A Waldorf boy died after a single vehicle car accident Monday. This is a sad tragedy for the family. His mother lost control of her vehicle and struck a tree on Billingsley Road. That is a VERY dangerous road and has been the scene of numerous car accidents. I have represented several people injured on that road, and I also live off that road and see accidents all the time.
This tragedy does illustrate a seemingly strange principal of personal injury law – the fact that a child can sue their own parent if they want to, and a husband can sue his wife (and vice versa).
Now before I even start, let me say I have no idea if there was any negligence in this case. For all I know, this accident was strictly weather related. But IF the driver is deemed negligent, her passengers can file suit for up to the full amount of the applicable policy limits.
Maryland law used to prevent a family member covered by an insurance policy from suing another family member who caused an accident while driving. So if a husband was driving and his wife was the passenger, and he ran a red light causing a car accident in which she was injured, she could not sue.
The law was supposed to prevent unseemly lawsuits between family members. In my opinion, the real reason was to protect the insurance companies. In my example, there is one insurance policy covering the husband and wife. In the eyes of the insurance company, the wife should not be able to sue and get money from her own insurance policy.
Maryland changed this law a few years ago. Now, the wife in my example can sue her husband, but only up the amount of the available insurance coverage. So the insurance policy has to pay out, but there is no chance of a judgment against the husband – or in the case of poor Darius Harsha, his mother.
So yes, a child can sue his parent, but only up to the limits of available insurance coverage, which means it is really just going after insurance. That is what most car accident cases are anyway. This is a good law Maryland has.