Most states in this country follow the rule of comparative negligence when it comes to personal injury claims, but Maryland is one of five jurisdictions (including Alabama, North Carolina, Virginia, and D.C.) that follow the outdated rule of contributory negligence.
What is Contributory Negligence?
Under the rule of contributory negligence, an injured party can be barred from receiving any damages for an injury if he or she contributed in any way to the injury. Even if a jury found that the victim was only 1% at fault for the injury, the victim will not be able to recover any damages against the party that was 99% at fault. The contributory negligence rule is very unfair to injured victims and makes a personal injury case an uphill battle.
Contributory Negligence vs. Comparative Negligence
The vast majority of states follow the doctrine of comparative negligence in personal injury cases. Under this rule, a party is liable based on the percentage that they contributed to the incident that caused the injury. So, for example, a jury in a car accident case finds that a plaintiff sustained $100,000 in damages. The jury also finds that the defendant in the case was 80% at fault for the accident (for running a red light) and the plaintiff was 20% at fault (for talking on a cell phone). In this case, the plaintiff would receive $80,000 in damages from the defendant.
Why Does Maryland Have Contributory Negligence?
There have been unsuccessful attempts to do away with contributory negligence, but Maryland has its reasons for keeping this harsh and outdated rule alive. Contributory negligence:
- Keeps insurance costs low
- Motivates people to act safely and reasonably
- Makes the legal system more efficient.
But fundamentally, contributory negligence is unfair to people who have been injured due mostly to the negligence of others.
All hope is not lost. There are many situations where there is no contributory negligence. There are also some important exceptions to the rule. That’s why if you’ve been injured in an accident it’s important to hire an experienced personal injury attorney to evaluate your case.
Contact an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney
If you’ve been injured in an accident, you want an experienced Maryland personal injury attorney on your case. The attorneys at Alpert Schreyer, LP are available to evaluate your case and get you the compensation you deserve. Contact us online or call us at (301) 812-4777 to schedule your free consultation