Wednesday, October 5, 2011

What Is Contributory Negligence in a Maryland Automobile Accident Case?

Maryland is one of five states that uses contributory negligence instead of comparative negligence. The majority of states use the doctrine of comparative negligence which means, when both the victim and the defendant contributed to an accident by failing to exercise a reasonable degree of care and caution, each party's degree of liability is apportioned. The total amount that an accident victim is awarded is lessened in direct relation to his or her own negligence. For instance, if a jury found that an accident victim was entitled to $1,000,000.00 in damages but found that the victim was 20% at fault, the jury award would be $800,000.00.

Maryland's contributory negligence doctrine is more cut throat and can be a complete bar to an injured victim's recovery. Maryland personal injury attorneys often struggle to help clients because of this all or nothing rule. Under contributory negligence, the accident victim's failure to exercise a reasonable degree of care and caution, no matter how slight, is an absolute bar to recovery. If the defendant's lawyer can convince a jury that the victim was only 1% at fault, that individual will not recover any damages.

Maryland personal injury lawyers have been struggling against the doctrine of contributory negligence since it was adopted by the Maryland Court of Appeals in 1847. In 1868, accident victims received some reprieve when the Court of Appeals adopted the last clear chance doctrine. The last clear chance doctrine allows recovery by an accident victim, who would other wise be barred from recovery due to contributory negligence, if the defendant had the last chance to avoid the accident. When the defendant is negligent and the victim is contributorily negligent, the Plaintiff can still recover damages if there is a showing that something new or sequential affords the defendant a fresh opportunity to avert the consequences of his original negligence.

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