Accidents are not always black-and-white situations. While the defendant might be entirely responsible in some cases, the plaintiff might share part of the blame in other cases. In Maryland, the laws regarding contributory negligence are among the strictest in the nation.
If the court determines that you are partially at fault for the accident, you might be barred from recovering damages. Even if your share of the blame is small, it could cost you the entire case. Maryland adheres to a strict pure contributory negligence rule. Under this rule, plaintiffs may not recover damages if they are contributorily negligent, even in the slightest. Refuting allegations of contributory negligence is crucial. You may need evidence of your behavior that shows how you did not contribute to the accident on top of the evidence you need to show the defendant’s negligence. Common examples of contributory negligence include failing to wear a seatbelt, not wearing proper safety gear, and not following safety procedures.
If you are seeking compensation for an accident, call our Maryland personal injury attorneys at (410) 694-7291 to schedule a free review of your case with our team at Rice, Murtha & Psoras.
What Happens If I am to Blame for Some of My Injuries After an Accident in Maryland?
Each state has rules about what to do when a plaintiff is partially responsible for the accident at the heart of their case. While many states follow some form of a modified comparative negligence rule, Maryland is one of only a few states that follows a pure contributory negligence rule.
Comparative negligence rules allow plaintiffs to recover damages even if they are partially at fault for causing those damages in the first place. Generally, the plaintiff’s damages are reduced in proportion to their fault. If the plaintiff is 20% responsible, their damages are reduced by 20%.
Maryland follows a much older and stricter rule known as pure contributory negligence. Under this rule, a plaintiff may be barred from recovering damages if they are even slightly responsible. Even minor contributions to an accident might make a plaintiff ineligible for compensation.
This is a very strict and arguably outdated rule, and our Baltimore personal injury attorneys can help you push back against any allegations of contributory negligence so that you can get the compensation you deserve.
Maryland’s Contributory Negligence Rules
Maryland’s rule of pure contributory negligence is one of the strictest in the country. The only other states that adhere to this rule are Washington D.C., Alabama, North Carolina, and Virginia. Under this rule, you may recover nothing even if you are only 1% responsible for the accident. Many plaintiffs believe this is incredibly unfair, as defendants who might be 99% responsible for causing an accident and serious injuries could get off scot-free under the right circumstances.
The rule of pure contributory negligence is rooted in common law. As such, it is not codified in Maryland statutes. Instead, it is largely enshrined in the judiciary. Courts have long held that the old rule of pure contributory negligence still stands. At the appellate level, many courts have expressed concern over the harshness of the rule and that it might be time for a change. However, the courts refuse to get involved and insist that if the rule is to be changed, it must be done so by the legislature.
How to Refute Allegations of Contributory Negligence in Maryland Accident Cases
Be prepared for allegations of contributory negligence in a Maryland accident case. The defendant only has to prove you were minimally responsible for the accident or your injuries to get out of paying for all your damages. While this makes things more challenging, there are ways around the pure contributory negligence rule.
One argument that courts have recognized as a way to negate pure contributory negligence is to show that the defendant willfully caused the accident. If you can show the defendant meant to cause harm, they cannot wriggle out of liability simply because you accidentally contributed to the accident in some minor way.
Another method is to show that the defendant had the last clear chance to avoid the accident. This can be tricky and may work differently in different types of cases. For example, in a car accident case, you can negate contributory negligence if you can show that the last possible chance to avoid the crash could only have been taken by the defendant.
When refuting pure contributory negligence, evidence is crucial. For example, we might get an accident reconstruction expert to scientifically recreate the accident scene and prove that the defendant had the last clear chance to avoid the accident. We can also rely on more typical forms of evidence like witness testimony, photos, and security camera videos.
How Someone Might Be Partially to Blame for Their Accident in Maryland
Perhaps the most frustrating thing about pure contributory negligence is that it only requires small mistakes for a plaintiff to be barred from recovery. Even if the defendant is largely to blame for an accident, they might escape justice just because the plaintiff slipped up.
One common example is speeding during a car accident. Perhaps you were driving 5 or 10 miles over the speed limit on a highway when the defendant T-boned you and caused serious injuries. The defendant could argue that your speeding contributed to the accident and made things worse, so you should not be able to recover.
The same logic applies to other kinds of accidents. Maybe you were hurt in an accident at work while not wearing proper safety gear. Maybe you were hit by a car in a crosswalk, but you did not look both ways before crossing. The defendant might try to come up with anything to claim contributory negligence, and you and your attorney should be prepared.
Call Our Maryland Personal Injury Attorneys for Help
Call our Aberdeen personal injury lawyers at (410) 694-7291 to arrange a free review of your claims with our team at Rice, Murtha & Psoras.