As we have discussed in earlier posts, a myriad of state and federal regulations govern the duty of care owed by truck drivers in Maryland. If a bill currently before the Maryland legislators becomes law, a negligent truck driver in Maryland may be liable both criminally and civilly a death caused by negligent driving. Maryland truck accident attorneys at Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC will keep an eye on this bill and its potential future impact to civil truck accident litigation in Maryland.
Maryland legislators are debating a negligent driving law that will greatly increase the penalty for causing the death of another while behind the wheel. Maryland law enforcement personnel are frustrated by what they see as a “gaping hole” in state law that allows a driver who kills another to receive only a traffic citation and a fine.
Currently, under Maryland law, a driver is guilty of felony vehicular manslaughter only when the driver kills another while exhibiting a “wanton or reckless disregard for human life.” This is a high standard to meet at trial and, many times, defendants are found not guilty. If a driver’s negligence falls short of this standard but still kills another, a police officer can only ticket the guilty party and allow him on his way. As a result, if a sober driver runs a red light and kills someone, the driver is likely only to receive a reckless driving ticket and a fine.
The bill currently before the legislature would make it a misdemeanor when a driver kills another through a “substantial deviation from the standard of care…[normally] exercised by a reasonable motorist.” In its current form, the misdemeanor provides for a maximum prison sentence of three years and a fine of up to $5,000. Reasonable care is that level of prudence that an ordinary person would exercise in a given situation. In the example above, it would seem clear that blatantly running a red light would be a substantial deviation from the standard of care, and that driver would be guilty of a misdemeanor.
Our truck accident attorneys commend the foresight of Maryland’s legislators in proposing a bill to increase penalties for negligent driving which results in another’s death. The law, however, could impact the timeline of future civil truck accident litigation. If the state prosecutes a truck driver for violation of criminal law, the victim’s family typically would have to wait until the criminal case is finished in order bring their civil suit to trial.
The criminal justice system is notoriously slow moving and time has a deleterious effect on witnesses’ recall of events and an attorney’s ability to find records pertinent a civil case. This delay makes it that even more important that Maryland truck accident attorneys quickly gather information and take witness statements because a potential trial may be more than a year after the event.
Our Maryland truck accident law firm represents victims of truck drivers’ negligence. If you or a loved one have been in a truck accident, contact the lawyers at Lebowtiz & Mzhen, LLC for a free consultation.