Posted by: Salvatore J. Zambri, Esquire
Earlier this week, the nation’s capital experienced the deadliest Metrorail collision in WMATA’s 33 year history. Numerous lives have been lost, and dozens of other have been seriously and permanently injured. The victims of this tragedy and their families deserve justice. The civil justice system in parts of our country, however, does not always allow for justice.
The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) is the creation of a compact between the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia. If the Metro collision had taken place just a few thousand feet north in Maryland, the ability of those harmed and killed to receive fair compensation for their harms and losses would have been severely compromised.
Last year, the Maryland Court of Appeals issued a ruling, establishing that claims against WMATA are akin to claims against Maryland counties. Those claims are limited to merely $200,000.00–a shocking low and patently unfair amount. And if it is determined that another entity (like a sub-contractor) is responsible in part for the horrific crash, the claims against any such non-governmental entity will have a non-economic (pain, anguish, suffering, etc.) limitation of merely $650,000.00.
With respect to the claims against Maryland counties, the $200,000.00 per person limitation includes both economic losses and non-economic damages. The economic losses alone caused by the deaths and severe injuries of others will far exceed $200,000.00. And that does not even begin to compensate the victims for the extreme fright, physical pain, and mental anguish that they endured or will continue to endure for the rest of their lives.
The arbitrary limitation that applies to non-governmental entities is also unjust. Telling a spouse or a child (or a father or mother) that the impact of a lost loved one amounts to merely $650,000.00 is offensive. I represent a woman and her three daughters concerning a Maryland automobile accident claim that took the lives of her husband of 25 years and her only son, who was merely 14 years old. Needless to say, her dreams have been shattered and her life, and the lives of her 3 daughters, have been turned upside-down. The days and months immediately following the collision were unimaginably hard on the family. Even now, every day is a struggle emotionally, and the stresses and fears about the future are overwhelming.
It is un-American for our system to protect wrongdoers with artificial limitations to the great detriment of the innocent victims who are forced to endure the repercussions of the tragedies for the remainder of their lives. Consider this: In my case, the one who caused the accident–a person who drove over 100 mph into oncoming traffic, who struck my clients’ vehicle head-on, and who was drunk at the time of the crash–is protected by Maryland’s illogcal damages limitation, while the surviving family members are stripped of any rights to full compensation. Why protect the reckless and harm the victims, the very ones who are left to deal with the horrible consequences of the crash? Common sense tells us we should be doing better as a country when such injustice can be allowed to exist in an American civil justice system.
My thoughts and prayers go out to all those who were injured in the Metrorail collision. No form of compensation can fully compensate those who have been killed or those who have suffered serious permanent injuries. There is some solace in knowing that at least the laws of the District of Columbia do not artificially limit recoveries. Judges and juries are able to evaluate the facts of each case separately and provide a full cup of justice without regard to special interest groups who seek to impose limits on recoveries in an effort to put profits over people.
Mr. Zambri has been rated by Washingtonian magazine as a “Big Gun” and among the “top 1%” of all lawyers in the Washington metropolitan area. The magazine also describes him as “one of Washington’s best–most honest and effective lawyers” who specialize in personal injury matters. He has successfully litigated multiple cases against Metro and other automobile owners. His law firm, in fact, has obtained the largest settlement ever in a personal injury case involving WMATA. He has also been named a “Super Lawyer” by Super Lawyer magazine. Mr. Zambri has authored an article regarding how automobile collision cases are evaluated. To read it, please click here.