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Can I Recover Compensation for Pre-Impact Fright after a Maryland Car Accident ?

​By their very nature motor vehicle accidents are typically unintentional, unintended,  unanticipated events that occur suddenly without any warning. However, and unfortunately, that is not always the case.

Maryland law embraces the concept of compensation for those individuals injured in an accident that had an opportunity to perceive that the event was about to occur and anticipate ​w​hat was about to happen to them.

The concept is known as pre-impact fright.  There is no question that under Maryland law one can recover for the horror and ​dread ​of what is about to happen when that anticipated dreaded event actually occurs. ​"​​In survival actions, where a decedent experiences great fear and apprehension of imminent death before the fatal physical impact, the [victims's] estate may recover for such emotional distress and mental anguish as are capable of objective determination. Beynon v. Montgomery Cablevision Ltd. Partnership, 718 A.2d 1161, 351 Md. 460 (Md. 1997)​. However, ​​if the feared  accident does not occur, the proof requirements are more stringent. ​"​I​​​n Maryland, it is well-settled that, in the absence of a physical impact or injury directly resulting in harm, mental and emotional injuries such as fright are not compensable unless there are objective manifestations of such injury. " ​Id. ​ ​"[D]irect evidence is not necessary. What is required is evidence from which a reasonable inference could be drawn that the ​[victim]  experienced fear or fright." Id. at 508, 718 A.2d 1161. ​Clearly the fear of impending death, that is realized, might be the ultimate manifestation  of terror and dread. Maryland's  high court has explained the distinction. " ​[D]amages for emotional distress or mental anguish are recoverable in Maryland, provided that it is proximately caused by the wrongful act of​ ​the defendant and it results in a physical injury, or is capable of objective determination This standard, we recognize, does not hold sacred the common law sequence of events for recovery of emotional damages: wrongful act, physical impact, physical injury and then emotional injury. It is more accommodating. Thus, given our precedents and because we still believe that "a nervous injury arising from actual physical impact is as likely to be imagined as one resulting from fright without physical impact, and that the former is as capable of simulation as the latter," it is no great leap to conclude that the compensability of "pre-impact fright" is permissible when it is the proximate result of a wrongful act and it produces a physical injury or is manifested in some objective form". Id. ​[internal citations omitted]. 

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