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Maryland Legislators Increasing Penalties for Drunk Drivers

In February, a bill was introduced to combat aggressive drunk driving in Maryland. Last week, Maryland’s Senate overwhelmingly passed this legislation (46-0) that would allow a victim injured in a drunk driving accident to recover punitive damages from the drunk driver. A hearing on the bill is expected on April 1st in Maryland’s House. If the House passes the legislation too, the bill would then go to the Governor for final approval.

Drunk driving accidents that result in death or serious injury occur far too often in Maryland and throughout the rest of the country. Although strict laws are in place with harsh penalties for breaking them, it is still not enough as innocent people are killed every day by a drunk driver. Current laws certainly have not led to any decrease in the number of drunk drivers on the road in Maryland. With this potential new law, not only would drunk drivers have to face possible jail time and/or fines, but they could also be liable for paying punitive damages to injured accident victims. Punitive damages are completely subjective and not based on any specific numbers. They are meant to punish the defendant for his/her reckless behavior so that it does not happen again. With current drunk driving laws in place, most offenders do not seem to be deterred from driving drunk again. But, if they are required to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to victims or their families, drivers might think twice about getting behind the wheel drunk again.

Normally, in all other personal injury cases, punitive damages are rarely awarded because it must be proved that the defendant had “actual malice” or “specific intent” to harm the victim. Obtaining punitive damages under this new drunk driving bill would be much easier and could be applied just by the fact that the defendant operated a car while intoxicated and injured another person.

Track the progress of this bill (SB 605) as it makes its way through the House. Here are two websites that will keep you updated on this bill: legiscan.com, mgaleg.maryland.gov.

If you or someone you love has been injured or killed in a Maryland accident caused by a drunk driver and would like more information, please call us at (855) 954-4141 for a free case evaluation or visit us online. Portner & Shure has several conveniently located satellite offices throughout the state of Maryland for our clients to meet with some of our experienced attorneys and paralegals.