Articles Posted in Fatal Traffic Accidents

In Virginia, like elsewhere in the country, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is against the law. However, despite the known dangers and potential criminal consequences of drunk driving, there are approximately 7,500 Virginia DUI car accidents each year. Not surprisingly, roughly half of these accidents result in injuries and about 250 result in at least one fatality.

Virginia’s Wrongful Death Statute

When someone is killed due to the negligence of another, the surviving family members of the accident victim may be able to pursue a claim for financial compensation against the at-fault parties. This is referred to as a Virginia wrongful death claim.

Under Virginia Code § 8.01-53, a wrongful death claim is brought by the personal representative of the accident victim’s estate for the benefit of the statutory beneficiaries of the accident victim. The statutory beneficiaries are the surviving spouse, any children of the deceased, as well as any grandchildren of the deceased (if the accident victim’s child is also deceased). If no person fits in the above category, the claim can be brought on behalf of parents, siblings, or any other relative who lived with the victim and relied upon them for support.

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Earlier this month, a fatal Maryland car accident claimed the lives of five children and seriously injured two adults. According to a local news report covering the tragic accident, all seven passengers were in a single minivan, and no other vehicles were involved in the crash.

Evidently, the accident victims were traveling northbound on Route 301 in a Chrysler Pacifica when, just before 5 a.m. the driver of the vehicle lost control of the minivan. The vehicle slid off the road into a wooded area, where it struck several trees before spinning out into a snowy field. When police responded, they found two adults in the driver and passenger seats. Both were seriously injured. All five of the children in the back, ranging in age from five to 15, had been ejected during the crash and were pronounced dead at the scene by emergency responders.

Police began an investigation into the cause of the accident, but told reporters that it seems as though none of the children were properly restrained in the back of the minivan. However, the two adults in the vehicle were wearing seatbelts.

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Late last month, one woman was killed in a Maryland car accident that occurred on the side of Highway 50 near Route 410 in Prince George’s County. According to a local news report, the victim pulled over and got out of her car to assist another motorist who had lost control of their vehicle and crashed into a wall.

Evidently, shortly after the woman exited her car and was approaching the disabled vehicle, another car struck her. The woman was pronounced dead at the scene by emergency workers. The driver of the car that hit the victim was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence.

Drunk Driving Accidents in Maryland

Despite countless government campaigns, motorists routinely get behind the wheel after having consumed too much to drink. In fact, in Maryland alone, there are approximately 170 people killed each year due to drunk driving. While the government often prosecutes drunk drivers, there is little that the criminal justice system can do to provide compensation to those who have been seriously injured or lost a loved one in a Maryland DUI accident.

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While limousines are not a common form of transportation for most people, many find themselves occasionally riding in a limo for special occasions such as weddings, proms, or birthday parties. In addition, limousine touring has become increasingly popular as a way to more safely enjoy the Maryland wine country. Given the number of passengers a limousine can carry, Maryland limousine accidents have the potential to cause serious injury to a large number of people.

Earlier this month, a limousine accident in Upstate New York claimed the lives of 20 people, including everyone inside the limo and two pedestrian bystanders. Federal authorities have declared the crash as the deadliest in the United States in nearly a decade. According to a recent news report, the accident occurred in the early afternoon hours in Schoharie, New York. Evidently, a 2001 Ford Limousine approached a T-intersection at a high rate of speed, traveling through the intersection and into the parking lot of a restaurant. The limo then crashed into an unoccupied SUV.

Authorities noted that several people witnessed the accident, but it was clear from the physical evidence at the scene where the limo was coming from. It appears as though the roads leading to the intersection where the accident occurred are steep and offer only limited visibility of the approaching intersection. In fact, the New York Department of Transportation recently prohibited large trucks from using the road due to fears that the vehicles would lose their ability to brake effectively down the steep hill.

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It should come as no surprise that inexperienced drivers are responsible for a disproportionate number of Maryland car accidents. Indeed, according to the Maryland Highway Safety Office, there are approximately 15,800 accidents caused by motorists between the ages of 16 and 20 each year, resulting in about 87 deaths per year. This accounts for roughly 16% of all of the traffic fatalities in Maryland.

Maryland lawmakers have implemented a graduated licensing program to help ensure that those who drive on Maryland roads are properly educated and have the requisite amount of experience before getting behind the wheel on their own. First, new drivers must obtain a learner’s permit, and then a provisional license. And finally, assuming the new driver has passed all of the required tests and has been free of a traffic conviction, the new driver will be given a driver’s license.

While new drivers do have to jump through a number of hoops before they are able to obtain their license in Maryland, the fact remains that new drivers frequently cause car accidents. This may be due to a lack of experience, questionable judgment, distraction, or intoxication. In any case, the law does not excuse a driver from liability merely because they are new to driving. Those who have been injured in a Maryland car accident caused by a young or inexperienced driver may be able to pursue a personal injury claim to seek compensation related to the injuries sustained in the accident.

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Head-on collisions are some of the most serious accidents, due not only to the force involved but also to the direct impact. While there are many causes of head-on accidents, most of these accidents can be boiled down to one thing:  driver error. In cases of inclement weather, it is incumbent upon all drivers to make sure they reduce their speed to fit the weather conditions. This may mean traveling below the posted speed limit when rain, snow, or ice is present on the road.

When a driver fails to take adequate precautions and causes an accident, that driver may be held liable to anyone injured as a result of their negligence. This often includes the drivers and passengers of other vehicles, and it also includes passengers in the negligent driver’s vehicle. In tragic cases in which a head-on accident results in the death of one or more of the people involved, a wrongful death lawsuit may be one way that aggrieved loved ones can seek compensation for their loss.

Two Dead in Gaithersburg Head-On Collision

Earlier this month, two men were killed in a mid-evening collision involving three cars. According to one local news source covering the tragedy, the accident occurred on Airpark Road in Gaithersburg at around 8:00 p.m.

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Earlier this month in Baltimore, six people were killed and several others injured when a school bus collided with an MTA bus. According to one local news source covering the accident, there were no students on board the bus at the time of the accident, but the MTA bus did have several passengers on board.

Evidently, the accident occurred when the school bus was on its way to pick up the first students of the day. It was headed east on Frederick Avenue, shortly before 7 a.m., when it rear-ended a Ford Mustang. After the initial collision, the bus continued forward, crashing into a concrete pillar before it was sent into the driver’s side of the MTA bus.

Police arrived on the scene moments after the collision. A police spokesperson explained “it literally looks like a bomb exploded on the bus.” Investigators on the scene noticed that there did not seem to be any skid marks or other indications that the school bus had tried to slow down immediately before the collision. Police are unsure what caused the driver of the school bus to lose control but do plan on speaking to a surviving school aide who was on board the bus at the time of the collision.

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Over the past few years, states across the country have made a concerted effort to increase the safety of young drivers through the three-tier Graduated Drivers Licensing (GDL) programs. Currently, all 50 states have some form of GDL program in effect, requiring young drivers between the ages of 15 and 17 to obtain various milestone achievements in one license tier before being moved to the next licensing tier. Each tier offers young drivers more freedom, but the program ends at age 18.

According to one national insurance news report discussing the efficacy of the GDL programs, the implementation of the programs has led to a 30% decrease in fatal accident involving teens between the ages of 15 and 17 years old. Despite the program’s success with younger drivers, the report notes that drivers ages 18-20 still suffer from high accident rates. Part of the problem, the article claims, is the fact that one in three drivers do not even obtain a learner’s permit until after the age of 18, effectively removing them from the strictures of the program. This age group contains those who are perhaps the most likely to be talking on the phone or texting while driving, both of which are illegal in Maryland.

According to the report, the Governors’ Highway Safety Administration is recommending that the program include all drivers under the age of 21. Maryland is on the cutting edge of the move toward stricter driver training laws, requiring all novice drivers – regardless of age – to complete 30 hours of classroom training as well as six hours of training behind the wheel. However, despite the efforts of lawmakers, inexperienced drivers will still continue to cause a large percentage of the serious and fatal car accidents across Maryland.

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Accidents between motor vehicles and pedestrians are common in the Maryland and Washington, D.C. areas. In fact, in Maryland alone, there are over 100 fatal pedestrian accidents each year. Of course, this does not take into account the hundreds of other pedestrian accidents that result in serious injuries. In part, the high frequency of pedestrian accidents in the area is due to the many mixed-use roads in busy urban and suburban areas across the region.

Most pedestrian accidents are preventable, and most of the time, the responsibility to prevent the accident falls on the driver of the vehicle. This is because motorists all assume a duty to those around them to operate their vehicle in a safe manner. Of course, this duty requires that motorists keep an eye out for pedestrians and obey all traffic laws in place to protect them. When a motorist violates this duty, the pedestrian may be able to seek monetary compensation from the motorist thought a Maryland or Washington, D.C. personal injury case.

In both Maryland and D.C., however, there are some strict rules in place regarding which accident victims are entitled to recovery. For example, if an accident victim is determined to have been at fault in the accident, they will be prevented from recovery. This stands true even if the pedestrian is determined to be just 5% at fault. Any fault assigned to the pedestrian could destroy their case.

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Driving is a privilege that many people take for granted. It used to be that not everyone needed a driver’s license. However, in today’s society, with urban sprawl an ever-increasing reality, even young drivers need a license to get to and from school and work. These young drivers, while they are required to attend a driver’s education course and pass applicable practical tests, do not always possess the judgment and real-world experience necessary to safely operate motor vehicles in all conditions.

Indeed, according to a recent study by the Center for Disease Control, young drivers aged 15-25 represent only 14% of the total driving population, but they end up being involved in over 30% of the total accidents. Interestingly, there are several contributing factors that experts cite when explaining the heightened dangers:

  • Speeding is involved in about 35% of all teen-driver crashes.
  • The presence of at least one male passenger in the car increases the likelihood of an accident.
  • Alcohol is involved in 25% of accidents involving teens.
  • Teens are less likely to wear their seat-belts, increasing the severity of the injuries suffered in most of the accidents.

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