fault of their own. How a Maryland jury might ultimately find will depend on the credibility of the lawyer’s injured client and the credibility of the defendant driver. Even if the defendant has no credibility (either intrinsically or factually), it still gives the defendant’s attorney something to hang their hat on for denying the claim. Attorneys who stick to their guns and believe in their case will probably do just the same in terms of outcome for their clients in these types of attorney manufactured defenses. Lawyers who blink because the defense counsel raises any defense – however specious – will not do, which is why they manufacture artificial defenses.