The holiday season is a time for celebration and for being with family and friends, and certainly not a time when anyone wants to be involved in a car accident. However, the holidays can be a dangerous time to be on the roads, particularly as a result of the number of drunk drivers. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that 38 percent of fatal accidents involve drunk driving, and 32 percent involve a blood alcohol level of above the legal limit (0.08%).
A Few Tips for Safe Holiday Travel
1) Minimize the amount of time you spend on the roads. Even if you have not been drinking, other drivers may have been;
2) Avoiding peak travel times and inclement weather;
3) Don’t drink and drive. Or if you are drinking, choose a designated driver who will not;
4) Keep a cab number in your phone or in your wallet, just in case;
5) Leave the party early. Most drunk driving accidents occur between midnight and 3 AM.
Maryland Car Accident Law and Drunk Driving
Many people are aware that driving after having been served alcohol can be negligent, and if you are involved in an accident you may be liable under Maryland Car Accident Law. However, you may not be aware that being a passenger in a vehicle in which the driver has been drinking may limit what you can recover in a Maryland personal injury lawsuit. The defendant (who in these cases is frequently the drunk driver) can argue that the passenger assumed the risk of riding with them, or even that they had been contributorily negligent if, for example, the passenger had been serving the driver drinks at a party.
If you have been in an accident with another drunk driver or if you were a passenger in a drunk driving accident, you will need an experienced Maryland Car Accident Attorney to assist you with your case.
Bliss v. Wiatrowski
A Maryland Court of Special Appeals case from 1999 is very good reminder of the dangers of being a passenger in a drunk driving accident. In Bliss v. Wiatrowski, the court tackled the issue of whether a passenger who rides in a car with a drunk driver can recover damages in a personal injury lawsuit. Coincidently, this case resulted from an accident that occurred during the holiday season on December 14, 1990.
The driver, Wiatrowski, had spent most of the evening with three of his friends, one of which being his girlfriend. They had been drinking beer and hanging out at the mall, after which they went to a friend’s house and continued to drink beer. Around 11 PM, they decided to visit an abandoned church. On their way back, they veered out of their lane and ran into a tree. One of the passengers was killed, and two others were seriously injured. One of the passengers, Bliss, sued Wiatrowski. At the trial court, the jury held that she assumed the risk of riding with Wiatrowski.
On appeal, the court held that it is well established that Maryland Car Accident Law can bar recovery in a car driven by a drunk driver if the passenger knew or should have known of the driver’s condition. As a result, Bliss was unable to recover any damages from Wiatrowski.
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