Does Maryland Have Dram Shop Laws for DUI Car Accidents?
Whether you review statistics on drunk driving crashes in Maryland or nationwide, it is clear that DUI accidents remain a serious problem and a leading cause of death and disability in the U.S. According to the Maryland Department of Transportation (MD DOT), there are almost 6,700 vehicle collisions every year that involve an impaired motorist. These incidents lead to more than 160 fatalities and 2,100 injuries to victims, leading to life-changing losses. In addition:
- Around 900 DUI crashes occur in Baltimore County annually, more than 300 of which lead to a death or injuries to at least one victim.
- Over 41% of all Maryland drunk driving collisions occur on weekends.
- Drivers aged 21 to 29 years old are most likely to cause a DUI accident, comprising 31% of all crashes.
- The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that there are more than 10,100 lives lost every year due to drunk driving accidents, which calculates to approximately 28 fatalities every day – one death every 52 minutes.
These statistics and others are likely what motivate lawmakers in many U.S. states to enact so-called “dram shop” statutes that affect liability in drunk driving cases. In a jurisdiction where dram shop is the law, victims may have the option of pursuing parties other than – or in addition to – the drunk driver who caused the crash. A Maryland DUI auto accident lawyer can explain the applicability of dram shop laws and advise you through the legal process, but it is helpful to understand how these concepts work.
Dram Shop Basics
To answer the above question: NO, Maryland does not have a dram shop law. However, the District of Columbia and a total of 43 U.S. states do have these statutes on the books, including Pennsylvania and Virginia. Personal trips, commuting, and other travel may take you into these adjacent jurisdictions. Depending upon where the accident occurred and jurisdictional questions, there is a chance dram shop laws could impact your rights.
In sum, dram shop liability enables victims of drunk driving crashes to seek compensation from an establishment that served the intoxicated motorist. The specifics vary by jurisdiction, but you must prove that the bar sold alcohol to a person when staff knew or should have known that more booze puts others at risk of harm.
Dram Shop Liability is Civil
It is important to understand that dram shop laws are linked to the civil cases brought by victims who were injured or by surviving family members after a fatal drunk driving crash. These laws are not relevant to criminal or administrative proceedings involving a DUI, which might result in jail time, fines, and a driver’s license suspension for the at-fault motorist. However, evidence of an arrest and/or conviction for drunk driving could provide solid support for your civil claim.
Legal Options Outside Dram Shop
Knowing that Maryland does not allow you to hold a bar accountable in a drunk driving accident, you might wonder about your options. Regardless of the fact that the crash was DUI-related, your rights are generally the same as other motor vehicle crashes. You must prove four essential elements:
- The at-fault motorist had a duty to exercise reasonable caution while driving;
- That person breached this duty by failing to exercise reasonable care, of which drunk driving is a prime example;
- The breach, i.e., drunk driving, was the direct cause of the collision; and,
- You suffered losses because of being injured or losing a loved one.
Steps in the DUI Crash Legal Process
Maryland motorists are required to carry minimum levels of auto insurance, so you will first file a claim with the drunk driver’s insurer. Even if you have solid evidence of the above requirements, you may encounter challenges in dealing with the insurance company. The insurer’s policyholder might have received a ticket or conviction for DUI, but the priority is protecting the company’s bottom line. Your claim may be denied, or you could receive a lowball counteroffer to settle. Under the circumstances, you may need to file a lawsuit in court.
Legal Implications to Keep in Mind with Maryland Drunk Driving Crashes
When dealing with an insurance company and/or during litigation, there are some concepts that you need to know because of their impact on your rights. These ramifications apply in all auto collisions, including DUI accidents:
- Maryland follows the rule of pure contributory negligence, which focuses on the actions of the victim in a crash. If your conduct falls below the reasonableness standard and is a factor in causing the accident, you are barred from recovering compensation. For instance, you might obtain nothing if there is proof that you were speeding or ran a red light.
- There is a time restriction on filing a lawsuit related to a DUI crash. The state statute of limitations allows you three years to initiate litigation, and the clock starts to tick on the date of the accident. You give up your rights if you fail to go to court by the expiration of this deadline, though there are limited exceptions to the statute.
- There are two types of damages in an auto collision claim, including economic damages like medical costs and lost income. Noneconomic damages cover pain and suffering, emotional distress, and other subjective, personal losses. In Maryland, there is a statutory cap on noneconomic damages. The amount runs according to a sliding scale, and the dollar value for 2021 is $890,000. Note that this limitation does NOT impact your economic damages.
Get Legal Help from a Baltimore, MD Drunk Driving Crash Attorney
It may be disappointing to know that Maryland does not follow the law of dram shop liability, but keep in mind that you still have legal options. Our lawyers can assist with the process, from filing an insurance claim to discussing settlement to pursuing the at-fault driver in court. For more information on our services, contact our office to schedule a no-cost case assessment. Once we review your circumstances, we can discuss the best way for you to proceed.