Contributory Negligence in Maryland

At least for now, injured people in Maryland and their attorneys face some unique challenges when seeking compensation through the legal process. Maryland is only one of four remaining states in the U.S. that utilizes the rule of contributory negligence in dealing with cases where the injured party bears some responsibility for his or her injury. While this may change in the near future, for now it is an issue that Maryland attorneys must be prepared to confront.

Contributory negligence essentially says that an injured person who bears any fault for his or her own injuries, regardless of how slight that fault may be, cannot recover any compensation. This stands in stark contrast to the rule in most other states that assign percentages of fault to plaintiffs and then reduce their recoveries accordingly. Under the current law in Maryland:

  • A plaintiff who is even one percent at fault cannot recover anything.
  • A plaintiff’s fault is determined in much the same way as that of the defendant.
  • Courts and juries determine whether plaintiffs acted in an unreasonable manner and if but for that unreasonable act or failure to act the injury would not have occurred.

Therefore, Maryland personal injury attorneys must be prepared to essentially act as defense attorneys when defendants raise this defense.

The good news is that contributory negligence in Maryland may be nearing its last days, after more than 100 years of legal precedent. The Maryland Court of Appeals is currently considering the case of Coleman v. Soccer Association of Columbia and many expect the court’s decision will abrogate the concept of contributory negligence. Moreover, legislation has been introduced in the Maryland legislature that would statutorily repeal the concept and replace it with comparative negligence.

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