Parkville, MD asked in Car Accidents and Wrongful Death for Maryland

Q: My 28 year old daughter was hit by a car (doing 50-58 miles per hour) on Jan 2, 2020 and died instantly.

She did not cross the street in a crosswalk however, the car was speeding, but did not get a ticket. This occurred in Westminster, Carroll County MD

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1 Lawyer Answer
Mark Oakley
Mark Oakley
  • Personal Injury Lawyer
  • Rockville, MD
  • Licensed in Maryland

A: I am so sorry for your tragic loss. You should locate a personal injury lawyer with whom you are comfortable and go over the circumstances and legal options in detail. Whenever a death occurs arising out of an automobile accident, there is often a detailed accident reconstruction report performed, and this can take some time to prepare and complete. Oftentimes, a decision on charges in the case must be reviewed by both the investigating officer and prosecutors overseeing the case, as manslaughter by automobile is a potential charge. In all cases involving a vehicle-involved fatality, blood alcohol samples are taken of all drivers. Your lawyer will need to obtain the accident reconstruction report. There may still be video footage available from nearby surveillance cameras, but time is not on your side in this instance. You may also want to retain your own accident reconstruction expert to review the evidence. One critical piece of evidence often not retrieved is the vehicle's onboard "black box" event data recorder (EDR), which records speed, motion, braking, date and time immediately before, at and after an impact event. The data is expensive to retrieve and extract, but almost every vehicle on the road built in the last 15 years or more has one, and that device or its data should be secured. I mention all these technical aspects of the case because, in Maryland, if an injured party's negligent act or omission contributes in any small way to their being injured, then they (or their estate) are barred from making a claim against the primarily responsible person who caused the accident, even if their contributing negligence was only 1% responsible for the accident. Crossing outside of a crosswalk, pedestrians are violating the law, and drivers are often under less responsibility to look out for pedestrians in these circumstances. However, even if your daughter was negligent in some small way for entering the street between crosswalks, that does not end the matter. If the driver had a clear opportunity to avoid hitting her, "the last clear chance" to avoid the accident, and failed to do so, then your daughter's negligence would not bar recovery. The speed you mention is only relevant to the extent that it exceeded the posted speed limit and safe speed for the weather and visibility conditions at the time, but so many other factors will have to be reviewed. You daughter's and the driver's use of alcohol or other substances will also be relevant, plus your daughter's and the driver's use of a cell phone, the time of day or night, etc. If there is a viable claim based on the circumstances, there are two types of actions that must be coordinated among the surviving family members: a wrongful death claim, and a survival action. The wrongful death claim is a direct action by the family members against the responsible driver, and the survival claim is made by your daughter's estate. You will need experienced legal counsel to review this matter. Again, I am sorry for the loss of your daughter, and hope you will be able to find peace with this traumatic event.

John Mesirow agrees with this answer

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