Blog of William C. McCaskill

Serious Car Crash In Frederick County Kills One, Injures One

Posted on August 18, 2017

An apparently drunk driver ran off the road and struck a tree, killing one vehicle occupant and seriously injuring another one.

According to police and witnesses, Yvonne Loree Avaritt lost control of her vehicle on Taneytown Pike (Route 140) near its intersection with Simmons Road. The car ran off the road and slammed into a tree. Louis Stephen Romanell, a passenger, was pronounced dead at the scene, and Ms. Avaritt was rushed to a nearby hospital with serious injuries.

State police are still investigating the crash.

Elements of a Claim

Direct operator error, such as driving while impaired, causes about 90 percent of car crashes. Most of the rest are caused by a failure to adjust to conditions, such as driving too fast in the rain. Non-operator error, such as a defective product or roadway, causes only a handful of car crashes.

Everyone makes mistakes, and at one time or another, all of us have made mistakes while driving. However, we must all accept the full consequences of our mistakes, and that is the essence of a negligence case.

A traditional negligence case has five elements: duty, breach, cause, in fact, foreseeability, and damages. In the above story, these components are: Ms. Avaritt had a duty to drive in a responsible manner (a duty that applies to all non-commercial drivers), she breached that duty by driving drunk, her alcohol use caused her to lose control of the vehicle, it is foreseeable that a car crash will hurt someone, and Mr. Romanell sustained damages.

If the tortfeasor (negligent driver) breaks a safety law, the negligence per se (negligence “as such”) shortcut usually applies. In these cases, victim/plaintiffs must only establish statutory violation and causation. In many jurisdictions, negligence per se is only a presumption of negligence as opposed to proof positive of negligence.

Possible Defenses

In passenger injury cases, insurance companies usually assert theassumption of the risk defense. This doctrine states that victims are legally responsible for their own injuries if they:

  • Voluntarily Assume: Voluntariness often comes up in liability waiver cases, because these “agreements” are usually unenforceable contracts of adhesion, and they may violate public policy in other ways as well.
  • A Known Risk: There is a difference between a known risk and a theoretical risk, because we all assume a risk of injury when we cross the street. So, the victim must know that s/he faced an actual risk, perhaps because the tortfeasor had been driving erratically.

Typically, the assumption of the risk defense does not defeat liability altogether, but rather reduces the victim/plaintiff’s damages, under the contributory negligence rule. Maryland is a pure comparative negligence jurisdiction, so if the victim/plaintiff is even 1 percent negligent, the tortfeasor does not have to pay damages.

Contributory negligence may apply in other situations as well, for example, if the victim driver was speeding and the tortfeasor driver was distracted.

Contact a Tenacious Attorney

Car crash victims have legal options, but insurance company lawyers aggressively try to deny compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Oxon Hill, contact The Law Office of William C. McCaskill, PLLC. An attorney can connect victims with qualified doctors, even if the victims have no money and no insurance.

Contact us to speak with a Oxon Hill lawyer about a personal injury matter