Maryland’s Harsh Contributory Negligence Rule Explained by an Maryland Accident Lawyer
Personal injury law is usually based on negligence, and there are two general different types of negligence law: comparative negligence and contributory negligence.
Of these two systems, contributory negligence is the more difficult one for injured people to be able to obtain a recovery for their injuries. Unfortunately, Maryland is one of only four states that use contributory negligence.
How Contributory Negligence Works
The legal theory of contributory negligence is a defense to a personal injury lawsuit based on negligence.
Frequently when someone is injured by another person, both people were partially negligent in causing the accident. In a state where comparative negligence is the law an injured person can recover from the person who is more at fault according to the percentage of that person’s fault. However, where contributory negligence is the law, an injured person who is partially at fault is not allowed any recovery.
This can be unfair because it means that if you were only 5% or 10% at fault in causing an accident, you will not be able to recover from the person who was 90% or 95% at fault because that person is protected by the law of contributory negligence.
In all personal injury lawsuits based on negligence, the basic requirement to be able to recover in court is to be able to prove the following things:
Maryland Exceptions to Contributory Negligence
Maryland law provides for four situations when the defense of contributory negligence does not apply:
- Another state’s law applies: If through some other legal theory the negligence law of a different state applies to an accident, and that state uses comparative negligence, then Maryland will apply that state’s law.
- The lawsuit is based on strict liability: Strict liability is a special legal doctrine that applies to inherently dangerous situations. If a lawsuit is based on strict liability it is not necessary to prove fault, and thus the defense of contributory negligence does not apply.
- The lawsuit is based on intentional conduct: Contributory negligence is a defense to a negligence lawsuit. Therefore, if the lawsuit is based on intentional conduct rather than negligent conduct then the defense of contributory negligence does not apply.
- The “last clear chance” doctrine applies: The last clear chance legal doctrine is a theory that was developed to avoid the harsh results of contributory negligence. The last clear chance rule says that even though the plaintiff was partially at fault, if the the defendant had “a fresh opportunity” (or last clear chance) to avoid the accident but did not do so then the defendant is responsible for the accident.
Contact a Knowledgeable Maryland Accident Lawyer for Help With Your Lawsuit
Contributory negligence is a complex rule. It can make it difficult for a plaintiff to get a recovery, but an experienced Maryland personal injury lawyer knows how to work with it. For a free evaluation, complete the short Case Evaluation Form on this page, or call or email our office.