Articles Posted in Car Accidents

Earlier this year, the Baltimore Sun published an article lauding the fact that Maryland traffic accidents hit a 66-year low in 2014, with a total of 442 deaths. According to the article, this figure is about half of the highest number of traffic fatalities in one year, which was 772 recorded back in 1968.

financial-crisis-1093355-mThe article points out a number of interesting trends. For example, the following types of accidents are less common than they were several years ago:  drunk driving, speeding, and aggressive driving.

With that said, the report indicates that drunk driving is still responsible for one-third of all fatal Maryland car accidents. Other types of accidents are becoming more common, including:

  • Accidents involving older drivers,
  • Motorcycle accidents,
  • Distracted driving, and
  • Accidents where the victim was not wearing a seat belt.

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Recent reports regarding the Maryland police officer who died in a car crash last month revealed that he had alcohol in his system at the time of the accident. A prominent news source has reported that the officer was killed when he was taking his girlfriend to her home in the early hours of the morning.

Evidently, the officer was off duty, but he was attempting to stop a speeding vehicle. He was speeding when he came around a curve in Lanham, Maryland. Unfortunately, he was not able to control his vehicle, and he ended up hitting a wooden fence.

dpd-157593-mInvestigations revealed that the officer had a blood alcohol level of about .07; the legal limit is .08 in Maryland. Additionally, he was driving around 106 mph and slowed to about 65 mph right before the accident. Although the officer was off duty, they believe that he was going to call in a traffic stop because he switched his radio on. Apparently, a new investigation has also made clear that the officer’s girlfriend was in the car with him at the time of the accident. Fortunately, she did not suffer any serious injuries.

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Earlier this week, a fatal rear-end accident on Route 50 took the life of one man and injured four others. According to a report by the Capital Gazette, the accident occurred around 2:45 in the afternoon last Saturday.

crash-1-1406893-mEvidently, a Nissan X-Terra was heading east on Route 50 when it came up on a line of cars that had stopped due to an accident up ahead. The driver of the X-Terra did not see the stopped cars in time and—although he tried to swerve at the last minute to avoid a collision—crashed into the rear of a Toyota Corolla. The force from the accident slammed the Corolla into a nearby Jeep.

The Corolla had three people inside. The two in the front of the car were flown to the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center with serious injuries. The man in the back seat was pronounced dead at the scene of the accident. Two people in the Jeep suffered minor injuries but declined treatment.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court affirmed the dismissal of a case brought by two accident victims based on the fact that they did not raise an “issue of fact” as it pertained to proximate cause. The court determined that the plaintiffs failed to show that there was sufficient evidence that the defendant’s negligent acts were the cause-in-fact of their injuries.

mountain-road-1435240-mThe Facts of the Case

In the case, Piltch v. Ford Motor Company, the Piltches were seriously injured when their 2006 Mercury Mountaineer hit a patch of black ice, slid off the road, and crashed into a nearby wall. None of the cars’ airbags deployed during the accident. The Piltches filed suit against the manufacturer of the vehicle, claiming that under state law the vehicle was defective. They argued that they should be compensated for their injuries because the fact that the airbags did not deploy resulted in them sustaining more serious injuries than they would have had the airbags worked properly.

However, at trial the Piltches failed to present any “causation” evidence from an expert, meaning that they were relying solely on circumstantial evidence that the fact that the airbags didn’t deploy worsened their injuries.

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Back in March of last year, a hit-and-run accident claimed the life of one man. Since then, according to one news report, the driver of the car has been convicted of aggravated involuntary manslaughter, driving under the influence of alcohol, felony hit-and-run, and disorderly conduct after he pleaded guilty to the offenses.

car-fire-2-1068611-mThe charges arose from an accident where the driver of the vehicle hit the bicyclist on Virginia 122 in Bedford County. Witnesses to the accident told police that the driver pulled a crushed bicycle out from underneath his car before fleeing the scene. He later drunkenly called police to tell them his truck was on fire.

The bicyclist was taken to Roanoke Memorial Hospital but was pronounced dead the next day from blunt force trauma to the head. At his criminal trial, the driver was sentenced to seven and one-half years of incarceration for his involvement in the fatal accident.

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If you have been reading the news lately, you may be familiar with the various recalls that the car-manufacturing giant GM has made in the past year. The death toll in the GM recalls started off below 10, hovered around 13 for awhile, but now has been increased to 19, according to a recent report by the Daily Record.

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The Recall

The GM recalls have been based on a number of faulty parts that were used to manufacture several of the company’s most popular models, including the Chevy Cobalt and Saturn Ion. Often, what would happen is that the car would shut down while being driven, leaving the driver with no control of the vehicle. Unfortunately, many of these incidents resulted in serious injury or death.

Initially, after the first round of recalls, the death toll stood at 13 for several months. However, the man hired by GM to keep track of all the claims against the company recently told reporters that the official death toll is at 19 and may go higher from there. GM has currently set aside $400 million to pay victims and their families, but that number may increase to $600 million as the number of potential plaintiffs increases.

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In a recent report from the Associated Press, the attorney in charge of compensating the victims of the recent rash of crashes due to the GM recalls announced that there will be no limit to the amount of money GM will shell out to victims and their families. Currently, thirteen deaths have been linked to various accidents due to recalls in GM automobiles over the course of the last year. This figure, however, may be artificially low, as it relies on GM’s own admissions. It is expected that hundreds of other lawsuits will be filed once the specifics of the fund are established.

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The recalls affected a number of General Motor vehicles, but were primarily centered around the Saturn Ion and the Chevrolet Cobalt. Each of these vehicles had ignition switch problems that had the potential to leave drivers with no way to control the vehicle.

The attorney in charge of compensation—who is paid by GM, but is not technically an employee of the company—says that the most recent recalls will not be eligible for the limitless compensation fund, as the company sees the most recent recalls as a separate issue. Additionally, only those lawsuits alleging problems with a vehicle’s ignition switch will be eligible for the recovery fund.

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In a recent case in front of the Maryland Court of Appeals, the court held that testimony from witnesses that the driver of the car causing the accident fled the scene and then returned a short time later laughing before he then left again, was inadmissible in a claim for damages against that driver.

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In the case Alban v. Fiels, the Albans were an elderly couple who were hit while driving in their truck by Mr. Fiels. The Albans’ vehicle sustained more damages than Fiels, and they were immobilized. In fact, Mrs. Alban was stuck in the car until firefighters came to extricate her.

Mr. Fiels fled the scene but did so down a road that had no outlet. Knowing that the road the driver fled down had no outlet, a nearby witness waited for the driver to return. When he did, the witness noticed that the driver slowed down and then sped off, laughing.

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The Maryland Court of Appeals refused to create a “dram shop” law when it ruled earlier this month that a bar cannot be held liable for the actions of a drunken patron after he or she departs.

The case was originally argued in March, on behalf of a family whose 10 year old was killed during a car crash on I-270 back in 2008. The driver responsible for the young girl’s death had been served 20 drinks at a local bar prior to getting behind the wheel.beers.jpg

The court held that individuals should solely be held responsible for their own decisions and actions. In addition, the court determined that General Assembly is the venue most proper in which to create new laws, not the court.

The dissenting opinion argued that this was a lost to ensure bars were held accountable for protecting the public from overly intoxicated customers. The judge wrote, “this case presented the opportunity to impose dram shop liability on commercial vendors of alcohol” which served their patrons even after they were visibly impaired as a result of their alcohol consumption. Further, according to a study cited in the dissent, studies have shown that these types of laws could potentially lead to 14 deaths fewer in Maryland every year.

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Last week a Missouri man received a heavy sentence for his role in a tragic car accident that he allegedly caused in September of 2011. He received a sentence of 10 years in prison for his role in the DWI crash that killed two people and injured five. The defendant pleaded guilty in November to the charges, which included two counts of involuntary manslaughter and five counts of second-degree assault.

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Based on the evidence at the scene and witness accounts, the police estimate that the man was driving nearly 100 miles per hour when the collision occurred. His car rear ended the Chevy Tahoe, containing the two men and other passengers, which caused the Tahoe to flip over several times.

He received a 10 year sentence for each count of involuntary manslaughter and seven years for each of the five counts of second-degree assault. The 17 months which he has already served in jail will be counted as time served, and all of the sentences will be served concurrently.

The assistant prosecuting attorney in the case said that 10 years was the heaviest sentence he had ever seen in a DWI and involuntary manslaughter case, adding that, “Part of it was that he had a prior DWI, and the fact that he killed two people and injured five.” He also stated that under Missouri law, the man must serve at least 85 percent of his sentence before becoming eligible for parole.

Although the outcome in this particular case addresses the sentencing reached as a result of the criminal justice system, the families in this case also likely have wrongful death claims against the driver in this tragic car accident.

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