Articles Posted in Drunk Driving Accidents

Despite great improvements in the safety of cars and roadway infrastructure, motor vehicle accidents remain the number one cause of death in the United States for those aged 1-54. Many of these accidents are preventable. Just last week, for example, three people died in a Maryland crash where alcohol was a suspected factor.

The accident took place in Anne Arundel County on a Saturday night. In this single-car crash, an SUV heading westbound was spotted barreling down the road before suddenly exiting the road, flipping upside down, and smashing into a tree. Tragically, all three people in the SUV died on the scene. The youngest was just 31 years old.

Although the most direct causes of the crash appear to have been excessive speed and the driver’s failure to stay in his lane, officials also believe that alcohol was a contributing factor.

Drunk driving is frequently listed as one of the leading causes of Maryland car accidents. Sadly, we take this as a given, as drunk driving accidents are not uncommon. However, every single DUI accident is entirely preventable and, despite the decades-long efforts of lawmakers, people continue to get behind the wheel after having too much to drink.

Consuming alcohol has several negative effects on a driver’s ability to safely operate a motor vehicle. For example, those who consume alcohol have slower reaction times, their judgment becomes clouded, they often get sleepy, and their ability to gauge risk is greatly compromised. The end result is that anytime someone gets behind the wheel after having too much to drink, they place everyone on the road at risk. Drivers who engage in this reckless conduct can—and should—be held accountable for their actions.

DC Teachers’ Union President Legally Impaired Following Fatal Accident

A tragic example of a drunk driving case comes from neighboring Washington, D.C. Back in April of this year, a D.C. musician was fatally struck by a driver while waiting at a traffic light. According to a local news report, the tragic collision took place at the intersection of Crain Highway and Harbour Way in Prince George’s Count. As it turns, out the driver of the striking vehicle was the president of the D.C. Teacher’s Union.

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The weather is getting colder, and the days are getting shorter, which also signals the beginning of the holiday season. While the holiday season is exciting and a source of joy and community for many, it can also be a dangerous time of the year for Maryland drivers. With an increase in family gatherings and alcohol consumption, as well as generally worse driving conditions in the wintry weather, Maryland car accidents caused by drunk or intoxicated drivers are especially concerning in the winter months. Although driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol is against the law in Maryland, people unfortunately still do it all the time, leading to tragic and preventable car accidents.

For example, take a recent Maryland car accident that occurred last month in Churchville in Harford County. According to a local news article covering the incident, a Maryland man was driving home one night just after 8 PM with his fiancé and their two children, 7 and 11 years old. Tragically, on their way home, a driver in a Jeep crashed into the passenger side of their car, hurting his fiancé and his children. His fiancé and his daughter, only 7 years old, were both severely injured and had to be airlifted to Shock Trauma in a nearby hospital for emergency surgery. His fiancé suffered broken ribs and internal bleeding, but is out of the ICU now and expected to recover fully.

Tragically, however, one week later, the young girl was still in the ICU, heavily sedated in a coma and hooked up to a ventilator. Her injuries were substantial—the right side of her body was crushed, and she had multiple broken bones and a severe brain injury. Family and community members are waiting hopefully for a recovery. However, the injuries are so substantial that she will likely still have months of medical care ahead of her, even if she survives. While nothing has been confirmed yet, the police report created after the accident stated that alcohol contributed to the crash.

Driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs is very dangerous, not to mention illegal. Unfortunately, however, thousands of people still drive while intoxicated in Maryland every year, and many of them end up causing Maryland car accidents as a result. Driving under the influence is dangerous because alcohol and drugs impact your judgment, your decision-making, and your vision. Drunk drivers are more likely to make careless or even reckless driving maneuvers, run red lights, drive the wrong way down the street, or drive at speeds far above the speed limit. These actions can tragically have devastating consequences on the lives of other drivers.

For example, a drunk driver was recently arrested after causing a car crash that killed a mother and sent her two children to the hospital. According to a local news report covering the incident, the driver was driving in the wrong direction on the road when he collided with the victim’s car. She and her two children, ages six and eight, were all rushed to the hospital, where the mother tragically passed away.

This story is tragic, but unfortunately not all that uncommon. According to a recent report, Maryland has 308.7 DUI-related arrests per 100,000 people. The 2018 Maryland Highway Safety Plan reports that from 2011 to 2015, impaired/intoxicated driving caused one in three fatal crashes, one in ten crashes overall, and nearly one in ten crashes resulting in injuries.

Drunk driving remains an issue in Maryland, just as it does across the country. Due to the severity of the issue, in some states, social hosts and commercial establishments can be held liable for providing alcohol to guests if another person is injured as a result of a Maryland car accident. A recent decision a state appellate court considered whether a 19-year-old could be held liable after his friends drank at his home.

In that case, the 19-year-old defendant had friends over at his home where they all drank alcohol. His friends were also underage, but adults. Two of his friends, who were 19 years old and 20 years old, left severely intoxicated. The 20-year-old drove and crashed his car, and the 19-year-old passenger died at the scene.

The state’s supreme court considered whether an adult under the age of twenty-one had a duty to stop others from allowing underage guests to consume alcohol in their homes. The court decided that an underage adult may be held liable if 1.) the defendant knowingly permitted and facilitated the consumption of alcohol by allowing others to drink in his home; 2.) the defendant knowingly provided alcohol to a visibly intoxicated underage guest or allowed the guest to drink there; 3.) it was reasonably foreseeable that the driver would leave to operate a motor vehicle, thereby putting others at risk; 4.) the defendant did not take any reasonable steps to prevent the intoxicated guest from getting behind the wheel of the vehicle; and 5.) the guest negligently drove and injured a third party due to his intoxication. In this case, the court decided that the defendant could be held liable.

In the tragic event of a crash caused by a drunk driver, victims have a range of damages available if they are successful in a lawsuit. A lawsuit against the driver (or others that may be responsible for the crash) permits Maryland car accident victims to recover damages for both economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages, or special damages, are generally the out-of-pocket expenses that a victim incurs, including medical bills, loss of income, loss of earning capacity, transportation costs, future expenses, and others. Non-economic damages, or general damages, are other damages that do not have a fixed dollar value, such as emotional distress, loss of consortium, and pain and suffering.

Maryland has a limit on non-economic damages available in civil cases. As of January 1, 2020, the limit available for non-economic damages was $830,000, although more may be available in some instances. There is no limit on economic damages. Economic and non-economic damages are known as compensatory damages, because they are intended to compensate the plaintiff for the injuries they suffered.

Punitive damages also may be available in some cases. Punitive damages, or exemplary damages, are not meant to compensate the victim, but rather to punish the defendant and to serve as a warning for others. To be awarded punitive damages in a Maryland DUI crash case, a plaintiff has to prove that the defendant had actual knowledge of the wrongful conduct. The plaintiff has to prove punitive damages by the higher clear and convincing evidence standard, while other damages have to prove by a preponderance of the evidence. The plaintiff has the burden to prove damages as an element of the plaintiff’s case. The types of damages available vary depending on the person bringing the claim and the type of claim.

For decades, it has been known that driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol is incredibly dangerous, and significantly increases the likelihood of a serious car accident. In fact, drunk driving is one of the leading causes of fatal traffic accidents across the country. However, despite this general public awareness, many Maryland car accidents each year are caused by intoxicated drivers. While every car accident is cause for concern, these accidents are especially alarming because the injuries and deaths resulting from these accidents are preventable had the individual simply not driven while under the influence.

Over the Fourth of July weekend this year, yet another accident caused injuries to those involved and is thought to have been caused by drunk driving. According to a local news report covering the incident, the crash occurred a little after 5 a.m., when the drivers of the two involved vehicles were traveling in opposite directions. The driver of one vehicle—a Hyundai Elantra—crossed into the other lane and struck the other vehicle—a Hyundai Santa Fe—head-on. The driver of each vehicle was trapped as a result of the collision, and the fire department had to come to extract them. Both drivers suffered injuries and had to be transported to the hospital.

Accidents like this are unfortunately far too common in Maryland and across the country. For those who are impacted, it can be incredibly frustrating to have their lives drastically changed due to someone else’s poor decisions and reckless driving. Maryland car accidents can take a serious physical, psychological, and financial toll, leaving the victims and their families struggling to recover in the aftermath.

Despite strict laws, Maryland continues to experience about 7,000 car crashes per year involving at least one driver’s use of alcohol or drugs, according to its most recent crash data. Victims of drunk driving crashes may be able to file a Maryland personal injury lawsuit against a drunk driver to recover financial compensation for their injuries. In a civil suit against a drunk driver, an injured party must prove that the driver was negligent and that the driver’s negligent actions caused the victim’s injuries. A victim may be able to recover compensation for medical bills, property damage, wage losses, pain and suffering, and other damages.

Evidence of a DUI arrest or conviction, or of a guilty plea to a traffic citation is useful evidence in a civil case. In Maryland, guilty pleas in court to traffic citations are generally admissible as evidence in a civil case. Even in the event that the driver does not face a criminal conviction, a civil case may still be possible. The standard in a civil case is a preponderance of the evidence. The preponderance of the evidence standard is lower than the reasonable guilt standard in criminal cases, which means that a civil case may be won even if the driver is not convicted of a crime. There may still be evidence that the driver was under the influence and contributed to the crash. Drunk drivers can face serious criminal consequences, in addition to a civil suit. Under Noah’s Law, which took effect in October 2016, an ignition interlock device must be installed for any driver convicted of driving under the influence.

In addition to suing the driver, a civil suit may be brought against other responsible parties, such as a bar that served the drunk driver or another person who allowed the driver to drive while intoxicated. In any case, the victim still has to prove that the party acted negligently and that their negligent actions contributed to the plaintiff’s injuries.

The Court of Special Appeals of Maryland recently decided a Maryland car accident case in which the court considered whether the state’s cap on non-economic damages was unconstitutional. In Maryland, there is a cap on non-economic damages in personal injury and wrongful death claims. In a personal injury claim, non-economic damages include damages for “pain, suffering inconvenience, physical impairment, disfigurement, loss of consortium, or other nonpecuniary injury.”

In a wrongful death claim, non-economic damages include damages for “mental anguish, emotional pain and suffering, loss of society, companionship, comfort, protection, care, marital care, parental care, filial care, attention, advice, counsel, training, guidance, or education,” or other noneconomic damaged authorized under the statute. If a jury awards party an amount that exceeds the non-economic damages cap, the court will reduce the amount to the maximum allowed. A jury also cannot be informed of the cap.

In the case before the appeals court, the plaintiff was seriously injured in a car accident in 2017. She was driving near her home in Lanham, Maryland, when a car crossed over the median and hit her car. The other driver was driving a commercial vehicle for his employer and was intoxicated at the time of the crash. His employer knew that he had charges for driving while intoxicated prior to hiring him. The plaintiff’s injuries included losing almost all use of her left arm or hand. She had to undergo almost continuous medical care since the accident occurred, in addition to psychological treatment.

The ridesharing industry has been growing in leaps and bounds since it hit the scene a decade ago. What Uber and Lyft have done is to shake up the taxi and hired car market in ways nobody imagined at the beginning of this millennium, yet aside from an increase in availability and relatively affordable individualized transportation, other aspects of the industry are not much changed when it comes to day-to-day operation.

As with any taxi service — be it the old traditional yellow cabs of the past century or the app-driven ride-hailing services of today — road accidents can and do happen with almost clockwork certainty. Whether your cabbie works for a large taxi fleet based out of Baltimore or an independent hack working in the Annapolis or Rockville area, the human behind the wheel is subject to the same physical and mental limitations as they have always been.

Case in point, the story of an Illinois Uber operator who was allegedly impaired by alcohol when his vehicle strayed into oncoming traffic and smashed head-on into a handful of cars in the opposing traffic lanes. This multi-car collision resulted in numerous injuries — several of the victims were taken to local emergency rooms for treatment of thankfully non-life-threatening injuries.

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