Maryland’s highest court recently decided a personal injury case, and they refused the opportunity to do away with contributory negligence, a defense often used in automobile accident cases and other personal injury claims.
Therefore, if you get into a car accident in Maryland, you will still have to worry about the issue of contributory negligence preventing your recovery for your injury.
Contributory negligence (or contrib, as we lawyers call it) is a defense to a personal injury case which is only available in Maryland and 6 other states (including Virginia, by the way). Under the legal doctrine of contrib, if you are partially at fault for your own accident – even 1% at fault – you cannot make a personal claim at all. It is a complete bar to a personal injury claim in Maryland.
The jury will be asked to decide if you were negligent in the accident. If the jury finds that you were negligent for your own car accident or other personal injury, you lose the case completely. You get nothing.
The defense does have the burden of proof in showing that you were negligent for your accident. So the burden is on them to come up with the evidence and make the case to the jury. However, some actions taken by a Plaintiff are so obviously negligent that past court cases have held they result in contributory negligence as a matter of law. That means the Judge will rule against you before the case even gets to a jury.
Recent Attempts to Change This Law
In the recent case of Coleman v Soccer Association of Columbia, the Court was asked to do away with contrib in favor of something called “comparative negligence.” That means the Judge or jury would weigh each sides liability for an accident and assign a percentage of fault to each side. Your award would be reduced by the amount you were at fault. If you were only 1% at fault for the accident, then you would only get 99% of the total damages.
Interestingly, one of the Judges wrote a scathing dissent arguing for abolishment of contrib. He lost that argument, but his dissent is what made the case newsworthy (at least to lawyers). In all, four of the Judges advised the General Assembly to revisit the issue, but they have not done so as of 2018.
Conclusion & Next Steps
If you get into a car accident in Maryland, you will still have to worry about the issue of contributory negligence preventing your recovery for your injury.
Want to know more? Discover what you need to know about car accident cases in Maryland. Click here to see our Free Legal Consumer Guide to Maryland car accident cases and get answers to your questions today. Know your options. Be informed. Protect yourself.
Need a Personal Injury lawyer? Please contact us for a consultation today if you need a Maryland personal injury lawyer for your car accident case.
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