In 2008, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that close to one third of all Maryland driving fatalities involved alcohol use. Nationwide, drunk driving is the most common cause of all traffic accidents.
Despite these harrowing statistics, provisions in Maryland law make it difficult if not impossible for an injured party to recover punitive damages when their injuries are caused by a drunk driver. If an intoxicated driver has caused your injury, it is essential that you contact an experienced attorney right away. Often times the defense attorney will have his client stipulate to liability and thus keep the fact that the other driver was drunk out of evidence at trial. This is unfair, but it is the law in Maryland. There is currently a bill before the Maryland legislature that would allow punitive damages against drunk drivers who injure people in car accidents.
Maryland is one of the few states precluding lawsuits against a restaurant or bar which serves alcohol to a visibly intoxicated patron who subsequently drives away and causes an accident (known as dram shop liability). However, states on the Maryland border, including the District of Columbia, impose such liability. Our experienced attorneys can review the circumstances of your accident and determine whether you should file your claim or lawsuit in a different state to maximize your recovery.
When a drunk driver causes an accident, the majority of states allow injured individuals to seek additional damages for the purpose of punishing the driver for his alcohol use. However, these punitive damages are not recoverable in Maryland unless the injured party can prove that the drunk driver specifically intended to hurt someone, or had evil intent (Komornik v. Sparks, 331 Md. 720 (1993)). A bill was introduced in 2000 which proposed imposing punitive damages against drivers with a blood alcohol level of over .16 percent who caused accidents. The bill failed, but was reintroduced on February 12, 2010. Depending on its success, punitive damages against high risk drunk drivers may be available in the future. Whether or not such damages are available, our attorneys are aware that juries do not favor drunk drivers. Intoxicated drivers prefer settlement to the risk of a trial. In the 2010 Maryland Legislative Session, there is another bill pending that has the support of MADD (mothers against drunk driving) that would impose punitive damages on intoxicated drivers. Also, it should be noted, that if a driver is intoxicated, then a judgment against the driver for injuries caused in a drunk driving accident are not dischargeable in bankruptcy.
Maryland is also one of five states which follow the doctrine of pure contributory negligence. Under this doctrine, if a drunk driver is able to prove that you contributed to the accident, you cannot recover any damages. For example, if you willingly ride in a car with a drunk driver, and the car crashes, the driver can argue that you contributed to your own injuries and assumed the risk of your injuries. Insurance companies use this doctrine to try and deny valid claims. Our attorneys will fight to overcome the insurer’s tactics and obtain the damages you deserve.