As expected, August 2011 is shaping up to be a horrible month in terms of the number of catastrophic car accidents on Maryland roads. Today the Washington Post reports that 9 people died in Maryland area road accidents, including 4 peoples whose vehicle caught on fire. Many others were injured. AAA has reported that the most dangerous time to drive is generally August 1 through Labor Day. In fact, John Townsend, a spokesman for AAA Mid-Atlantic Region, has explained that stats from 2000-2008 indicate that 7 of the 15 deadliest days to drive a car are between August 3 and September 2.
On Friday August 12, 2011, according to Maryland Police there was a horrible motor cycle accident in St. Mary’s County, MD. A man named Devin Sweeting was driving a Yamaha motorcycle on Route 5 in Lexington Park and it left the street and struck a cement object, turned sideways and skidded for over 150 feet while Mr. Sweeting was still in the seat. Mr. Sweeting, according to the Washington Post suffered multiple pelvic fractures and other injuries. He was flown to Maryland’s Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore, MD and later died from his injuries. (Unfortunately, many motor cycle insurance policies in Maryland do not have PIP Coverage).
Then, there was another fatal car accident in Montgomery County, Maryland on the Capital Beltway near Silver Spring, Maryland on 15700 block of Holly Grove Road in Cloverly. A 2002 Subaru was on fire and two people were found dead inside of the vehicle when rescue workers arrived. Crash investigators are still investigating the cause of this crash but reporters have indicated that they think the vehicle was going on Holly Grove Road and may have crashed into a tree. (Anyone with info about this crash is asked to call the Maryland Accident Reconstruction Unit at 301-840-2435).
A few hours later there was another fatal Maryland car crash on the Baltimore Washington Parkway in Prince Georges County Maryland. A Sports Utility Vehicle left the roadway and crashed into a tree causing vehicle occupants to be ejected from the vehicle. Two people were pronounced dead as a result, and at least 5 others including several children were taken to Maryland hospitals in critical condition. Tragically, it is reported that a 3-year-old child also later died in this crash. (Those involved in this crash should strongly consider hiring a lawyer to make sure the vehicle is preserved and to evaluate the vehicle’s crash-worthiness as there could be a product liability claim against the car manufacturer. A lawyer can help with this.)
Maryland residents need to know that our roadways are indeed very dangerous this time of the year and drivers need to drive defensively. Drivers should not be using their cell phones or sending text messages while driving in Maryland. To do so is now against the law. It seems that we are seeing more and more single car crashes in Maryland where vehicles are straying off of the roadway and crashing into trees, telephone poles and other fixed objects. I believe that this is often the result of driver distraction, drivers checking their email on their cell phones, and/or drivers texting while driving.
The families and friends of those killed in these Maryland car accidents are obviously grieving right now. Our thoughts and prayers go out to them. These families should know and understand that they most likely have Personal Injury Protection Benefits (also known as PIP Benefits) that can help pay for funeral expenses and medical bills. These are no fault benefits meaning that it does not matter who is at fault for the crash. The next of kin just needs to contact the insurance company and a check for $2,500 will be sent (An estate may need to be opened first–depending on the insurance company). Family members should also strongly consider engaging an experienced car crash lawyer to conduct an investigation and make sure that all evidence is properly preserved. For example, skid marks fade, witness memories fade, and vehicles involved in the crash are often junked or salvaged if immediate action is not taken. Since there is liked limited liability insurance coverage for drivers involved in the crash, whenever there is a wrongful death car accident in Maryland it is important to consider whether there may be a product liability case. If there is, the vehicle (the product) needs to be preserved in the proper way.
While getting a lawyer now, in the immediate aftermath of a tragic car crash, may seem seedy to some, it is crucially important in light of the fact that evidence can disappear and memories can fade. Evidence preservation and proper investigation is crucial (and it is NOT ALWAYS SUFFICIENT TO JUST RELY ON the POLICE INVESTIGATION). Furthermore, there are strict deadlines such as statutes of limitations and notice requirements to governmental entities that need to be complied with. The notice deadlines can be as short as 6 months after the car crash.
The bottom line is that the insurance companies who will be defending the legal claims related to the crash are doing everything possible to minimize their potential liability. You cannot trust insurance companies to make sure that crucial evidence is preserved or that the crash facts are properly investigated. An experienced personal injury lawyer can help with this and usually, with absolutely no out of pocket costs to the person hiring the lawyer. Auto accident lawyers almost always do not charge a fee unless there is a recovery, and the lawyer/law firm usually will advance the costs of the investigation/preservation efforts.