Personal injury claims in Maryland are based on negligence or intentional wrongdoing. If someone causes you harm or injury, you can typically sue that person to recover compensation for your injuries, economic losses, and other damages.
However, you must prove the legal elements of a negligence claim before you can recover compensation.
Even after you prove the elements of negligence, other factors can affect the amount of money you receive for your injury claim.
Allegations of contributory fault by the insurance company or the at-fault party could significantly impact the value of your personal injury claim.
What is Contributory Fault?
Contributory fault or contributory negligence is a legal theory that bars an injured person from recovering any compensation for damages if the injured person contributed to the cause of the accident.
In other words, if you have even the slightest responsibility for the cause of the accident that caused your injury, you cannot recover any compensation for your damages.
Most states have adopted a more equitable way of allocating damages in a personal injury case. Comparative negligence reduces the amount of compensation a victim might receive by the percentage of fault the victim has for the cause of the accident. Some states have set a 50 to 51 percent bar for recovery.
Maryland is just one of four states and the District of Columbia that still uses the harsh standard of contributory fault in accident cases. The other three states that continue to use contributory negligence for accident claims are Alabama, Virginia, and North Carolina. An injured victim anywhere else in the United States does not need to worry about this harsh negligence standard.
How Does Contributory Negligence Work?
Let’s assume that you were injured in a car accident when a distracted driver failed to stop at a red light and crashed into your vehicle. The collision caused you to sustain a broken leg, concussion, and whiplash.
You were out of work for months after surgery on your leg and had to endure weeks of physical therapy before you could walk again without a cane. The other driver’s insurance company refused to settle your injury claim, so your attorney filed a lawsuit against the at-fault driver.
The defense attorney raised the question of your speed at the time of the crash. Eyewitnesses stated that you had passed them and were driving at a high rate of speed. The defense argues that you could have avoided the collision had you been driving the speed limit.
The jury agrees and finds that you contributed to the cause of the car accident by just a slight percent. Because of Maryland’s strict contributory negligence standard, you are barred from receiving any compensation for your injuries, medical bills, lost income, and other damages.
By raising contributory negligence in Maryland, the insurance company avoids paying you anything for the accident.
How Can Injury Victims Avoid Allegations of Contributory Fault?
You cannot prevent the other party in an accident from alleging that you contributed to the cause of the accident.
However, there are steps that you can take to protect yourself after an accident, such as:
- Report the accident immediately to the proper parties (i.e., call 911 for a traffic accident and report a slip and fall to the property owner)
- Ask eyewitnesses at the accident scene for their contact information
- Do not discuss the details of the accident with anyone at the scene other than a police officer
- Never apologize for the accident or admit fault for the accident
- Do not agree to provide a written or recorded statement to the insurance company
- Avoid talking to insurance adjusters until you meet with a personal injury attorney
- Do not post anything on social media or online while your case is pending
As soon as possible, contact a personal injury lawyer to discuss your case. An attorney can evaluate your case based on negligence laws and help you if you are being blamed for an accident.
What Types of Personal Injury Cases Does Contributory Negligence Apply?
Contributory negligence can apply in all cases involving injuries caused by negligence.
The other party can raise contributory fault allegations in cases involving:
- Bicycle accidents
- Motorcycle crashes
- Car accidents
- Boating accidents
- Dog bites
- Truck accidents
- Defective product claims (product liability)
- Slip and fall accidents
- Pedestrian accidents
Insurance companies are skilled in using contributory fault to avoid paying valid personal injury claims. In the court case of Coleman v. Soccer Association of Columbia, the Court of Appeals of Maryland confirmed that contributory negligence would remain the standard for negligence cases.
It will remain the law in Maryland unless the legislature changes the law.
What Compensation Can I Receive if I Win?
If the other party alleges that you contributed to the cause of your injury, you do not receive additional compensation if you win the case. The jury awards compensation based on the damages you sustained because of the accident and injury.
Common damages in a personal injury case include:
- Physical pain and suffering
- Disabilities and permanent impairments
- The cost of medical care and treatment of injuries
- The cost of personal care and assistance with household chores
- Loss of salary, wages, benefits, bonuses, commissions, and other forms of income
- Mental anguish and grief
- Emotional distress and anxiety
- Decreases in future earning potential
- Ongoing medical care and future lost wages
- Decreases in your quality of life or enjoyment of life
The value of a personal injury claim depends on a number of factors. Your injury lawyer can help you document your damages to maximize the value of your injury claim.
Evidence You Can Use to Fight Claims of Contributory Negligence
You can fight the contributory negligence law by offering evidence that proves you had no fault for the cause of an accident or injury. Our legal team conducts a comprehensive investigation to gather evidence proving how the accident occurred.
Examples of evidence that we can use to disprove allegations of comparative fault include, but are not limited to:
- Eyewitness testimony
- Video of an accident or crash
- Expert testimony
- Physical evidence from the accident scene
- Damage to vehicles
- Data collected from vehicle systems
- Traffic light data and information
- Cell phone records
The circumstances of your case may dictate the type of evidence we might search for when investigating the case. We may depose the other party to force them to answer questions under oath. If their story changes during a trial, we can use the sworn testimony during the deposition to challenge their testimony.
Call Our Maryland Personal Injury Lawyers for a Free Consultation
If you have questions about a personal injury claim, contact our office to schedule a free consultation with an experienced Maryland personal injury attorney. We analyze your claim and provide an honest assessment of your case free of charge.