The Maryland Boulevard Rule has been described as rigid, inflexible, and even unfair in some applications. This doctrine is frequently invoked by an insurance company as a basis to deny a financial recovery to someone injured in an accident that could have been primarily the fault of another.
Maryland law divides intersecting roadways into two classes. One class involves "favored" roadways [i.e. the Boulevard], the other "unfavored."
The driver operating on the favored road has the right of way-as long as she is obeying the rules of the road.
A car lawfully proceeding on a boulevard has an absolute right of way over all other vehicles entering the Boulevard from a side street with a stop sign, driveway, parking lot or private roadway. The driver of car entering the Boulevard from these ‘unfavored’ roadways will be deemedto have caused or contributed to any motor vehicle accident with a car on the Boulevard, as a matter of law. The favored driver is permitted to assume e the driver on the unfavored road will stop or otherwise yield. Typically, the involved roadways are through highways intersected by a side street controlled by a stop sign. But the rule also applies to someone entering the main thoroughfare from a parking lot of a business, or from a driveway. The purpose of the rule is to encourage the unimpeded flow of traffic on the Boulevard. The driver entering the favored road gains the right of way once they have entered the flow of traffic on the Boulevard, but until that driver becomes "established", they are unfavored as to other drivers on the Boulevard.
What about whether a "favored" driver can be denied recovery? If sufficient evidence is put forth that the favored driver was, in fact, negligent, and the proximate cause of the accident, then the question of whether or not recover is barred on contributory negligence principles is one for the jury. Speeding by the favored driver is rarely enough to relive that driver of their statutory preference, or right of way as a matter of law, created by the rule. An experienced lawyer knows that the favored driver's driving drunk, on the wrong side of the road, without headlights is enough to lift the statutory preference conferred by the rule, and a person injured by that conduct may recover, even if technically the "unfavored" driver.
Despite some exceptions mentioned above, in the normal circumstance, the unfavored driver is going to be found negligent, and responsible for a causing an automobile accident.
But what if there is no collision between the unfavored driver and the favored driver? [Imagine a situation where an unfavored driver violates the right of way of a driver, but there is no automobile accident between those vehicles, but rather an automobile accident involving the favored driver, and the car following the favored driver –who is also favored]. The Court of Special Appeals has ruled that there is no requirement of an automobile accident between the favored and unfavored vehicles in order for the Boulevard Rule to operate against the unfavored driver. Pyles v. Rehman. 321 A.2d 175. It has been some time since the appellate courts have issued a significant opinion on the application of the Rule.
The law in this area can become intricate, in particular where passengers have brought personal injury claims against drivers, and both of the drivers have contributed to the automobile accident in some manner. An experienced Baltimore car accident lawyer can advise you of the role of the Boulevard rule in assessing fault in your personal injury case.
-This Article was updated by Eric Kirk on 10/18/19.
I routinely try cases involving the application of the Boulevard rule. I am honored to extend a complimentary meeting, strategy session and case analysis to you. Contract me today to arrange a time. 410 591 2835.