Contributory Negligence in Maryland

As an experienced Maryland personal injury lawyer, it is frustrating to that Maryland still follows the arcane doctrine of contributory negligence. As one of four jurisdictions in the United States that follows this doctrine, contributory negligence in Maryland causes congestion in the Maryland trial courts and unfair results for deserving victims.

The doctrine of contributory negligence basically says that if a victim of personal injury is 1% at fault, then that party is 100% barred from recovery anything.

For example; a drunk driver runs a stop sign and smashes into a sober driver. The injured sober driver is paralyzed by the collision. If the case goes to trial and the defense attorney successfully argues that the sober driver is contributory negligent because he was exceeding the speed limit and failed to avoid the collision with the drunk driver, the drunk driver who ran the stop sign pays nothing!

Despite being unfair and unjust, the doctrine of contributory negligence also needlessly clogs the court system. Such is the case because in Maryland because nearly every defendant has a shot at wining as long as winning means you have to show the plaintiff was 1% at fault (even though the defendant is 99% at fault). Having contributory negligence clogs Maryland courtrooms with thousands of slip and fall type cases because in nearly every slip and fall case, the defense attorney can claim that the injured party should have “watched where he was going”. For this reason and this reason alone, thousands of cases get filed in Maryland that otherwise should settle.

Most of the country adheres to the doctrine of comparative negligence. Simply put, fault is assigned by a percentage basis. Say a plaintiff has $100,000.00 in damages and the judge or jury finds the plaintiff was 40% at fault, the award is apportioned and reduced to $60,000.00. Certainly this seems more fair and will avoid the potential injustice in the example of the paralyzed driver cited above.

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