Contributory Negligence in Annapolis Car Accident Cases

When a person is injured in a car accident in Annapolis, they may wish to bring a personal injury claim against the other party in the accident. If someone is to have a successful claim, it is very important for them to be able to establish that the other party was fully liable for the accident. The need for this full liability is based on Maryland’s status as a contributory negligence state. An Annapolis car accident attorney can help to determine the liability in the accident, and whether or not there is basis for a successful personal injury case.

What is Contributory Negligence?

Maryland is one of a handful of states that has the law of contributory negligence. The other states have what is called comparative negligence, where the fault of each of the parties is apportioned. For example, if the defendant is deemed to be 75% at fault and the plaintiff is deemed 25% at fault, then the injured victim could be compensated for that 75%.

In Annapolis, however, which is in a contributory negligence state, if the at-fault party is 99% at fault and the injured victim is 1% at fault, then the injured party is thereby prevented from recovering.  It is a complete barrier to a recovery in a case.

Impact on Liability

It is a harsh law and that is why it has been rejected by the vast majority of states in the country. Nonetheless, it is Maryland law, and it has been upheld by the Court of Appeals on a number of occasions. It can only be changed by the legislature and the legislature does not seem ready to reconsider, likely largely due to the well-financed and organized insurance lobby, which has prevented the legislature from changing the law in Maryland.

If contributory negligence is found in the case, then the plaintiff is barred from recovering.  The only way to overcome contributory negligence is a doctrine called Last Clear Chance, which is a very difficult standard to overcome the effect of contributory negligence.

Proving Fault in an Annapolis Car Accident

If in the collision, the at-fault party has caused the accident, it is the plaintiff’s duty to prove that the defendant was at fault.

If the defendant is claiming contributory negligence, then it is the burden of the defendant to say that the plaintiff’s conduct in some way contributed to the accident. However, just some conduct on the part of the plaintiff that contributed to the accident is not enough, the conduct must be considered also to be the proximate cause of the collision.

If it is proven that the plaintiff’s conduct did contribute and proximately caused the accident, then the plaintiff will then have the burden of proving whether the defendant still had enough information and ability to avoid the accident. It becomes a very factually intensive analysis of the conduct and the reasonableness of the conduct of the respective parties to determine the primary negligence against the defendant, the contributory negligence of the plaintiff, and the last clear chance by the defendant.

Due to the complexity of this matter, it is definitely advisable to consult with an attorney about a personal injury case, before it goes to trial.