Negligence is one of those ‘lawyer words’ that most people don’t think about unless they seek legal advice after ending up hurt in an accident. Then suddenly it becomes very important. How do you prove negligence in a personal injury case in MD? The answer depends on the kind of legal action you are bringing.
The whole idea of proving negligence in Maryland sounds complicated. Fortunately, personal injury lawyers work on proving negligence on a daily basis. In this blog, Baltimore personal injury lawyer Randolph Rice looks at how to find negligence in a personal injury case in MD.
What is Legally Considered Negligence in Maryland?
Negligence, according to the Legal Information Institute is a “failure to behave with the level of care that someone of ordinary prudence would have exercised under the same circumstances.”
The law considers how a “reasonable person” would act. Although there is no such person, a jury will consider whether the conduct of the party who caused an accident lacked reasonable care and whether harm was foreseeable. In many cases, negligence is not difficult to prove. If a driver fails to stop at a red light and hits another car, that’s not the behavior of a reasonable person and it’s foreseeable that he might hit another driver. Some cases are more nuanced. Acting negligently can be a positive act such as changing lanes without checking your blind spot and hitting someone. It can also be an omission when there is a duty to act like forgetting to give an employee a hard hat on a building site and not conducting safety checks.
Proving negligence in a personal injury case in MD is no different from proving negligence in any other state. However, Maryland is one of a handful of states that has a strict contributory negligence rule. This means the injured party will lose the ability to sue if he or she was partly to blame for an injury. This differs from many states that have a comparative negligence rule in which you could still recover money if the person who hurt you was 60 percent to blame and you were 40 percent at fault.
What Are the Elements Needed to Prove Negligence in Maryland?
The four key elements needed to prove negligence are:
- A legal duty was owed by the person who caused the injury to the victim;
- The person who caused the accident breached that duty;
- The victim suffered an injury;
- The person you sue caused your injury – known as proximate cause.
Attorneys represent their clients in many different types of lawsuits. Negligence can be more straightforward to prove in some areas than others. You should contact the Rice, Murtha & Psoras for formal legal advice specific to your case.
Proving Negligence in a Car Accident Case in Maryland
Car, truck, motorcycle, and pedestrian accidents are the most common cause of personal injury claims in Maryland.
The rules of the road in Maryland set out a framework for safe driving. They cover every aspect of driving from interstates to intersections and what to do at crosswalks. Drivers who fail to follow the rules are typically negligent or reckless if they cause an injury and, therefore, in breach of their responsibility toward a motorist, a cyclist or a pedestrian who ends up hurt.
In Maryland car accident cases, the duty of a driver is to operate a vehicle in a way an ordinary or reasonable person would drive. In other words, the driver should follow the rules of the road, not speed or drive drunk and keep a lookout for dangers. Negligence can also be failing to maintain your car or truck in the way a reasonable person would. If you drive with faulty brakes, a worn tire or another defect you can be found negligent if that issue caused the accident.
The negligence must be the ‘proximate cause’ of the accident in MD. If a driver was involved in a T-bone crash at an intersection and blame is shared between two motorists, the fact a driver had a bald tire likely won’t be relevant in the negligence calculation, unless it was a factor in the wreck.
The victim must show loss to prove negligence. If a red light runner hits you and you are unscathed, you won’t be able to show negligence in a personal injury case, although you should be able to make a claim for property damage. Fearing death or imminent injury is not grounds to make a Maryland negligence claim.
Proving Negligence in Slip and Fall Cases in Maryland
Proving negligence in a Maryland slip and fall cases can be tricky. All drivers have a duty of care to other motorists on the road. However, the owner of a business does not automatically owe a duty of care to everyone on the premises. A store owner is not liable for injuries suffered by a burglar who breaks in at night and tries to steal goods.
The law states there is generally no duty toward a trespasser. However, if the store owner leaves a back door wide open and a child slips inside and ends up injured, the store owner may be negligent for failing to secure the building. Some cities have rules stating back yard pools should be fenced off. A child may be an exception to the trespasser rule although the age of the young person is relevant. The landowner cannot deliberately set traps for a trespasser. If a property owner is aware of an issue, such as skateboarders using a building site, he has an obligation to secure the premises.
The owner of a business or an operator owes a duty of care to invitees – the customers the business owner relies on – as well as licensees who have no contractual relationship such as a social guest. A homeowner or property owner is usually only liable for wanton injuries to a licensee and is required to exercise enough care to prevent an injury. A licensee can become a trespasser if he or she is asked to leave and declines.
Notice is an important issue in proving negligence in a slip and fall personal injury case in MD. The victim cannot make a recovery for an injury involving a hazardous condition unless he or she can show that the owner had knowledge of the danger before the accident.
Knowledge can be actual or constructive. In other words, the property owner or operator must have known of a trip hazard or a spill or he should have known over time such as in the case of crumbling stairs that should have been discovered through inspections.
Negligence can be a lot harder to prove in premises liability cases than in motor vehicle accidents. If a truck fails to yield or blows through a red light causing a wreck, a weight of documentation such as police reports and camera footage can back up the victim’s case. It’s harder to prove a store owner or its employees knew about a spill or should have known about it because it was not cleaned up for two hours.
Proving negligence can be easier when a building fails to comply with code or the recommendations of a building inspector were ignored.
Proving Negligence in a Medical Malpractice Case in Maryland
Proving negligence for medical malpractice in Maryland is challenging. To win a medical malpractice case in Maryland you must show a healthcare professional such as a doctor, a consultant, a dentist, a nurse or a surgeon breached a standard of care. You need to show another medical professional in the same area of expertise would not have made the mistake.
Factors such as the patient’s age and medical history are also pertinent. Proving a medical professional’s behavior fell below the accepted standard of care often involves hiring medical experts who will testify on what constitutes reasonable behavior. These cases can become very technical.
Examples of negligence in medical malpractice include:
- Failure to diagnose a medical condition, misdiagnosis or late diagnosis;
- Breaching accepted surgical standards;
- Failing to properly treat a patient;
- Overmedicating or under-medicating a patient;
- Failing to inform a patient of the risks of a procedure;
- Leaving surgical instruments inside a patient;
- Giving too much or too little anesthetic during a procedure;
- Providing incorrect medication.
As well as showing a medical professional breached the accepted standards of care, you must also show the negligence caused your injury.
Proving Negligence in Railroad Worker Cases in Maryland
When workers are hurt on the job they can often claim workers’ compensation if they are acting in the course of their employment. This is a no-fault system meaning compensation does not hinge on proving your employer was at fault or negligent for your injury.
Railroad worker injury cases are an exception to the rule. Under the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA) of 1908, a railroad worker must show negligence on the behalf of the railroad. The worker needs to show the railroad provided an unsafe place to work. However, a worker does have to show the employer was 100 percent to blame. Although Maryland has a strict contributory negligence rule, a railroad worker who is hurt on the job in Maryland could sue under FLEA even if he was partly to blame for the injury because the federal rule would apply.
What is Contributory Negligence?
Just four states and the District of Columbia are pure contributory negligence states. They are Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, and Alabama.
In these states, injured parties may not recover damages if they are even one percent to blame for an accident. In practice, it’s difficult to prove a party is one percent to blame but the lawyer for the at-fault party will try. For example, if a car driver makes a left turn into the path of an oncoming motorcycle he has failed to see, causing the rider to hit the car, lawyers or the insurance company for the at-fault driver may argue the motorcyclist was traveling too fast or should have had time to slow down before striking the car and sustaining a serious injury.
Many other states use a comparative negligence rule in cases where one driver is not 100 percent to blame for a wreck, dividing up the damages between the parties.
Talk to a Maryland Personal Injury Lawyer About Proving Negligence
Negligence is not an easy concept for people who are involved in an accident to grasp. They may believe another party caused their injuries but struggle to articulate why. At the Rice, Murtha & Psoras, our Baltimore, MD-based injury lawyer will examine the issue of negligence and work with you on building up a case against the person who injured you. Please call us today for a free consultation at (410) 431-0911.