Articles Posted in Wrongful Death

As a major city and the nation’s capital, Washington, D.C. has many different vehicles within it at a given time. From cars to trucks, to motorcycles, school buses, bicycles, and more, there is no shortage of vehicles and forms of transportation for individuals to get around the city. But tragically, each of these forms of transportation presents the risk of a Washington, D.C. motor vehicle accident. While accidents can sometimes be no big deal, they more often cause serious injury or even death.

One vehicle that may be seen around Washington, D.C., especially during times of celebration, is limousines. But limousines can be prone to some scary and fatal accidents. Recently, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) published findings regarding a serious 2018 crash. According to the NTSB, the crash occurred on October 6, 2018, around 1:55 PM. A stretch limousine operated by a limousine and chauffeur service was traveling south, driven by a 53-year-old man. Seventeen passengers were in the limousine. Unfortunately, while traveling down a hill, the brakes of the limousine failed, and the vehicle’s speed increased to over 100 miles an hour. To avoid a car stopped at an intersection ahead of them, the driver steered the vehicle away and ended up running a stop sign and entering a driveway of a restaurant parking lot. At this point, it hit an unoccupied 2015 Toyota SUV parked in a grassy field adjacent to the driveway. The impact of the crash pushed the SUV forward, striking and killing two pedestrians. But the limousine did not stop—it continued across the edge of the driveway and into a ravine, where it struck an embankment and several trees. All 18 people in the limousine were tragically killed.

The NTSB investigated this tragic crash, attempting to determine the probable cause. It ultimately concluded that the limousine and chauffeur service egregiously disregarded passengers’ safety and was reckless by dispatching a stretch limousine with an out-of-service order for a passenger charter trip. As it turns out, the company knew of the issues with the brake system but sent the vehicle out anyway. This case is an example of one set of facts that may lead to a Washington, D.C. negligence lawsuit. The deceased victims’ families may be able to file a wrongful death suit against the negligent limousine and chauffeur service. If successful, a personal injury lawsuit may be able to help the family recover for their medical bills, funeral and burial costs, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

In cases where it is difficult to determine who was to blame for an accident, the plaintiff’s role in the accident may be central to the case. This is because under Washington, D.C. law, according to the doctrine of contributory negligence, the plaintiff can be barred from recovery even if the plaintiff was only partially at fault for their own injuries. An example of a recent Washington, D.C. tragic car accident involving a potentially complicated legal scenario was reported on by one news source. According to the report, a man was tragically killed on a recent Sunday morning while he was putting gas in his car on the shoulder of the Baltimore-Washington Parkway. The crash occurred around three o’clock in the morning. The man died on the scene and the crash is still being investigated.

Liability in a crash like this can be tricky to sort out. Failing to notice or avoid a person standing on a shoulder of the highway indicates some liability on the part of the driver. However, if the victim was filling up his car in a poorly lit area, perhaps in a location that was hard to see from far away, he may have had some fault in causing the accident as well. In a car accident case involving the violation of a traffic regulation, there is a presumption of negligence for a violation, which can be rebutted by showing that the person did everything that a reasonable person who tried to follow the law would do.

Washington, D.C. follows the doctrine of pure contributory negligence, which means that if the plaintiff is found to be even partially at fault for their injuries, contributory negligence acts as a complete bar to recovery. To assert a contributory negligence defense, a party has to prove that the plaintiff failed to exercise reasonable care and that the failure was a substantial factor in causing the injury. A party asserting a contributory negligence defense must prove it by a “preponderance of the evidence” standard.

Homeowner’s insurance policies can be very advantageous for Washington, D.C. residents. It can protect homeowners from claims brought against them for property damage or bodily injury arising out of their property or tortious conduct. However, insurance companies are notoriously difficult to work with when an incident does occur, because they have an interest in paying as little as possible, and so they often deploy expensive legal teams to reduce their liability. Because of this, Washington, D.C. accident victims who decide to file civil suits against a negligent party may find themselves involved in litigation with the defendant’s insurance company first.

A recent case considering insurance policy provisions in another state highlights the importance of what a policy does and does not cover. According to the court’s written opinion, the insured purchased a homeowner’s insurance policy from his insurance company, which provided coverage for both personal liability and property damage. The policy contained an exception and did not cover the insured if a claim was made against him for damages arising out of a premises owned or rented by the defendant but not insured under the policy. The insured owned a cabin in Maine that was not insured under the policy and was the location of the tragic incident that sparked this lawsuit.

In the summer of 2015, the insured’s two children, along with two of their friends, went to the cabin to celebrate an upcoming birthday. In the cabin, they plugged in the cabin’s small generator the insured kept at the property to charge power tools. They ran this generator inside the cabin without opening any windows or doors, and ultimately all four died of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Anyone who has been injured or lost a family member in a Washington, D.C. personal injury accident may be entitled to monetary compensation. However, before pursuing a claim for compensation it is important for accident victims to keep in mind the role that their own negligence could play in barring recovery, even if that role was a slight one.

In Washington, D.C. wrongful death and personal injury cases, the doctrine of contributory negligence bars recovery for the plaintiff, if the victim was at all at fault in causing the accident. States and localities have various laws surrounding contributory negligence, so cases may play out differently depending on where in the country the suit is brought. The Washington, D.C. law is one of the harshest for accident victims, so navigating a suit with a potential contributory negligence defense can be incredibly risky without the aid of an attorney.

A recent state appellate opinion serves as a good example of how a plaintiff’s own fault can affect their ability to recover. According to the court’s opinion, a sixteen-year-old boy was murdered after leaving his high school early and without permission. While the details of his departure and subsequent murder are largely unknown, the evidence establishes that he was leaving to engage in either a firearms deal or to buy marijuana. When he was found later, he was in an apartment complex known for illegal activity and with a large amount of money. His estate brought suit against his high school in a wrongful death action, claiming that the school was negligent in not monitoring and supervising the victim.

When a product is released for sale to the general public, the manufacturer of the product is responsible for ensuring that the product is safe for its intended use and does not present an unreasonable risk of injury. If someone is injured due to a product that suffers from a design defect, the injury victim can file a Washington, D.C. product liability claim against the manufacturer.

Typically, Maryland product liability claims are brought under the theory of strict liability, meaning that an injury victim does not need to prove that the manufacturer was negligent; only that the defectively designed product caused their injuries. However, certain exceptions to this general rule exist. A recent case involving a rented Bobcat light-construction vehicle discusses one of the more common exceptions.

According to the court’s opinion, a man rented a Bobcat skid-steer loader from a rental agency. The machine was an open-framed vehicle that was used for light construction and demolition tasks that could be fitted with hundreds of attachments, depending on the intended use of the machine. A door-kit was one of these add-ons.

Earlier this month, a federal appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case illustrating the importance of expert selection in Washington, D.C. product liability cases. The case required the court to determine if the testimony of the plaintiffs’ expert witnesses was based on sufficiently reliable methodology. Ultimately, the court concluded that the testimony of both witnesses was properly excluded by the trial court.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiffs were the parents of a college student who died in a fire that started in the boy’s room. Investigators found the boy’s laptop among the debris. The plaintiffs presented two expert witnesses to testify that, in their opinion, the fire was started when the battery in the laptop malfunctioned.

The first expert had a PhD in inorganic chemistry and was an expert in battery safety. He testified that upon inspecting the batteries in the laptop, one of the three cells had ruptured. He further explained that a battery cell can only rupture in certain circumstances, including electrically abusive condition,s mechanically abusive conditions, high temperatures (such as a fire), or an internal problem with the battery.

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Whenever a person’s death is a result of the negligent conduct of someone else, the surviving family of the deceased person may be able to pursue compensation for their loss through a Washington, D.C. wrongful death lawsuit. In Washington, D.C., wrongful death lawsuits may be brought by the surviving spouse or partner of the deceased person. If no surviving spouse or partner exists, the next of kin is able to file the lawsuit.

In order to prove a Washington, D.C. wrongful death lawsuit, a plaintiff must establish that the named defendant’s negligent conduct brought about the death of their loved one. Generally, this requires proof of four elements:  duty, breach, causation, and damages. A recent wrongful death case out of Georgia discusses how a court may apply the causation analysis.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiffs were the parents of a young man who was a student at the defendant university. The plaintiffs’ son enrolled in a study-abroad program in Costa Rica through the university. Prior to traveling to Costa Rica, school officials warned students of the dangers of swimming in the open ocean, and they asked each of the students whether they were a good swimmer. The plaintiffs’ son indicated that he was comfortable in the water and that he could swim.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court in Mississippi issued a written opinion in a wrongful death case that illustrates why it is important for accident victims to secure dedicated and knowledgeable counsel to assist them with their claims. In the case, Davis v. Blaylock, the court dismissed three wrongful death cases against various defendants the plaintiff alleged were responsible for the death of her father because the plaintiff had previously filed a case based on the same series of events.

The Facts

The plaintiff, Long, lost her father while he was in the care of the defendant doctors. Believing that her father’s death was caused by the negligent care he received from the doctors, she filed a series of wrongful death lawsuits against the doctors in different counties. The first lawsuit was filed on November 4, 2014.

Two weeks after the filing of the first lawsuit, Long filed a second lawsuit against a different doctor she claimed was liable for her father’s death. On the same day, Long filed a third wrongful death lawsuit against the medical center where her father was being treated. Three weeks later, Long filed a fourth wrongful death case against the same medical center, making slightly different claims.

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Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a premises liability case that was filed by a man who was paralyzed after he dived off a diving platform in a state park. The court noted that it was sympathetic to the plaintiff, but that the law had to be applied in an unemotional way. In so doing, the court found that the state was immune from the lawsuit based on recreational immunity.

Roy v. State: The Facts

Roy was paralyzed when he dove off a diving platform into the murky waters below it. He filed a premises liability lawsuit against the state, as well as the owner and operator of the park, alleging that the state had not done enough to protect against the type of injury he sustained.

The evidence presented at trial showed that there were “no swimming” signs up around the park, but that people routinely disobeyed the signage. There was even testimony that there were bathhouses and lifeguards occasionally on duty who would only stop swimmers when they would dive head-first into the pond.

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Last year, actor and comedian Tracy Morgan was involved in an accident when a Wal-Mart truck rear-ended the limo Morgan and friends were riding in, seriously injuring Morgan and fatally wounding one of his friends, fellow comedian James McNair. According to one news source covering the issue, the National Transportation Safety Bureau will meet next week in Washington D.C. to conduct a hearing investigating the cause of the fatal accident.

Allegations of Drowsy Driving

While the NTSB is still conducting its investigation into what occurred in the moments leading up to the fatal accident, a preliminary report issued just weeks after the accident showed that the driver was traveling 65 miles per hour in an area with a designated speed limit of 45 or 55 miles per hour due to ongoing construction. Additionally, there have been claims that the driver was awake and on the road for almost all of the preceding 24 hours, which is in violation of state and federal laws. In New Jersey, where the accident occurred, causing an accident after having not slept for 24 hours can result in an “assault by auto” charge.

Morgan was seriously injured with a broken leg, serious head trauma, and several broken ribs. James McNair was pronounced dead shortly after emergency responders arrived on the scene. Several others in the limo at the time of the accident also suffered varying injuries.

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