The worlds of Kelly Elizabeth Vanaman’s family and friends were irreversibly devastated on the morning of December 8, 2020. That’s when Ms. Vanaman of Frederick, Maryland, was killed on I-270 North at I-370 North. According to a preliminary investigation, a woman driving a blue Nissan Rogue struck debris on the road, believed to be a chair, and then stopped on the left shoulder of the road. Once stopped, she walked toward another motorist who had pulled onto the shoulder to avoid the same debris.
Simultaneously, a man driving a gray Toyota Corolla swerved to avoid other vehicles that slowed down by the scene; he struck the left wall before hitting the female pedestrian, Ms. Vanaman. She was pronounced dead at the scene. The driver, who did the right thing by remaining on the scene, was taken to the hospital to be treated for injuries.
What Happens Next?
For Kelly Vanaman’s family and friends, the consequences of this accident are forever lasting. No matter how this plays out in the legal system, they can’t get their beloved daughter and friend back. The driver of the vehicle that struck Ms. Vanaman could be facing a life-changing situation as well, depending on the outcome. Besides having to live with the guilt of taking someone’s life (regardless of who is determined to be at fault), the driver could be looking at serious criminal charges.
At the time we published this blog, the investigation into the accident continues. Police will look at the accident scene, determine from medical reports whether drugs or alcohol played any part in the accident, and investigate the driver’s cell phone records for any evidence that he may have been distracted immediately before the accident occurred.
Forensics experts will examine several critical pieces of evidence to determine how fast the driver was traveling, and if there was sufficient intent to stop. These types of investigations take time, and police want to be sure they’ve taken every bit of evidence into account before deciding whether to charge the driver.
Depending on the findings of the investigation, the police may determine that the accident was unavoidable, and the driver did everything in his power to avoid hitting the victim. If it turns out that he was not under the influence or driving while intoxicated, and if he was not on his cell phone or distracted at the time, and if he was traveling within the legal speed limit, the police may not charge him with anything.
It might be determined that this was simply a tragic accident that could not be avoided under the circumstances.
On the other hand, if it turns that any of the above scenarios occurred–that he was under the influence or intoxicated, that he was not paying attention, or driving recklessly–police will most likely charge him for the death of Kelly Vanaman. And that can unfold in a number of ways in Maryland, including:
- Manslaughter by vehicle–felony; up to 10 years in prison and/or $5,000 maximum fine if convicted
- Criminally negligent manslaughter by vehicle–misdemeanor; up to three years in prison and/or $5,000 maximum fine if convicted
- Homicide by vehicle while under the influence of alcohol–felony; up to five years in prison and/or $5,000 maximum fine if convicted
- Homicide by vehicle while impaired by drugs, alcohol, or a controlled substance–felony; up to three years in prison and/or $5,000 maximum fine if convicted
This essentially means that if it’s found that the driver was impaired or under the influence, could be charged with vehicular homicide. Manslaughter by vehicle could be charged if the investigation shows the driver was grossly negligent while driving (that he was aware of his driving risks but showed no regard to the risk of human life posed by his actions). Criminally negligent manslaughter is a lesser charge that would show the driver wasn’t fully aware of the risks his behavior caused.
What the Victim’s Family Should Do
In a tragic situation such as this, the victim’s family should absolutely contact a personal injury lawyer as the legal process is unfolding. If the driver is charged with a crime, the family could justifiably pursue a settlement with the driver. But it’s essential to keep in mind that the decision to sue relies heavily on the legal determination that is made by the state and police. If the driver is not charged with a crime, it could be possible for an attorney to pursue a civil claim; if the driver is charged with vehicular homicide or manslaughter, the door opens to litigation by the victim’s family against the driver.
Either way, the victim’s family needs to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney who has extensive experience with these cases.
Car Crash in Montgomery County: A Maryland Personal Injury Lawyer’s Take
If you ever find yourself in a situation similar to this one–and we hope that you don’t–you can turn to the seasoned personal injury attorneys at The Lapidus Law Firm. We have handled many cases like this and work our hardest to ensure the family can focus on themselves. Our attorneys will handle communication with law enforcement, insurance companies, and the other party’s attorneys, so you don’t have to. And while no attorney can ethically promise a settlement, you can rest assured that The Lapidus Law Firm will leave no stone unturned in fighting for justice on the victim’s behalf. In Maryland, you can call us at (301) 852-7500 to set up a free, no-obligation consultation or if you’re in DC, reach out at (202) 785-5111. We’re committed to making justice work for you.