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Following a major accident involving criminal charges, some victims may believe that because the state will be criminally prosecuting the at-fault party, this is the same as filing a personal injury lawsuit and receiving compensation. In reality, the criminal prosecution led by local authorities and a civil personal injury lawsuit that a victim of an accident may bring are completely different cases—even though they may both implicate and arise out of the same set of facts from the accident. Understanding this difference is crucial so that you do not miss out on the compensation that you deserve.

According to a recent local news report, a major car accident involving multiple vehicles left at least one individual dead. Based on a preliminary investigation, a Mercedes failed to stop for a red light at an intersection and crashed into a Chevrolet. The Chevrolet then crashed into a Honda. Both the driver of the Chevrolet and the Honda were stopped at the intersection while waiting for the red light. The driver of the Chevrolet was declared dead on the scene and the driver of the Honda was transported to a local hospital by helicopter, where he later died. Based on this preliminary investigation, local authorities believe that speed and alcohol were both contributing factors to the accident. The details of the crash remain under investigation.

What is the difference between a criminal and civil lawsuit in Maryland?

Following a major car accident like the one described above, local authorities may prosecute the at-fault party if criminal wrongdoing, such as driving or operating a vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol, was a contributing factor or the cause of an accident. The charges that local authorities bring against the at-fault party, however, do not involve compensation to the victims of the accident. Instead, they aim to punish or deter the at-fault driver through fines imposed by the government, jail time, community service, or suspension of a license.

Following a loved one’s unexpected passing, you may feel overwhelmed and unsure of what to do next. In fact, pursuing a lawsuit may be the furthest thing from your mind. Depending on the circumstances of the situation, however, a lawsuit may be the best course of action for you and your loved ones. Understanding how to recover following the loss of a loved one can often be a complex legal process, so getting a lay of the land of the implications the law could have on your case is essential.

According to a recent local news report, a teenager was recently struck and killed in a fatal tractor-trailer accident. Based on a preliminary investigation, Maryland State Police reported that the teenager ran into the middle of the road suddenly when he was struck by a passing tractor trailer. The teenager was found dead at the scene. The driver of the tractor-trailer remained at the scene and there were no other reported injuries. Maryland authorities are continuing to investigate the circumstances that led to the accident.

In Maryland, a wrongful death occurs when someone dies because of the negligent or reckless actions of another individual. Wrongful death claims are typically filed by relatives of the deceased and seek compensation for harm done to them as a result of losing their loved ones.

The Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA) operates Zero Deaths, a government website designed to provide the community with statewide crash statistics, resources, and programs to assist in roadway safety programs. The MVA explained that the website seeks to assist the Maryland Highway Safety office meets its goal of eliminating roadway fatalities by 2030. The administrator believes that providing the public with user-friendly highway safety resources will help the state achieve its goals.

Zero deaths take a data-driven approach to reach its goal of zero serious injuries and roadway fatalities. The goal is critical as those who suffer injuries in a Maryland car accident often experience serious and life-long consequences. Those who lose a loved one or suffer injuries in a Maryland accident should contact an attorney to discuss their rights and remedies.

How Many People Are Killed in Maryland Motor Vehicle Accidents?

The most recent data indicates that as of early April 2022, there have been 134 reported fatalities involving a Maryland motor vehicle crash. The data refers to “fatalities” as the total number of people who suffer fatal injuries in a collision; some fatal crashes involve more than one death. Maryland has experienced 124 fatal crashes as of early April. “Fatal crashes” refer to incidents in which at least one fatality occurred.

Following a major car accident, especially on a busy roadway, the danger of further damage is often not out of sight simply because the initial collision has already taken place. Sometimes, subsequent accidents happen after the cars involved in the initial crash pull over to the side of the road. For busy roadways or areas where there may be low visibility, it is not infrequent that another driver will crash into stalled vehicles pulled onto the shoulder, causing more injuries or damage to what already took place during the initial accident.

According to a recent local news report, Maryland State Police are investigating whether weather played a role in a recent accident that left one pedestrian dead and another seriously injured. Local authorities responded to a call reporting a crash on Maryland Route 16, where three vehicles had been involved in a major accident and two people were located lying in a nearby ditch with significant injuries.

Based on a preliminary investigation, both of the injured victims were riding in a Toyota Tundra truck that slid off the road next to the ditch and both individuals exited the vehicle. For unknown reasons, a Ford Escape stopped on the scene also. Moments after the Ford stopped, a Hyundai traveling in the same direction crashed into the back of the Ford, which sent it careening into the ditch. Accident investigators believe that the Hyundai then slid off the roadway and struck the two pedestrians who had exited their Toyota at the time. The Hyundai also ended up in a ditch. No other injuries were reported and the accident remains under investigation by local authorities.

Head-on car accidents take place when two vehicles moving in opposite directions crash directly into each other. Often, these accidents are deadly or result in significant injury and property damage. Although statistically less common than other types of vehicle accidents, they often account for a significant portion of deaths caused by car accidents because the vehicles are often going at high speeds and the impacts of these accidents result in devastating consequences.

According to a recent news report, a head-on crash between a pickup truck and a passenger van killed nine people last week. Officials reported that the truck collided with a 17 person passenger van carrying members of the men’s and women’s golf teams from a local university other head-on and caught on fire on a two-lane road. Two people who were in the pickup truck were killed, along with seven of the nine people in the passenger van. Among those who were killed, six of the victims in the passenger van were college students and one was their golf coach. Other students who were injured were flown to surrounding hospitals for treatment and were reportedly in critical condition. The accident remains under investigation.

What Are the Common Causes of Head-on Collisions?

Many head-on accidents frequently take place on two-lane roads, where there is only one lane going in each direction. This often means that if you are behind a slow vehicle, you must cross the center line—which may put you in the line of oncoming traffic—to pass the vehicle ahead of you. Unfortunately, many drivers end up in head-on accidents because they attempt to pass the vehicle ahead of them and instead fail to account for oncoming traffic and end up in a major collision. Although this is sometimes caused by reckless and speeding drivers, this also takes place because the driver could not see oncoming traffic or underestimated the speed at which oncoming traffic was moving. Poor road conditions and weather can also exacerbate these circumstances.

Recent studies by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) report that 212,500 vehicle fires caused nearly 600 deaths and injuries in the United States in 2018. Key findings of the study indicated that mechanical failures, electrical failures, and collisions were the leading causes of vehicle fires. Vehicle fires caused 4.5 times the number of deaths as nonresidential structure fires and 1.6 times the number of apartment fire deaths. Those that suffer injuries in a Maryland vehicle fire should consult with an attorney to determine their rights and remedies.

The harrowing data imparts how critical it is for vehicle manufacturers to engage in safety measures to prevent vehicle fires. Recently, BMW announced a recall involving more than a million vehicles. The company cited issues with the engine ventilation system in these vehicles; the faulty system can cause the car to catch fire. The recall involves nearly 1 million sedans and SUVs in the United States and thousands more in other parts of the world.

The United States National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) explained that these vehicles are prone to an electrical short in their valve heaters. Over time the irregularity can lead to overheating and even cause a fire. The fire can occur regardless of whether the car is driven or parked. The company advises drivers who smell smoke or burning plastic or view smoke wafting from the engine to pull over, shut the engine, and exit the car.

Sudden speed changes carry many risks for drivers and can result in a serious Maryland car accident. Sudden braking is a type of harsh driving that can put motorists at higher risk for a crash caused by overheating and wear and tear on tires. Most drivers can modify their behavior and reduce these dangerous events. However, the story is different for those operating driverless vehicles, such as Teslas. The driver may maintain little control over the circumstances leading to an accident in these cases.

Recently, federal auto-safety regulators began a preliminary investigation into sudden braking by advanced driver-assistance systems in Tesla vehicles. The investigation primarily focuses on 2021 and 2022 Tesla Model 3 sedans sold in the United States. A National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) report documents over 350 consumer complaints over the previous nine months. Consumers reported that their Tesla’s suddenly braked when there were no road hazards. The claims explain that their vehicles “unexpectedly apply its brakes” while traveling at highway speeds. For many, the rapid deceleration occurred randomly, without warning, and repeatedly.

This latest concern only joins many other issues the car manufacturer has confronted over the past few years. Earlier this year, Tesla recalled over 50,000 vehicles equipped with the manufacturer’s “full self-driving software.” The recall was in response to reports that cars were rolling through intersections and stop signs without stopping. The company recalled the vehicles to disable this dangerous feature. Moreover, the company faces another investigation into its Autopilot system and a recall to correct a brake defect. Finally, the company agreed to disable a feature that allows front passengers and drivers to play video games while the car is in motion.

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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Under Maryland law, drivers owe a duty of care to other road users to avoid causing harm. These duties include behaviors such as following traffic rules, maintaining proper licensure, and modifying behaviors to comport with inclement weather. However, the duties become muddled when the accident or injury results from a sudden medical emergency that makes a driver unable to operate their vehicle safely.

The party bringing forth a Maryland personal injury lawsuit maintains the burden of proof; however, the adverse party can avoid liability by establishing a valid defense. As such, the party claiming a sudden medical emergency must prove that:

  • They became suddenly incapacitated before the accident;
  • The incapacitation caused the driver to lose control of their vehicle; and
  • The incapacitation and loss of control was a result of the sudden medical emergency.

A sudden medical emergency can involve various types of events such as:

  • Fainting
  • Seizure
  • Stroke
  • Heart Attack
  • Brian Aneurysm
  • Choking

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The owners of businesses and nonprofit organizations, including churches, are required to keep their premises in a reasonably safe condition for employees, customers, and other members of the public. In the event that a hazardous condition results in an injury to an employee, customer or guest, property owners can be held accountable with a personal injury lawsuit. A case recently filed by a woman who was injured on the premises of a church has been dismissed, however, as the organization that she sued was not the legal owner of the property where she was injured.

According to the facts discussed in the appellate opinion, the plaintiff was employed by the defendant church as a security guard at the time of her injury. While at work, the plaintiff was instructed to escort a person off the property, when she tripped on a small piece of fencing surrounding a garden and suffered injuries. In addition to a workers compensation claim that she filed through her employer, the plaintiff also filed a premises liability claim against the church, alleging that they were negligent in failing to maintain their premises in a safe manner.

In response to the plaintiff’s lawsuit, the defendant put forth three defenses. First, the defendant argued that they were not the owners of the property where the plaintiff was injured, as another separate organization owns the property and the plaintiff simply uses it for church services every Sunday. Additionally, the defendant argued that the fence was an open and obvious hazard and that the plaintiff herself was negligent by failing to look out for and avoid the hazard. The trial court accepted all of the defendants’ arguments and dismissed the plaintiff’s case. Importantly, the court found that the plaintiff presented no evidence that the defendant actually owned the property where she was injured.

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