Anyone who has survived in a serious car, truck or motorcycle accident knows too well the pain and discomfort resulting from a traffic collision. Here in Baltimore County and surrounding areas, such as Wicomico, Charles and Washington, D.C., automobile and trucking-related wrecks have become an unfortunate part of our mobile lifestyle. Whether one is a daily commuter, a parent shuttling kids to and from school, or a business person calling on customers around the state, the danger of a severe or fatal car crash is ever-present.
As Maryland trucking accident attorneys and personal injury lawyers, I and my legal staff are trained to represent the victims of traffic accidents, as well as families who may have lost a loved one in a fatal car or truck wreck. As drivers ourselves, one thing we all know is that there is little alternative to the freedom that a passenger car, truck or minivan provides individuals and families.
Since road accidents happen with alarming frequency in this state, it is quite possible that someone you know has already been involved in a crash, or will be sometime during their life. For most people, a fatal truck, car or motorcycle collision is unlikely, but an injury accident is a distinct possibility given the law of averages. Sadly, when a crash does take the life of another driver, it is sometimes difficult to assess blame.
In some cases, police may cite the other driver for a basic traffic violation, which the victim’s family may believe was due to carelessness or extreme negligence. It has been noted on numerous occasions that some drivers who cause a fatal accident are not required to appear in court as a result of his or her error in judgment, even though another individual may be dead as a result. Many times, the law allows these motorists to simply pay the fine by mail and never once step into a courtroom to answer for their mistake.
In the future, Maryland may see a change to situations like this, if one of our state legislators has his way. According to news articles, Senator Norman R. Stone, Jr., has been planning to introduce legislation requiring any motorist who has been involved in a fatal crash to personally appear in court.
News items indicate that Sen. Stone has for the past three years introduced legislation dealing with car and truck accidents that directly result in a person’s death. Apparently, the a relative of one of the senator’s administrative staff died in a car accident back in 2008.
According to the article, written by the senator himself, his staffer’s granddaughter was riding in a limo when it was hit broadside by an 18-wheeler whose driver apparently ran a red light. The fatal crash occurred around 2:30am in the morning as the limousine was returning from a bachelorette party; a party for the victim, who was to be married just one week later.
According to Senator Stone, the trucker involved in the deadly collision was ticketed by police for running that red light. He was fined $120. Investigators determined that the driver was not drunk or otherwise impaired by drugs or alcohol, and therefore the crash was ruled an accident by police. Per Maryland law, the driver only had to mail in payment to the court.
The senator apparently feels, as likely do the families of many victims, that accidental traffic deaths like this one should not be treated as if there was not death; just a simple violation of traffic law. You can be sure that more than one family has been taken aback that the negligent driver who killed their loved one is not required to come to court, but only mail in a monetary fine.
Senator Stone’s legislation is apparently driven by other people’s concerns that Maryland law lets those responsible for a traffic death avoid the courtroom altogether. His proposed change to the law would require a court appearance for anyone responsible for a traffic death; they would not be allowed to simply mail in payment of the fine. The senator believes that getting the negligent driver into the courtroom would give the victim’s family an opportunity to be heard regarding the impact of their lost loved one.
According to the article, in past years the senator’s bill has passed through committee and been passed by the Senate, however it has not seen the same approval by the House. Whether this bill becomes law anytime soon will depend on the legislative process, as well as the public’s interest and desire for such a law, contacting their representative to perhaps vote in favor of it. Time will tell.
Stone: Accident Fatalities Should Require Court Appearance, Patch.com, October 20, 2011