Normally, juries in personal injury cases are asked to determine whether a driver acted in an unreasonable manner. However, in cases where a driver violated the motor vehicle code and that violation ultimately caused the accident, juries are often instructed to presume that the driver was negligent without subjectively considering the reasonableness of his or her actions. This is called negligence per se and, due to Maryland’s strict laws regarding the use of cell phones and distracted driving, it can play a major role in car accident litigation.
The state of Maryland has some of the strictest distracted driving laws in the nation:
- Effective October 1, 2010, all drivers in Maryland were prohibited from using handheld cell phones while driving except for the narrow purpose of making emergency service calls — 911, police, fire, etc.
- This law also applied to texting while driving.
The reason this is important in the context of car accidents is that it creates a strong presumption that a driver who was texting or talking on a handheld phone at the time of an accident was at fault. This is why Hunt Valley car accident attorneys obtain phone records to determine if any involved drivers were talking on the phone just prior to a collision.
While the fact that a driver was on the phone does not guarantee he or she was at fault, it does strengthen your case and can be used as leverage for settlement negotiations. Unfortunately, these laws can also work against injured drivers. Under Maryland’s strict contributory negligence system, an injured driver who was talking on the phone may be held as partially at fault for his or her own injuries — and therefore unable to receive any compensation for injuries which may have occurred.