The compensation you receive for a personal injury lawsuit in Maryland could be affected by your behavior in case you get injured in an accident, even if someone else is also partially to blame. Maryland’s strict contributory negligence rule often prevents victims from recovering what they deserve.
In cases where an accident involves multiple parties, it is possible that each party might share some level of responsibility. This is where the concept of contributory negligence becomes relevant. In Maryland, having a good understanding of how comparative negligence laws operate can play a significant role in assessing the viability of your case and the amount of compensation you might be entitled to. Although recovering compensation can be extremely challenging if you contributed to the accident, our team knows the law and how to argue against these claims.
For a free review of your case with our Maryland personal injury attorneys, call Rice, Murtha & Psoras at (410) 694-7291.
What is Contributory Negligence in Maryland?
In the event of an accident leading to a lawsuit, the court will examine how both parties contributed to the accident. While some states allow plaintiffs to recover damages even if they are partially responsible for their injuries, Maryland’s pure contributory negligence doctrine is one of the strictest in the country. This can lead to unfair outcomes for plaintiffs.
Contributory negligence refers to a plaintiff’s conduct that fails to meet the necessary standard for their protection and contributes to the defendant’s negligence. The plaintiff will not be able to recover damages if it is determined that they did not exercise the required level of care, no matter how small the negligence might be. The defendant’s behavior is legally irrelevant unless they are solely responsible.
If both parties are equally at fault, a plaintiff’s claim valued at $100,000 would not receive any compensation. Similarly, the plaintiff would not receive any compensation if they are found to be even 10% at fault. This means that even if the plaintiff is only 1% responsible for their injuries, they would not be able to recover damages from a defendant considered 99% responsible by the jury.
This system unfairly burdens the plaintiff, who must establish that they did not contribute to the incident, effectively protecting the at-fault party from any consequences. It leads to unjust and punitive outcomes for plaintiffs.
What is the Last Clear Chance Doctrine in Maryland?
The state of Maryland has incorporated the last clear chance doctrine into its legal system to help alleviate some of the strain of the pure contributory negligence rule. Our Rockville personal injury lawyers can fight accusations that you caused your injuries and that the defendant had the responsibility to avoid the accident. In cases where a victim’s own negligence led to an accident, but the defendant had the opportunity to prevent it and failed to do so, this doctrine can be of great help to plaintiffs seeking relief for their injuries.
The Last Clear Chance Doctrine
The principle underlying this concept is that causing harm to someone due to their carelessness is not acceptable if you have the chance to prevent it. Therefore, if a defendant knew or was legally obliged to know that their actions could cause harm to another person, and the other person could not avoid the harm due to lack of knowledge or disability. The defendant could have prevented the harm by being reasonably careful but failed to do so, then they are at fault.
For example, when a pedestrian attempts to cross the street without the right of way and is hit by a car, the pedestrian is considered at least partially responsible for their injuries. However, if it can be proven that the driver had enough time to react and avoid the collision but failed to do so, then the defendant might be held accountable for the accident even if the plaintiff was also at fault for running across the street. It is important to note that this is a complex legal principle that depends heavily on the specific circumstances of each case.
The Fresh Opportunity Requirement
In situations where both parties share the blame, the last clear chance rule might not apply. Here, the defendant must have had a chance to prevent the injury after the plaintiff’s negligent action occurred. Essentially, this means that both parties have to be initially negligent, followed by a second opportunity for the defendant to prevent the accident. If the defendant is continuously negligent, then the rule will not apply.
Per this principle, even if the plaintiff was also negligent, they can still receive compensation if they were in danger and the defendant had a fresh opportunity to prevent harm but did not take it, knowing it was there.
How Do You Prove Negligence in Maryland?
To prove negligence in Maryland, four elements must be established: duty, breach, causation, and damages. The burden of proof lies on the person making the claim, who must demonstrate each element with a preponderance of evidence. Negligence can only be established if the defendant owed the plaintiff a legal duty to exercise reasonable care. Legal duty exists if it is reasonably foreseeable that an act or omission would cause harm.
The breach of this legal duty is the act or omission that causes the harm, and it is a deviation from reasonable care. The amount of care that a prudent person would exercise varies depending on the situation. To establish legal negligence, a negligent act alone is not sufficient. The plaintiff must also prove that the act caused some form of damage. The plaintiff must establish a causal link between the negligent conduct and the injury suffered.
Lastly, damages refer to compensation awarded to victims for their losses and injuries. Monetary damages are awarded by a judge or jury only if liability is found. The guiding principle in determining damages is what is fair and reasonable for the victim’s losses.
How Do You Limit Contributory Negligence in Maryland?
In case of an accident, it is important to take certain steps to reduce your liability. Seeking immediate medical attention is necessary to establish that the accident caused your injuries and to prevent any disputes over the cause of your injuries. This will help you avoid being blamed for an accident that was not your fault.
To ensure a thorough investigation of the accident, you should collect as much evidence as possible from the scene. This includes taking photos and videos, gathering statements from witnesses, and documenting all available details. By gathering this information, you can determine exactly what happened during the incident and who might be at fault.
If you have suffered a personal injury, it is crucial to hire a skilled attorney with ample experience in similar cases. A good attorney can help you collect evidence, build a strong case, and negotiate on your behalf. They can also help to reduce your percentage of fault and negotiate the best possible settlement for your case. Do not hesitate to seek the assistance of our team to ensure that you receive the compensation you deserve.
Our Maryland Personal Injury Lawyers Can Help
Contact Rice, Murtha & Psoras today at (410) 694-7291 to receive your free case assessment with our Baltimore personal injury lawyers.