Negligence is a legal concept that plays a crucial role in personal injury law, determining the outcome of a multitude of lawsuits. In Maryland, having a solid grasp of the legal framework that governs negligence is essential for both plaintiffs and defendants.
Negligence cases are often difficult to navigate, especially when dealing with the fallout of an accident. However, our attorneys can help you get the compensation you deserve from the negligent party that caused your harm. Our firm has years of experience gathering evidence, questioning witnesses, and doing everything necessary to prove your claim. The first step to getting justice for your injuries is determining if negligence was indeed the cause.
For a free case review with our Maryland personal injury attorneys, call Rice, Murtha & Psoras today at (410) 694-7291.
How is Negligence Defined in Maryland?
Negligence is a legal concept that refers to an individual’s failure to exercise reasonable care, which leads to harm or injury to another party. It is based on the fundamental principle that individuals have a duty to act with a certain level of care and caution towards others. Negligence can be established through various factors, including the extent of the harm caused, the foreseeability of the harm, and the relationship between the parties involved.
It can also occur in a variety of contexts, including personal injury cases, medical malpractice, and product liability claims. These cases are notoriously complex, which is why our Maryland personal injury attorneys are here to help individuals recover compensation when they have been the victim of negligence. However, proving negligence takes more than arguing someone did something wrong. It requires showing distinct elements through the use of evidence.
What Are the Elements of Negligence in Maryland?
To prove negligence in Maryland, there are four crucial elements that must be established: duty, breach of duty, causation, and damages. Together, these four elements form the basis for proving negligence in Maryland. However, there are standards within each of these elements that must be shown for your case to be successful.
Duty of Care
The duty of care is a legal obligation that requires individuals to exercise reasonable care to avoid causing harm to others. Essentially, it is the responsibility one has to act with the same degree of caution and prudence that a reasonable person would exercise under similar circumstances.
Whether a duty of care exists in a particular situation depends on several factors. These factors include the relationship between the parties involved, the foreseeable likelihood of injury, the potential severity of an injury, and the burden of preventing the harm.
For instance, in the case of a doctor and patient, the doctor owes a duty of care to the patient to provide medical treatment that meets the standards of their profession. This includes making accurate diagnoses, providing appropriate treatment options, and monitoring the patient’s progress.
Similarly, drivers owe a duty of care to one another to drive safely and responsibly. This means following traffic laws, obeying speed limits, and avoiding distractions while driving.
Breach of Duty
Once a duty of care has been established, it must be shown that the defendant breached this duty. This breach could be an action or a failure to act when action was necessary.
Proving a breach of duty typically involves demonstrating that the defendant’s actions (or lack thereof) fell short of the standard of care that would be expected in the given situation. For example, drivers are legally obligated to operate their vehicles safely to avoid accidents. If a driver fails to do so by speeding or driving recklessly, for instance, they could be found to have breached their duty of care.
In determining whether a breach of duty has occurred, the court will consider the circumstances surrounding the incident, as well as any relevant laws, regulations, or industry standards. The court will also take into account the defendant’s knowledge, experience, and training, as well as any other factors that might be relevant to the case.
Causation is arguably the most critical component of negligence as it establishes a direct link between the defendant’s actions and your injuries. It ensures that the defendant is held liable only for the harm they actually caused, not the damages that might have been caused by another contributing factor. In Maryland, causation is divided into two types: cause in fact and proximate cause.
Cause in fact refers to the immediate or direct cause of the injury. Essentially, it seeks to determine whether the injury would have still happened even without the actions of the defendant.
In Maryland, the “but for” test is often used to determine cause in fact. This test asks whether your injury would have occurred “but for” the defendant’s actions. If the answer is no, then the defendant’s actions are considered the cause in fact of the injury.
For instance, if a driver runs a red light and hits a pedestrian, the “but for” test would ask whether the pedestrian would have been hit if the driver did not run the red light. If the answer is no, then the driver’s actions are considered the direct cause of the pedestrian’s injuries.
In contrast, proximate cause refers to a cause that is legally sufficient to hold the defendant liable for the injury. This test determines whether the injury was a foreseeable result of the defendant’s actions. This means that even if the defendant’s actions were not the direct cause of the injury, they might still be held liable if the injury was a foreseeable consequence of their actions.
Finally, you must demonstrate that you suffered actual damages as a result of the defendant’s negligence. In legal terms, damages refer to the sum of money awarded to a person as compensation for loss or injury caused by the negligence of another person. They are meant to restore the plaintiff to the position they would have been in if the incident had not occurred. Damages in a negligence case can be generally categorized into economic, non-economic, and punitive damages.
Economic damages aim to cover the quantifiable losses incurred by the plaintiff. This could include expenses related to medical treatment, the loss of earnings, and property damage costs. On the other hand, non-economic damages are meant to compensate for intangible losses that are harder to quantify, such as pain and suffering, emotional distress, and loss of companionship.
In rare cases, punitive damages might also be awarded. These damages are not commonly awarded in Maryland, but they might be granted if the defendant’s behavior is deemed particularly egregious or malicious. The primary purpose of punitive damages is to punish the defendant for their actions and deter similar conduct in the future.
Our Maryland Personal Injury Attorneys Can Help Get Justice for Your Injuries
Contact Rice, Murtha & Psoras by calling (410) 694-7291 for a free assessment of your case with our Aberdeen personal injury lawyers.