If I am in an accident with a drunk driver will I get a bigger settlement?

Injured in an accident caused by a drunk driverIn Maryland, the answer is probably no. An individual injured by a drunk driver or the family of someone killed by a drunk driver will  probably not get more. That is because Maryland doesn’t allow punitive damages in car accidents caused by drunk drivers, even if that car accident caused a death or serious injury. Punitive damages are payments made over and above fines and standard compensation to victims. They are designed to punish an offender for conduct that either arises from an evil motive, or reckless indifference to others. The latter definition would apply to drunk driving. The idea of punitive damages against drunk drivers has been debated in the Maryland legislature but attempts to provide punitive damages have failed. Some say that punitive damages are an undeserved reward. Others respond that they are needed as a deterrent. Today most states have laws that allow punitive damages in at least some drunk driving accident cases. For example, our neighbor to the south, Virginia, allows for punitive damages in certain drunk driving cases. Maryland does not allow punitive damages in drunk driving cases and believe me the insurance companies lobby hard to keep it that way.

Recently, I explained to two clients that the fact they were injured by a drunk driver will not necessarily lead to a bigger settlement. They were surprised. I think most people assume that if they were injured in an car accident caused by someone who was dumb enough to drink and drive that they are entitled to a larger settlement or judgment. That concept makes sense and seems fair but life is not fair, especially in Maryland. Sure, during settlement negotiations a lawyer can remind the insurance adjuster that the at fault driver was drunk as a skunk. However, most insurance adjusters know that a Maryland jury will never hear about drunk driving. A Maryland jury will never hear about the fact that the other driver had 18 shots of Fireball before he or she decided to smash into a family minivan filled to the brim with children. In my client’s case, a Maryland jury will never hear that his truck was totaled by a drunk driver on Christmas morning. Why won’t the Maryland jury hear those stories? Once the other driver admits fault, liability can be stipulated to and motions can be filed by the insurance company’s lawyer to ensure no one will ever hear the words “drunk driver”. The case is essentially treated the same as if the driver was simply careless and made an honest mistake.

If you are injured in an accident caused by a drunk driver, contact The Law Offices of Nicholas A. Parr. Speak directly with the attorney who will fight to make sure you get what you deserve.

What happens when a family member causes an accident?

Baltimore Car AccidentWe all have them in our families-bad drivers. Car accidents happen and sometimes our loved ones are to blame. Hopefully, everyone is ok and the only worry is getting the car fixed but car accident injuries are not uncommon. Maybe your wife jams her shoulder or you son’s head bangs against the headrest. The reality of the situation is that the injured passengers have a claim against the negligent driver regardless of whether that person is a family member. The injuries still need to be treated and medical bills will need to be paid. Making injury claims will not increase insurance premiums because an at fault accident claim already exists. In fact, you pay your monthly insurance premium to cover injuries to strangers AND your own passengers. More often than not those passengers are loved ones. Many Maryland insurance policies have personal injury protection coverage which will usually pay $2,500.00 of medical bills and/or lost wages. In addition to the personal injury protection coverage, passengers are entitled to be reimbursed through the liability coverage of the vehicle in which they were passengers. The vehicle driven by mom, dad, grandma, or pop pop. Maybe your husband should have listened to you when you told him to stop texting and driving for the 100th time. The fact of the matter is that auto insurance is a monthly expense, use the benefits. When there is an accident people need to know all of the coverage benefits that are available. The family member whose bad driving injured you has insurance (you might even be the one who pays the premium), so use it!

I recently had a case where a father was driving his son to an appointment in Baltimore. The father made a negligent left turn and the car was t-boned. It was the father’s fault, no question. The car accident caused the son and father’s heads to bang together causing a fractured nose for the son. USAA was the insurance carrier. Personal injury protection covered the majority of the medical bills. In addition, the liability coverage through USAA reimbursed the son for all of the medical bills and any pain and suffering. You pay for insurance so use it when needed. Don’t leave money on the table because insurance companies aren’t going to do you any favors. Make sure if you are injured in an accident you contact an experienced Maryland car accident attorney who can explain all of your options.