Jury Awards $13.5 Million in D.C. Fire Truck Accident

First responders have a responsibility to protect the safety and lives of their communities. Consequently, it is especially devastating when a first responder’s negligence leads to significant injury or death. Following a serious accident, a victim or their loved ones may pursue a negligence lawsuit against the municipality who employed the first responder. Recently, a jury in D.C. awarded more than $13.5 million to the family of a man who died in an accident involving a speeding fire truck.

Facts of the Case

The events giving rise to this wrongful death lawsuit arose when a speeding fire engine was responding to an emergency. The fire truck sped through a red light at an intersection, which caused it to plow head-one into the victim’s car. Sadly, the victim died from his injuries. The crash injured two other people. The victim’s spouse filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the District of Columbia.

The Trials

There were two trials in this case. The first trial functioned to determine who was at fault. According to the original D.C. police report, the victim was at fault for the crash by failing to yield right of way to the fire truck, which can legally run a red light in the event of an emergency. The report also noted that the victim’s toxicology report revealed he had PCP in his system at the time of the accident. However, at the second trial, evidence showed that the fire truck driver actually violated D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services policies by failing to slow down or stop before running the red light. Instead of slowing down, the driver was speeding excessively. Additionally, the D.C. Superior Court judge excluded the toxicology report. While it reported PCP in the victim’s system, it did not necessarily indicate that he ingested PCP on the day of the accident. This led the judge to find that PCP did not contribute to the accident, nor was there evidence that the victim acted recklessly.

In addition to the toxicology report, the District sought to introduce evidence of the victim’s past drug use and past jail time. The District agued a reasonable jury could find the victim’s history to diminish the amount of support he could provide his family in the future, which would limit a damages award for lost future earnings. The family’s lawyer, however, deemed this tactic “character assassination.” Initially, the jury found that the District was grossly negligent, but the victim was contributorily negligent. The victim’s contributory negligence would have allowed the District to escape liability. However, after a motion from the family’s lawyer, the judge agreed that her jury instructions were incorrect. As a result, she set aside the contributory negligence portion of the jury’s verdict, allowing the family to seek damages for the District’s gross negligence. Ultimately, the jury awarded no money for lost future earnings but awarded over $13.5 million under the family’s wrongful death claim.

Do You Need a Maryland Wrongful Death Attorney?

If you have recently lost a family member in a Maryland auto accident, The Schupak Law Firm is here to help. We are a team of skilled trial attorneys with decades of combined experience advocating for Maryland accident victims and their loved ones. Our attorneys have recovered significant compensation for our clients, including payments for medical bills, lost future earnings, property damage, and pain and suffering. To schedule a free initial consultation, contact us at 240-833-3914.

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