Maryland Auto Accident Law: Answers To FAQs

Maryland auto accident law can be quite complicated. Knowing when product liability comes into play, when punitive damages might be available and how damages differ when a fatality is involved are all frequently asked questions (FAQs) of Maryland attorneys. We spoke with Doug Stevens, a Maryland attorney who has practiced law for 30 years and whose firm focuses on personal injury and car accident matters in Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia, and asked him for some answers. Here’s what he told us:

Question: When is product liability important in an auto accident case?

Answer: Product liability has to be considered when there is a significant injury. Did the safety features work right, was there a poorly designed ‘unforgiving highway’ or did the municipality let the foliage cover the stop sign?

Question: Are punitive damages ever awarded in Maryland car accident cases, such as when someone was driving drunk?

Answer: The three jurisdictions I practice in are Virginia, D.C. and Maryland. Unfortunately, Maryland is a drunk driver’s protection state. It is incredible that the law is so protective of drunk drivers – especially when Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD) is so active here. All the insurance company has to do is concede liability in a case and then the jury never hears about the open Heineken bottles or the slobbering drunk driver. It is just incredible that Maryland is so Draconian in that regard. We trial lawyers have a few tools to try to counter that, however.

In Maryland, you are not going to get punitive damages for a drunk driving case unless the situation is willful and wanton – which has been defined as a virtual intentional act. So, if the wrongdoer intentionally got drunk to see how many people he could hurt and had that on video tape, then you might be able to argue punitives to the jury. Absent an extreme scenario like that, the punitives will be not allowed.

Question: How do damages differ when a fatality occurred as a result of the accident?

Answer: There are survivor benefits versus what is called a wrongful death action. In a wrongful death action, you’re basically saying, ‘I am the person you killed. Here is what my case is worth.’ In a survival action, which is a first cousin to the wrongful death action, you are saying, ‘Here is the person you took away from me. What is that worth?’

Contacting an experienced Maryland car accident attorney will be able evaluate your situation and discuss what options might be best for you.