Driver Pleads Guilty in Horrific 2011 Car Crash in Edgewater

Pamela Dittmar of Severna Park was in court earlier today (Jan. 16) to take a plea bargain in the case of a December 2011 accident that permanently paralyzed mother-of-two Charmaine Richardson of Harwood. Richardson is confined to a wheelchair, paralyzed from the waist-down.

Dittmar prepaid the fines and pleaded guilty to:

  • Exceeding Maximum Speed (67 MPH in a 50 MPH zone)
    Fine: $90
  • Negligent Driving Vehicle in Careless and Imprudent Manner Endangering Property, Life and Person
    Fine $140
  • Driver of Motor Vehicle Following Closer than Reasonable and Prudent
    Fine $110
  • Failure to Control Vehicle Speed on Highway to Avoid Collision
    Fine $130
  • Reckless Driving Vehicle in Wanton and Willful Disregard for Safety of Persons and Property
    Fine $510.

Richardson’s attorney Kenneth Coughlan said that the family is pleased that Dittmar has taken responsibility for her actions in pleading guilty to the charges.

“Next we are trying to see that Charmaine is taken care of,” Coughlan said.

So, they are looking at the medical expenses that Richardson has needed as a result of the accident—and will need down the road.

“She is young, and she hopefully has a long and happy life ahead of her,” he said.”Hopefully we won’t have to go to litigation, that [Dittmar's] insurance company will provide for Charmaine’s necessary medical expenses.”

The accident happened on Route 2/Solomons Island Road at Stepney Lane in Edgewater. Richardson, a nursing student at Sojourner Douglass College in Edgewater, had been at the campus and was on her way home in Harwood. She was idling at the stop sign on Stepneys Lane when Dittmar’s Toyota slammed into the driver’s side of Richardson’s Honda Accord.

The impact split Richardson’s Accord in half. The back seats and trunk sat separated from the front seats and engine compartment. Richardson, 20 at the time, was airlifted to Baltimore’s Shock Trauma Center. There, doctors found a tear in her liver, blood in her lungs and the spinal cord injury. Richardson was five months pregnant at the time.

Another vehicle, a Ford Focus driven by a student driver, was also involved in the accident. Neither occupant of that vehicle suffered any injuries. The police report indicated that Dittmar’s Toyota clipped the right rear bumper of the Ford, lost control and hit Richardson at 67 MPH. There were no side impact airbags on the 1991 Accord.

After the crash, Dittmar’s Toyota flipped end-over-end and landed 50 to 75 feet away from the impact site at the edge of a wooded area just north of Stepneys Lane.

After her stay at the Shock Trauma Center, Richardson spent months in rehabilitation. She gave birth to her son two months after the accident. He is fine (and adorable).

Facebook photo of Richardson and her son.

In the 13 months since the crash, the family has held various fundraisers. Family and friends have helped Richardson retrofit her home to be handicap-accessible. A Facebook page, Strength • Hope • Courage with over 700 members, keeps family and friends apprised of Richardson’s recovery, the fundraisers, and the case in court.

Richardson and her close-knit family waited over a year for Dittmar to accept responsibility for the crash. The Wednesday morning plea in traffic court was cold comfort.

Coughlan said that they understand the process, even if they aren’t happy with it.

Coughlan said that there have been improvements to Maryland law in recent years, but it still doesn’t adequately address what happens when someone is injured in an automobile accident. He said ironically, had Richardson not survived the crash, Dittmar would’ve faced more charges than just traffic court and fines.

“The outcome dictates what can and can’t be done,” Coughlan said.

“Thankfully she survived.”

Coughlan said that Charmaine wants to be an example for others—to work towards making changes to Maryland Law to better protect victims.

“But right now, we have to take care of Charmaine,” he said.

They will be looking toward getting an estimate of Richardson’s medical needs into the future and hopefully reaching an agreement with Dittmar’s insurance. Accepting responsibility for the crash should help Richardson move forward in settlement talks and eventually in her life.

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About Mitchelle Stephenson

I've gotta tell Mitchelle! Send your South County news tips, brag on your fab volunteers, talk traffic, police and fire or just say "howdy" to Mitchelle Stephenson, co-founding editor of the South River Source. Mitchelle@SouthRiverSource.com or reach me in person on mobile: 410-353-4706.

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