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Parents of Maryland family killed in car crash file suit

The parents of a Maryland family killed in a car crash in September recently filed a unique lawsuit in federal court. The lawsuit invokes a Nebraska law that extends legal protections to fetuses at any stage of development. It's the first time it's been raised since its 2003 enactment. The family killed in the wreck was a Maryland couple, their two children and their unborn son. The lawsuit cites this law which allows wrongful death claims for unborn fetuses.

The Maryland family was killed while driving through western Nebraska on the family's move to California. The family was traveling in two separate cars when they came to a standstill in traffic on the interstate. While they sat, a truck driver slammed into the back of the father's car. The force of that crash pushed the father's car into his wife's car. The pregnant mother's car had the family's two children and was sent under another semi. All of the family members died instantly. Investigators say the truck driver struck the father's car at 75 mph and did not try to apply his brakes.

The parents of the woman and the mother of the man filed the lawsuit alleging that the truck driver violated federal highway safety rules when he remained on the road much longer than allowed. Federal rules set a 14-hour maximum for driving and at least 10 off-duty hours before they can start driving again. The truck driver exceeded the maximum by three hours, at the least.

The suit names the truck driver, his employer and other parties. The claims include vicarious liability from the trucking companies, wrongful death and negligence. A specific dollar amount was not listed in the lawsuit. Other states have previously ruled that wrongful death lawsuits can proceed in cases where the deceased was not yet born.

Source: NTV, "Lawsuit Over Western Nebraska Crash Will Invoke Fetal Death Law," Jordan Onwiler, Nov. 5, 2012

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