Accident law in Baltimore and Maryland is often hard to understand, especially when it comes to determining liability and negligence. If you’ve been in a car accident, for example, you may be wondering how fault will be determined – and how this will affect your ability to recover damages.
Unfortunately, Maryland is still using the outdated standard of “contributory negligence”, which can make it very hard to recover compensation after an accident. In this article, we’ll examine this legal standard, and discuss what may count as contributory negligence – as well as the alternatives to the contributory negligence doctrine.
What Is Contributory Negligence?
Contributory negligence is an older type of negligence law. In effect, this doctrine means that if you can be found responsible (to contribute) to an accident in any way, you lose all recovery for the accident.
In other words, if the defendant in an accident lawsuit can prove that you were somehow at fault – even in part – for the accident, the case may be dismissed, and there will be no opportunity for you to recover damages of any kind, regardless of the pain, hardship, and suffering caused to you by the defendant.
Even if you were only 10% at fault, and the court finds that the defendant was 90% at fault, you can’t get any compensation. Only four states still use this doctrine: Alabama, Virginia, Maryland, and North Carolina. It’s also used in the District of Columbia.
What Could Count As Contributory Negligence?
Essentially, any action that you take which could have resulted in an accident could be seen as contributory negligence. In a car accident, for example, the following things could be seen as negligence which contributed to an accident, if proven in court:
- Using a cell phone while driving (which is illegal under Maryland law)
- Failure to service tires and brake systems in a car, leading to the accident
- Not driving with adequate caution during weather conditions like snow, ice, or heavy rain
- Crossing a road negligently (jaywalking) and being hit by a car
It’s important to note, however, that in Maryland, failing to wear a seat belt does not count as contributory negligence. Even if a driver was not wearing a seat belt, they could be awarded damages during their lawsuit.
What Are The Alternatives To Contributory Negligence?
As you can see, contributory negligence is a very harsh standard – and it often means that cases, where serious injuries occur, are dismissed, or resolved in favor of insurance companies and the at-fault driver.
That’s why most states have adopted the comparative negligence doctrine. In this type of standard, the amount of damages recovered by a plaintiff are simply reduced in proportion to their fault in the accident – allowing them to get compensation even if they were partially responsible.
Modified comparative negligence is the most common type of comparative negligence. The plaintiff will not recover damages if they are found to be either equally responsible (50%) or more responsible for the injuries sustained in an accident.
In other words, in order to be awarded compensation under a modified comparative negligence doctrine, the plaintiff must not be more than 50% at-fault for the injuries sustained after the accident.
This standard ensures that, even if the plaintiff had a minor part in the accident, their minimal contribution to the accident itself is recognized – and they can still be awarded compensation, providing that they were not the party who was the most at-fault for the accident.
Know How Contributory Negligence Affects Accident Laws In Baltimore
Because of the standard of contributory negligence, it may often be hard to win an accident law case in Baltimore. You will need the help of an experienced accident lawyer in Baltimore to help you argue against any kind of fault, and to ensure that you can recover damages without your case being dismissed.