Wrongful death lawsuits are often met with significant damages and compensation for victims’ families. Unfortunately, arguments about the deceased person’s fault for the accident might put this compensation at risk.
In some cases, defendants argue that the deceased person in a wrongful death lawsuit is partially responsible for causing the accident that ultimately claimed their life. In many states, this would not stop plaintiffs from pursuing the case. In Maryland, it might stop the case in its tracks. Maryland’s contributory negligence rule stops plaintiffs from recovering any damages if they are even slightly responsible for causing their injuries. This includes wrongful death claims where the victim is no longer here. Instead, their family may be barred from recovering damages for their death. The best way to avoid accusations of contributory negligence is to be proactive and gather evidence establishing that the deceased person did not contribute to the accident in any way.
If you are interested in pursuing a wrongful death claim, talk to our Maryland wrongful death lawyers by calling (410) 694-7291 and scheduling a free case evaluation with us at Rice, Murtha & Psoras.
Can Wrongful Death Victims Be Partially at Fault for Their Accident?
Although it might be difficult for family members to think about, deceased victims in wrongful death cases might be partially responsible for the accidents that caused their injuries. This might be a tough issue to consider, and your first instinct might be to deny any such claims and never talk about them again. However, it is best to speak about it with our Maryland wrongful death lawyers, as contributory negligence claims can be extremely serious in Maryland.
It is not unusual for defendants in various injury cases to allege that the plaintiff did something that contributed to the accident and their injuries. This is also possible in wrongful death cases where the plaintiff is a family member, not the deceased victim. Even so, defendants might argue that the deceased person played a significant role in their own accident. Without your loved one here to share their side of the story, it can be difficult to refute these kinds of claims.
What Happens When a Wrongful Death Victim is Partially Responsible for Their Injuries in Maryland?
If the defendant in your case tries to argue that your loved one was somehow responsible for their own accident, the contributory negligence laws may apply. It is important to note that different states adhere to different rules when it comes to contributory negligence or comparative fault. Maryland is one of a handful of states that follows a pure contributory negligence rule, which is arguably the harshest toward plaintiffs.
Many states follow some form of comparative negligence rules. In a pure comparative negligence state, plaintiffs may still recover damages even if they are determined to be partially at fault. Even if the plaintiff is 90% responsible for causing the accident, they can still recover damages, but their damages will be reduced by 90%. In a modified comparative negligence state, the same rules are followed, but plaintiffs cannot recover any damages if their fault exceeds 50%.
Maryland follows a pure contributory negligence rule. Under this rule, if a plaintiff is found to have somehow contributed to their accident and injuries, they are completely barred from recovering damages. This applies even if the plaintiff is only slightly at fault. If your loved one is deemed even 1% for causing the accident that claimed their life, you might be unable to recover any damages.
Exactly what contributory negligence looks like may vary from case to case. For example, if your loved one passed away after a car accident, the defendant might allege your loved one was speeding or failed to signal a turn. Suppose your family member passed away after being hit by a car while they were walking. In that case, the defendant might try to argue that your family member walked into the street without using a crosswalk or checking for oncoming traffic.
Can Families Recover Damages in Maryland Wrongful Death Cases if the Deceased is Partially at Fault?
What separates wrongful death claims from most other injury cases is that the injured victim is no longer here, and other people file the claim on their behalf. Families who have lost someone under wrongful circumstances may file claims to recover damages for their own losses in addition to damages experienced by the deceased person before passing away.
Even though you might not be directly involved in the accident, if the court determines your loved one contributed to the accident, you may be barred from recovering anything. This can feel very unfair, like you are being punished for someone else’s alleged negligent behavior.
Because wrongful death cases tend to involve very high damages and a lot of compensation, accusations of contributory negligence might come with serious consequences. You should speak to your Maryland personal injury attorney about the possibility of such claims and how to fight them.
How to Avoid Contributory Negligence in Wrongful Death Suits in Maryland
One method you can use to fight claims of contributory negligence is challenging the sufficiency of the defendant’s evidence. When the defendant makes such claims, they are tasked with presenting evidence to support them. If we believe there is not enough evidence to support claims of contributory negligence, we can say so.
Did the deceased person’s allegedly negligent behavior actually contribute to the accident? The mere presence of negligent behavior does not definitively prove that the victim contributed to the accident. There must be some causal connection between the deceased person’s behavior and the accident.
We can also look for evidence showing that the deceased person was not negligent. For example, in a car accident case, we might use traffic camera or security camera footage to show the jury that the deceased person was driving safely before the defendant crashed into them. We might also employ accident reconstruction experts, eyewitnesses, and any other evidence we might find useful.
Speak to Our Maryland Wrongful Death Attorneys About Handling Contributory Negligence Claims
If you want to file a wrongful death claim, talk to our Baltimore wrongful death attorneys by calling (410) 694-7291 and set up a free case evaluation with us at Rice, Murtha & Psoras.