In the United States, there are two main types of court cases: criminal and civil. Criminal cases are brought by the government against defendants who have allegedly committed a crime. If someone commits (or is suspected of committing) a bank robbery, for example, they might be arrested and charged with robbery, and if they are found guilty, they may be sentenced to jail. Civil cases, on the other hand, are when someone sues someone else. Like criminal cases, civil cases may or may not go to trial, but a civil defendant cannot be sentenced to jail. Instead, they are typically ordered to pay a certain amount of money to the plaintiff who brought the suit. While this difference between the types of cases is relatively clear, it can become complicated in Maryland bicycle accidents, when one accident could potentially lead to both types of cases.
For example, take a bicycle accident that occurred last month. According to a local news report, the crash happened on a Friday morning, when a bicyclist was riding northbound on the edge of the road and was struck by a vehicle. Tragically, the bicyclist, a 35-year-old man, suffered severe injuries and was pronounced dead at the scene. A few days later, state police arrested a 27-year-old man thought to have been the vehicle’s driver. He was booked with failure to report a crash, hit-and-run driving, switching his license plate, driving under suspension, obstruction of justice, and negligent homicide. While it is too soon to know for sure, state prosecutors may choose to pursue a criminal case against him, and the defendant could be facing jail time and/or fines.
However, regardless of whether there is a criminal case, there may also be a civil case against the same defendant, resulting from the same accident. The existence of one type of case already arising from this crash does not preclude the other type of case. The victim’s family, in this instance, could potentially also bring a wrongful death claim against the defendant. In this case, if they were successful, the result would be focused not on punishing the defendant for his wrongs, but rather on making the plaintiffs whole. Thus, the typical damages in wrongful death cases are monetary compensation to cover pain and suffering, medical bills, funeral and burial costs, lost wages, and other direct costs resulting from the accident. Families may also obtain compensation for their non-economic, or emotional, damages through a wrongful death lawsuit.