Articles Posted in Drunk Driving

Dangers of Driving Under the Influence in Maryland

Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol is not only dangerous but highly illegal. The chances of crashes and fatal accidents increase when drivers are inhibited because they are less able to react to dangerous road conditions and generally exercise poor judgment when driving. Drivers operating under the influence make bad driving decisions, misjudge driving maneuvers, and are unable to fully concentrate on the road. Unfortunately, Maryland drivers are no exception to this trend and are all too familiar with the dangers of drivers operating their vehicles under the influence. According to a Center for Disease Control (CDC) study, Maryland drivers reported driving after drinking at a higher rate than the national reporting rate. In fact, between 2009 and 2018, 1,515 people were killed in alcohol-involved crashes in Maryland. The CDC has found that over 10,000 people per year die in such crashes throughout the country. Recent local news coverage discussed a fatal DUI crash that tragically resulted in six deaths.

According to the news coverage about the recent crash, the accident occurred on March 22 when two drivers were driving at excessive speeds. One of the cars clipped the other car as it attempted to change lanes, sending it careening into a construction site. The first car was traveling at 121 mph at the time of the collision, while the car that was changing lanes was traveling at 108 mph when it was clipped. Maryland State Police identified six construction workers who were killed in the collision. As a result of the crash, Maryland Gov. Wes Moore created a work group to create safety changes for construction work zones.

The Maryland government recently released a Maryland roadway fatality report through a new fatality reduction initiative, Zero Deaths Maryland. The report indicates that the state is currently on pace to have a higher number of driving fatalities this year than last year. At this same point last year, Maryland had 321 roadway fatalities, while currently there are already 353 fatalities reported on Maryland roads. The report further indicates that the number of fatal crashes throughout the state has gradually increased year over year beginning in 2018.

What Are the Top Causes of Fatal Truck Accidents?

There are various causes of fatal automobile accidents, including the size of the vehicles involved and whether any of the vehicle operators were impaired. According to Zero Deaths Maryland, the state has been relatively stable when it comes to fatal car accidents involving driver impairment and overall accidents involving impaired drivers. In 2017, Maryland had 170 driver-impaired fatal crashes while in 2021, the state had 154 driver-impaired fatal crashes. Similarly, in 2017 there were 6,654 total driver-impaired crashes, while in 2021 there were 6,522. A recent news article discussed a fatal accident that resulted in four deaths.

The news article detailed a recent crash that occurred on the evening of Saturday, November 5, around 5:30 PM in Carroll County. Maryland State Police from the Westminster Barrack responded to multiple reports of a three-vehicle crash in the area of westbound Liberty Road at Skidmore Road. The preliminary investigation revealed that a Chevy Equinox collided with a Ford F-350 after a Saturn rear-ended the Chevy. The initial collision then caused the Chevy to enter the eastbound lanes, violently colliding head-on with the Ford that was traveling eastbound on Liberty Road. The driver and two of the passengers in the Chevy were pronounced dead at the scene while two additional passengers from the Chevy were transported by air to R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore, Maryland. One of those transported later passed away at the Shock Trauma Center. The driver of the Ford was also brought to the hospital for treatment for his injuries. Investigators do not currently believe that impaired driving was a factor in the crash, but the investigation is still ongoing. The Maryland State Police Crash Team is leading the investigation.

Recently, a woman who was convicted following a Maryland drunk driving accident was sentenced to a prison term of 20 years, with all but six years of the sentence being suspended. As a result, the woman will serve six years in jail for killing two people in a March 27, 2021, DUI accident.

The accident occurred near the intersection of Darnestown Road and Blackberry Drive, in Gaithersburg, Maryland. Evidently, the woman was speeding and under the influence of alcohol when she crashed her BMW into the couple’s Toyota RAV 4, killing the couple and their dog, who was also in the vehicle. The woman accepted responsibility, pleading guilty to several serious felonies and, in early February of this year, was sentenced. The sentencing judge accepted the prosecutor’s recommended sentence of 20 years in prison with all but six years suspended followed by five years of probation.

Criminal Cases Following a Fatal DUI Accident

After a fatal drunk driving accident, grieving family members may not know where to turn for answers. However, it is important that families understand their options, because a criminal case against the driver does not necessarily mean that they will obtain the justice they are seeking.

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The consequences of a Maryland DUI crash can be serious and long-lasting for victims and their family members. But taking some important steps can help address some issues that can come up. For one, it is important to keep any evidence from the crash, including photos, the contact information of witnesses, and notes of relevant pieces of information. Victims should also obtain a copy of the police report from the crash and report the crash to their insurance company. They should also keep copies of medical records and receipts for any medical expenses, including physical therapy and prescriptions. Victims should also follow the recommendations of doctors concerning their medical treatment to avoid being blamed for failing to address or mitigate injuries.

Should I speak with a lawyer after a Maryland DUI accident?

Yes, speaking with an experienced Maryland DUI accident lawyer is important to determine an accident victim’s rights. Even if a driver was not convicted of DUI in a criminal case against them, a lawsuit may still be possible. Every case has a statute of limitations which means that the case must be filed within a certain amount of time, so talking to a lawyer as soon as possible is very important. Generally, lawsuits filed after a DUI crash are based in negligence and rely on showing that the at-fault driver is liable because his actions fell below the standard of care required.

Experts are necessary in many DUI cases, as they can explain issues that are not within the common knowledge of most people—such as how alcohol impairment affected the driver or how the victim’s injuries required certain services or treatments. Victims might be able to recover damages including medical bills, loss of future earnings, property damages, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

Although harsh penalties exist for drunk drivers, drunk driving remains a problem throughout the country. According to Maryland’s most recent statistics, crashes involving the use of alcohol or drugs amount to nearly 7,000 per year. To minimize the risk of Maryland DUI crashes, the state has imposed criminal penalties and license sanctions for those convicted of an impaired driving offense. For a first offense DUI, drivers face up to a $1,000 fine, up to one year in jail, 12 points assessed on one’s driving record, and license revocation for up to six months. Since 2016, drivers are also required to participate in Maryland’s Ignition Interlock Program following certain convictions.

Victims of a Maryland drunk driving crash may be able to recover financial compensation from a drunk driver. A victim in a DUI crash alleging that negligence must prove that the driver had a duty to the victim, the driver was negligent in acting or failing to act in some way, the driver’s actions caused the victim’s injuries, and the victim suffered damages. Evidence that a driver was arrested or convicted of a DUI offense is generally admissible in Maryland in a civil case against the driver. Victims may be able to recover financial compensation for property damages, medical bills, pain and suffering, wage losses, and other damages depending on the circumstances.

Are the Burdens of Proof Different in Civil and Criminal Cases?

Yes, in a civil case, a victim must prove the case by the preponderance of the evidence standard. This is a lower standard than in a criminal case, and some evidence may be admissible in a civil case that is not admissible in a criminal case, which means that a civil case may still be viable even if a driver was not convicted of a DUI offense in a criminal court. Other parties may also be liable after a DUI crash, including a bar or other establishment that served the drunk driver, or another individual who allowed the driver to access the vehicle and drive drunk.

St. Patrick’s Day is known for being a big drinking holiday. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, this will likely ring true this year as Maryland recently lifted indoor dining restrictions in the state. Though bars and restaurants in the state had previously been able to operate at 50 percent capacity, they were allowed to operate at full capacity just in time for St. Patrick’s Day. Unfortunately, drunk driving crashes and pedestrian crashes are common on St. Patrick’s Day. For this reason, the Maryland Department of Transportation cautions residents to exercise safe driving practices by getting a ride home, and being extra vigilant on St. Patrick’s Day to avoid a Maryland car accident.

If someone decides to go out drinking, there are some precautions that can lessen the risk of a crash. First, designate a sober driver. If someone is going to drive, decide ahead of time who that person will be. Second, plan to eat throughout the evening. Eating throughout the night will create a buffer between the alcohol you are consuming and your stomach and slow the absorption of alcohol. Third, drink water. Drinking water throughout the night helps to reduce overall alcohol consumption and keeps you hydrated. Fourth, do not leave your drink unattended or accept drinks from strangers. Fifth, have a backup plan. Use a rideshare app to get home, call or a taxi, or have a friend on call if things do not go as planned. Sixth, watch out for pedestrians. Alcohol consumption is involved in almost half of pedestrian crashes. Be vigilant if you are driving and if you are on foot. Seven, take care of your friends. Make sure that your friends have a safe and sober ride home, as well.

How Do You Prove a Car Accident Case?

In the event of a Maryland car accident alleging negligence, an injured individual must prove that the defendant was negligent by acting or failing to act in some way. This means proving that the defendant had a duty to exercise reasonable care toward the individual, that the defendant failed to exercise reasonable care, that defendant’s failure to exercise reasonable care caused the individual injuries, and that the individual suffered damages. In the case of gross negligence, a plaintiff must prove the elements of a negligence case, and must show that the defendant acted with a wanton or reckless disregard for others. In a drunk driving case, others may be responsible in addition to or in lieu of the driver, including a parent or another person who negligently entrusted the driver with a car, or a bar who served the driver alcohol when they were already visibly intoxicated.

Separating phases of a trial, known as bifurcation, often occurs when failing to do so would introduce issues in another phase that would improperly influence the jury. For example, in a criminal DUI case, if a defendant had a prior DUI, the case might be split into the guilt and sentencing phases so that the jury would not be influenced by the prior DUI in deciding whether the defendant is guilty. In a Maryland civil DUI case, the case might be split into a compensatory damages phase and a punitive damages phase, so that the jury would not be influenced by the fact that the defendant was driving drunk in deciding the amount of damages the plaintiff should be awarded. Similar concepts apply in Maryland car accident cases.

Who Decides Whether to Bifurcate a Personal Injury Trial?

In Maryland, the trial judge has the discretion to decide whether to bifurcate or trifurcate a personal injury trial. The trial judge’s decision may be overturned if the trial judge abused his or her discretion. Under Maryland Rule of Civil Procedure Rule 2-503, a judge may separate trial of a claim or issue because it would be convenient or to avoid prejudice.

Individuals injured in Maryland accidents have the ability to file a personal injury lawsuit against the party who negligently caused the accident. In some cases, they can also bring suit against the defendant’s employer, who may be more able to financially compensate the victim. But typically, to recover under this theory of vicarious liability against the employer, an individual must prove that the employee’s negligent actions occurred in the course and the scope of their employment. This can be a confusing doctrinal point for many potential plaintiffs, but it basically means that employers cannot be sued for things their employees did outside of their work—if an employee who gets weekends off gets drunk one Saturday night and goes on a drive to a bar, for example, their employer typically cannot be held liable if they cause a car accident because that accident had nothing to do with their employment. This is an important nuance to understand in the doctrine for plaintiffs considering filing suit against a negligent defendant and their employer.

The term “within the scope of employment” means that an employees actions that caused another’s injuries occurred while they were acting as an employee versus on their personal time. Generally, employers are liable for an employee’s negligence, provided the employee was acting as an employee. Although it is counter-intuitive, commuting to and from work is not generally seen as within the scope of an employee’s work.

One recent state appellate case illustrates this doctrine and how it may come up. According to the court’s written opinion, the defendant in the case was an employee at a deli, and sometimes made deliveries with his own car. One morning, his manager called him early to make a delivery later that day, and he agreed. He left for work a little earlier than usual that morning so he could do some prep before taking the delivery. On his way to work, he lost control of his car and struck another vehicle, killing the two men inside. A blood test after the accident showed that he had marijuana in his system at the time of the accident. The deceased driver’s wife filed suit against the employee and his employer, arguing that they were vicariously liable for the accident. The employer filed for summary judgment, arguing that the employee was not acting in the course and scope of his employment at the time of the accident.

When someone is injured in a Maryland DUI accident, it is conceivable that there are multiple liable parties. Of course, the motorist who was driving drunk is the most obvious party; however, it would seem logical that the individual or establishment that overserved the intoxicated driver also bears some responsibility.

The concept of holding third parties liable for a negligent driver’s actions is not unheard of, and courts impose third-party liability all the time in cases involving a negligent employee. In fact, many states also impose third-party liability in the drunk-driving context through statutes known as dram-shop and social-host liability laws. At the heart of both of these claims is the concept that a person – either acting in their individual capacity or in their capacity as an employee for a bar or restaurant – should know that overserving alcohol to a customer puts others in danger.

In Maryland, however, courts have rejected both dram-shop and social-host liability claims. As recently as 2013, the Court of Appeals of Maryland heard a dram-shop case, issuing an opinion including a lengthy discussion of the societal and legal considerations of a court adopting such a doctrine.

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Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a car accident case in which the plaintiff’s vehicle was struck by a drunk driver. The case required the court to determine if the defendant’s prior convictions for driving under the influence could be admitted at trial. Ultimately, the court concluded that the prior convictions were relevant to the punitive damages determination and thus should be admitted for that limited purpose.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was driving to work on the highway when suddenly, the defendant’s vehicle crossed over into the plaintiff’s lane of traffic. The two vehicles collided head-on. It was later determined that the defendant had a blood-alcohol content of .18, which is over twice the legal limit.

The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the defendant. During the plaintiff’s case, he attempted to introduce evidence that the defendant had been convicted of driving under the influence on two prior occasions, once in 1996 and another time in 1983. The court allowed the evidence to be admitted over the defendant’s objection. Ultimately, the jury awarded the plaintiff over $1,500,000.

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