Shared Fault: What is Maryland’s Contributory Negligence?
A good number of people are familiar with the concept of negligence. As a legal term, it probably has the most widespread understanding, at least partially, among non-legal types.
As the layperson’s perspective goes, there is an expectation of someone behaving a certain way or a duty. That behavior is not followed, and the violation ends up causing someone to get hurt.
So, the logic goes that whoever caused the damage is responsible for recovery. Again, this is probably the most standard aspect of the law most people understand, aside from criminal law, which punishes the convicted for doing bad things after arrest.
A personal injury attorney Maryland expert understands contributory negligence in Maryland. Still, the term will not win any big contests for recognition in most regular discussion circles. However, anyone involved in a personal injury lawsuit learns the term extremely well.
In short, where one party sues another for being hurt by their actions, i.e., a tort lawsuit, the defendant, in that case, can then argue contributory negligence to get out of having to be responsible for recovery or at least reduce the cost of it.
In Maryland, the standard negligence law applies, just like it does in the other 49 states of the Union. However, in the options for defense against a negligence lawsuit, Maryland is one of a handful of states (4 to be exact) that allows for pure contributory negligence to be argued.
Under normal contributory negligence arguments, whatever percent the court finds that a plaintiff contributed to their harm, the recovery in the lawsuit would be reduced accordingly. So, if a party were 25 percent responsible, then their recovery, if awarded in full, would only be 75 percent.
However, in a Maryland situation, the same case finding of contributory negligence would entirely wipe out any recovery for the plaintiff. There is no percentage adjustment; the defense makes the case an all-or-nothing situation. When these defenses are successful, they are devastating for the plaintiff’s side, especially after a long process of getting to trial in the first place.
The scenario of contributory negligence is not an odd one. It comes up more often than not in pedestrian and vehicle situations, usually because a person was hit by a car, but they were out in the street when they should not have been.
Vehicle injuries are serious and can easily put a person in the hospital or be fatal. However, if the person was jaywalking, the driver and his insurance company may be off the hook if their defense is successful in Maryland.
Another example of Maryland’s legal theory would be someone falling in a restaurant. Assume the floor has just been mopped for a moment, but no signs were put out warning people that it was wet.
A customer wants to make a big deal of someone’s birthday, so he gets up and starts singing and dancing. He steps on the floor and falls, hurting his hip and knee so bad the customer has to go to the hospital.
Under normal negligence, the customer could sue the restaurant for a dangerous floor condition. However, under Maryland’s law, the restaurant could argue the customer’s dancing was foolish and contributed to his risk. If approved, the defense would wipe out any recovery for the customer, even though he hurt his knee and hip so badly he cannot normally work again.
Recovery should never be an all-or-nothing, especially when it can be life-changing. Not anticipating the particularly drastic defense of Maryland’s contributory negligence is not something someone should find out for the first time in a court hearing.
The Law Office of Kim Parker P.A. regularly handles Maryland contributory negligence cases, as well as accident Maryland cases in civil court. An expert like Kim Parker can address this risk well ahead of time, putting forward a strong enough case to shut down such a defense in the first place.
Because of that expertise, clients have access to a Baltimore personal injury attorney who anticipates the likely defenses that will be thrown up in a case and how to respond to them. Call us today to have a consultation and learn how you can champion a contributory negligence case.