Vehicle Accidents in Maryland When Defendant’s Vision is Obscured

A difficult question arises when the defendant in a motor tort case argues that his vision was obscured due to factors beyond the driver’s control. For example, if a truck driver driving a tractor trailer is blinded by the glare of the sun or the driver’s vision is obstructed by a dust storm. 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. Accordingly, 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 reasonable prudent driver would have under all of the circumstances.

Unfortunately, the byproduct of this rule 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 is going to 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 the purposes of denying the claim. Attorneys who stick to their guns and believe in their case will probably do just the same in terms of final outcome for their clients in these types of attorney manufactured defenses. Lawyers who blink because the defense counsel raises any type of defense – however specious – will not do as well, which is why they manufacture artificial defenses in the first place.

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