Blog of William C. McCaskill

Understanding Maryland’s Contributory Negligence Law

Posted on October 5, 2017

You are walking along Oxon Hill Road headed to your vehicle so you can join some friends at the National Harbor. You cross the street at a marked crosswalk, but the crossing sign is red. As you are crossing, a speeding and intoxicated driver does not see you and winds up hitting you causing severe bodily injuries.

In Maryland, the fact that you crossed the street when the crossing signal was red could be enough to prohibit you from obtaining any financial restitution from a personal injury claim. This is due to Maryland’s adherence to an archaic and unfair legal doctrine known as contributory negligence.

Contributory negligence basically holds that if an injured party contributed to causing their accident, even by only 1 percent, they can be barred from obtaining a financial recovery through a personal injury action.

In 2013, the contributory negligence doctrine was challenged, but the Maryland Court of Appeals upheld the theory in a case called Coleman v. Soccer Association of Columbia. In this case, the plaintiff jumped and grabbed a crossbar during a soccer game. The crossbar was not attached to the ground resulting in the plaintiff falling on his back and crossbar hitting him in the face.

The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the soccer association. A Maryland jury determined that both the plaintiff and the association were negligent. As a result, since the plaintiff’s negligence supposedly contributed to his harms, he was barred from obtaining any monetary damages.

How Most Other States Determine Fault and Award Damages in Personal Injury Lawsuits

Maryland is in the minority of states still clinging to the contributory negligence doctrine. Maryland is accompanied by Virginia, the District of Columbia, North Carolina, and Alabama. The overwhelming majority of states adhere to the comparative negligence doctrine. Under comparative negligence, any award of monetary damages is reduced in proportion to the amount of negligence assigned by a jury to both parties. For example, if you have $100,000 in economic and non-economic damages, but a jury determines you were 35 percent at fault for causing the accident, any award of damages you receive will be reduced by 35 percent, or $35,000. This is a much fairer and more reasonable system.

Contact an Oxon Hill Personal Injury Lawyer Today

As you can see, when you are hurt in an accident in Maryland, the defendant may raise a defense that can completely bar you from obtaining a financial recovery. That is why it is so important to hire an experienced Oxon Hill personal injury attorney to combat this potential defense. The Law Office of William C. McCaskill PLLC is ready and able to assist. Contact our office today to schedule a free, confidential case review.

Contact us to speak with a Oxon Hill lawyer about a personal injury matter