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Guide to Maryland’s Joint and Several Liability Laws

When someone injures you through negligence, you can sue them in court to recover financial compensation for your injuries in the form of damages. However, in many instances, injuries are not caused by the negligence of one party alone. In those cases, many victims may be wondering if they can sue everyone responsible for their injuries or if they have to pick one party to sue in court.

Maryland law lets you sue multiple parties that are responsible for your injuries at the same time. Maryland has a system where codefendants are both “joint and severally” liable for your injuries, which means that you can recover damages from all of the defendants or only one of them. The lawsuit plays out more or less the same way on your end, but the defendants will have some other considerations their lawyers may have to take into account.

For help with your case, call our Maryland personal injury lawyers from Rice, Murtha & Psoras at (410) 694-7291.

What is Joint and Several Liability?

“Joint and several liability” is a concept in law that a group of defendants can be liable for a plaintiff as a group as well as individually. As the name would suggest, they can be “jointly” liable (as a group), “severally” (individually) liable, or “jointly and severally liable” (both as a group and individually). The system Maryland uses joint and several liability.

However, suing more people than you really should can backfire and weaken your case, especially in the eyes of the jury. Choosing who to and who not to sue can be complicated, so it is best to speak with our Baltimore personal injury lawyers about what is best for your unique situation.

How Does Joint and Several Liability Work in Maryland?

Under Maryland law, all codefendants – defendants being sued together for the same thing – are joint and severally liable per Md. Code, Cts. & Jud. Proc. Art., § 3-1403. What this law means is that you can recover damages from any of the defendants since recovering damages from one does not “discharge” the others. For example, if you settle a case with Defendant A, you can still get damages from Defendant B, who did not settle. However, this does not necessarily mean that you will collect damages multiple times. You will still only get one award of damages. If one defendant pays your damages, the other will likely not be forced to pay again.

Contribution Among Joint Defendants in Maryland

One of the consequences of joint and several liability is the possibility of a third-party lawsuit. A third-party lawsuit is when one defendant sues another, alleging that the other defendant should be responsible for paying the plaintiff’s damages and not the other way around. The defendant that is initiating the lawsuit is called the “third-party plaintiff,” and the defendant being sued is the “third-party defendant.” Another way that a third-party lawsuit could happen is that the defendants sue a party that was, up until now, uninvolved with this legal matter, alleging that they are the actual party liable for the plaintiff’s injuries. Whatever way it may play out in your situation, the idea is that the defendants are saying that it is someone else’s fault.

While, in theory, a third-party lawsuit is a problem for the defendants, the reality is that it may be a problem for you as well. Defendants may ask you to testify as to some issues in their case, and since this case will stem from the same nexus of facts, some evidence you have compiled may be involved as well. In situations like this, our lawyers can help make sure that any participation on your part does not hurt your main case.

Examples of Joint and Several Liability that Could Happen in Maryland

There are many ways that there can be multiple defendants who are jointly and severally liable for your injuries. Our Ocean City, MD personal injury lawyers have compiled some common examples where this may happen below, but many cases impose joint and several liability even if it falls outside these more classic legal examples.

Driver and Employer

A very common way that joint and several liability happens in Maryland lawsuits is that a driver who is working for a company injures someone. In these cases, the driver and their company may be codefendants who are both liable for the plaintiff’s injuries in some capacity.

Multi-Car Accidents

Another way that joint and several liability could occur is when an accident involves multiple drivers. For example, suppose a driver hits your car, and then shortly thereafter another driver hits that crash area and injures you. In that case, you could file a lawsuit against both drivers, alleging they are both responsible for your injuries. It is important to remember that, for this to happen, it would need to be difficult to determine the exact liability of each driver in the accident. In this kind of case, there may be a question as to which driver caused your injuries, but this is a complicated matter that is best handled by our lawyers.

Sexual Abuse

Joint and several liability can also occur because of sexual abuse in the workplace. One of the more infamous ways this type of liability has made its way into the public eye is through church sexual abuse scandals. In that instance, the priest/employee and church/employer are jointly and severally liable, so they are liable both individually and together. This could also happen in a school setting. Suppose a teacher sexually abuses a student. In that case, the teacher and their school would be jointly and severally liable for the sexual abuse.

Talk to Our Maryland Personal Injury Lawyers About Your Case

Rice, Murtha & Psoras’s Ellicott City, MD personal injury lawyers can give free case reviews when you call us at (410) 694-7291.