A Maryland personal injury lawsuit is a civil claim, the purpose of which is to seek compensation for the plaintiff’s injuries. However, the defendant’s actions that resulted in the accident may also rise to the level of criminal conduct. If this is the case, then the defendant may face both criminal and civil charges.
It is not uncommon for a defendant to face both criminal and civil charges. For example, in most Maryland DUI accidents, the defendant can be found both criminally and civilly liable. However, for the most part, a personal injury victim will wait until the outcome of a criminal trial to file their lawsuit. There are several reasons for this, including that a criminal conviction can be helpful to a personal injury plaintiff in proving their case against the defendant. However, there are also other considerations that should be taken into account.
A recent opinion from a state appellate court illustrates one potential issue a personal injury plaintiff could face while litigating a civil claim while the defendant’s criminal matter is pending.
The Facts of the Case
According to the court’s opinion, two pedestrians were struck and killed after the defendant lost control of his vehicle. It was later determined that the defendant was under the influence, and he was charged with two counts of murder, among other charges. The defendant pled guilty, and was later sentenced to a total of 32 years imprisonment. At some point during the pendency of the defendant’s criminal trial, the surviving loved ones of the two deceased pedestrians (the plaintiffs) filed a personal injury lawsuit against the defendant.
The defendant appealed his sentence, arguing that it was excessive. Around that same time, the plaintiffs requested certain discovery materials, including testimony from the defendant through a deposition. The defendant claimed he could not be forced to participate in the deposition based on his fifth amendment right to be free from self-incrimination. The defendant argued that his case was still up on appeal, and it may result in a new sentencing hearing, in which his testimony at the deposition could be used against him.
The Court’s Opinion
The court agreed with the defendant, and held that he did not need to participate in the deposition until his appeal was final. The court explained that the fifth Amendment privilege “applied in any proceeding,” including the deposition. The court also held that the privilege attached, even though the defendant was only appealing his sentence, and not the finding of guilt.
Have You Been Injured in a Maryland DUI Accident?
If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a Maryland drunk driving accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. However, there are many important issues you must consider before filing your case. At the Maryland personal injury law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC we have decades of experience representing injury victims in all types of personal injury claims across Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. To learn more about how we can help you with your situation, call 410-654-3600 to schedule a free consultation today.
More Blog Posts:
MCourt Concludes Truck Driver Was Independent Contractor of the Defendant Company, Rather Than an Employee, Maryland Car Accident Attorney Blog, published November 25, 2018.
Alcohol May Have Been Involved in Fatal Maryland Roadside Accident, Maryland Car Accident Attorney Blog, published November 9, 2018.