Does Maryland’s Contributory Negligence Statute Apply to Boating-related Personal Injury Claims?
Yes, but this depends greatly on the facts of the case and the legal strategy applied by the plaintiff’s attorney. To preface this discussion, we first need to revisit the meaning of Contributory Negligence and the role it can play in a Maryland personal injury lawsuit.
There is little argument that Maryland’s contributory negligence statute has thwarted otherwise successful personal injury and wrongful death claims for many years. In a nutshell, the doctrine of contributory negligence says that any negligence at all on the part of the plaintiff will completely prevent recovery of any damages. In fact, Maryland is one of a small handful of states that still carries this arguably harsh legal statute on its books.
Learning of the contributory negligence rule for the first time, not to mention its actual use as a defense against an altogether legitimate claim of personal injury or wrongful death, can often come as a terrible shock to victims who have wound up in an emergency room due to the blatantly negligent actions of another individual. Sadly, unless a plaintiff can demonstrate that there was absolutely no contributory negligence on his or her part, even the most seemingly open-and-closed injury case could be easily lost.
At this point, it needs to be mentioned that most states observe the legal doctrine known as Comparative Negligence. In contrast to contributory negligence, comparative negligence provides for a reduction in damages commensurate with the role that victim’s actions played in causing a personal injury accident.
In other words, while Maryland law states that a victim is not allowed to collect any damages even if his or her actions were proven to have only been one-percent the cause of the accident, most other states in the Union with comparative negligence statutes on their books will often see plaintiffs receiving more equitable damage awards in personal injury cases.
But how could this apply to injury claims arising from a Maryland boating accident? Although the specter of contributory negligence may threaten to ruin an otherwise strong boating injury case, there could still be a glimmer of hope for some victims of Maryland watercraft accidents.
Although Maryland courts still recognize the contributory negligence defense for automobile, trucking and motorcycle crashes, some Maryland boating accident cases can be tried under U.S. federal maritime law; and doing so can greatly improve a victim’s chances of recovering damages, which can be especially important in such instances where the plaintiff may have had a small degree of responsibility regarding the cause of the accident.
At Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC, our personal injury attorneys understand the law and how it can be applied to a wide of vehicle accident cases, whether on land or in Maryland’s waterways. By taking the approach of trying a boating-related personal injury case under maritime law, our clients have another avenue to consider when pursuing damages from a negligent party. Keep in mind that even under federal maritime law, the statute of limitations for filing a personal injury suit is still three years. Based on the law, the clock starts ticking on the date that injury accident took place. Should a plaintiff ignore this strict three-year limitation and delay speaking to an attorney, he or she can risk running out of time before the statute of limitations expires, after which they would be prohibited from ever recovering compensation regardless of the merits of their case.
Furthermore, it is very important to remember that filing an insurance claim is not the same as filing a lawsuit in a state or federal court for purposes of meeting the requirements of the statute of limitations. This is why it is highly recommended that victims of Maryland boating accidents consult with a qualified attorney as soon as possible following any injury-related car, truck or boat accident.
If you or someone you care about has been seriously injured in a boating accident in Maryland waters, we strongly urge you to consider speaking with one of our seasoned attorneys to better understand your rights under the law. Place a call to our law offices and arrange for a free legal consultation. There is no obligation to retain our services, but this initial meeting should help you learn about your legal recourse following a personal injury accident.
Our Maryland personal injury lawyers have helped guide a great many accident victims through what is often a complex and sometimes confusing legal process. Our job is to help you and your loved ones recover damages to which they are rightfully entitled under the law. We are more than happy to assist you in understanding your legal rights and pursuing the financial compensation you deserve.