Maryland’s Strict Contributory Negligence Law

When it comes to determining who can bring a Maryland personal injury lawsuit against the person or people they believe to be responsible for their injuries, Maryland has one of the strictest laws in the nation. Under Maryland’s contributory negligence rule, a plaintiff who is found even to be at all at fault for causing the accident that resulted in their injuries will be precluded from recovering compensation for their injuries.

The alternative, used by most states, is called comparative fault. Under the comparative fault analysis, a plaintiff who is partially at fault can still recover for their injuries; however, their recovery amount will be reduced by their own percentage of fault. A recent case illustrates how a case may turn out very differently in a state that applies comparative fault versus one that applies contributory negligence.

A Woman’s Husband Is Killed by a Fast-Moving Train

The plaintiff in the case was the surviving spouse of a man who was killed when his truck was crushed by a train at an intersection. According to the court’s recitation of the facts, the plaintiff alleged that the railway was negligent in failing to trim the foliage surrounding the intersection, which obscured motorists’ vision and prevented them from seeing whether a train was coming. The plaintiff also claimed that the employees of the railway were negligent because, from their higher vantage point, they should have seen her husband’s truck at the intersection.

The case was presented to a jury, which returned a verdict in favor of the plaintiff. The jury determined fault as follows:

  • 80% of the fault was assigned to the railway company;
  • 15% of the fault was assigned to the employees of the railway; and
  • 5% of the fault was assigned to the plaintiff’s husband.

The jury also determined that the total damages suffered by the plaintiff were $20 million. Thus, the court then reduced the jury’s award amount by the plaintiff’s husband’s percentage of fault, arriving at the final award amount of $19 million. The railway company appealed, but the verdict and damages award were affirmed on appeal.

What Would Have Happened in Maryland?

If this case arose in Maryland, and the jury returned the same fault determinations, the plaintiff would be entitled to nothing for the loss of her husband. This case illustrates both the harshness of the contributory negligence doctrine as well as the importance of having a dedicated Maryland personal injury attorney to assist in the preparation and litigation of a case. With an attorney’s help, accident victims can decrease the chance that a savvy defense attorney will be able to shift a small portion of the blame onto them, defeating their opportunity to recover.

Have You Been Injured in a Maryland Accident?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a Maryland traffic accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. At the law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen Personal Injury Lawyers, we represent the victims of Maryland truck accidents, train accidents, and bus accidents in cases against those who are responsible for their injuries. To learn more, call 410-654-3600 to schedule a free consultation with an attorney to discuss your case today. Calling is free, and we will not be paid for our services unless you are able to obtain the compensation you deserve.

More Blog Posts:

Filing a Personal Injury Claim after a Maryland Truck Accident, Maryland Trucking Accident Lawyer Blog, published May 17, 2018.

Court Requires Defendant to Compensate Plaintiff for Medical Treatment of His Choice, Maryland Trucking Accident Lawyer Blog, published June 5, 2018.

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