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What is Contributory Negligence with Respect to Maryland Auto Accidents?

Contributory negligence is a legal concept that can cause trouble for many victims of Maryland automobile accidents who seek legal remedy for monetary damages following an injury-related traffic accident. Under Maryland state law, any recovery of compensation for losses suffered as a result of a traffic accident requires the injured party to prove that the other driver was 100-percent at fault. However, if the plaintiff’s actions can be shown to have contributed IN ANY WAY to the accident, the case may likely be thrown out on the basis of “contributory negligence.”

Because Maryland is an “at-fault” auto insurance state, many claims end up being denied if the defendant (or at-fault party) can prove that the plaintiff was even partially at fault. Without the ability to prove the other motorist was totally at fault, the possibility of recovering money to pay for property damage and medical bills may not materialize.

Basically, a driver who causes a traffic collision is responsible for paying for damages resulting from the accident. In Maryland, if you are involved in a car, truck or motorcycle crash, which has been caused by the actions of another driver, there are three avenues open to you:

  • File a claim against the negligent driver’s insurance company
  • File a claim with your own auto insurance carrier (depending on the type of coverage)
  • File a lawsuit directly against the negligent motorist

Regardless of whether or not a driver files a claim against their insurance carrier (or files a lawsuit against the other driver), under Maryland state law, any recovery of compensation for losses suffered as a result of a traffic accident requires that the injured party must prove the other driver’s fault. However, keep in mind that if you can be shown to have contributed in any way to the accident, the recovery of compensation may be a struggle, at best.

Here in Maryland, a driver who is partially at fault for a car, truck or SUV collision may be totally barred from recovering what he or she believes to be deserved compensation for the injuries sustained in the traffic accident. While many in the legal community believe that Maryland’s contributory negligence statute is too harsh and tends to unduly penalize many injured parties who would otherwise benefit from a personal injury lawsuit.

Still, at the current time, Maryland state law holds that any person who contributes to his or her injuries through their own negligence — regardless of the degree of that fault — is prevented by law from seeking compensation from the other involved party(s) even when the defendant’s negligence is shown to be much more serious.

Maryland’s contributory negligence statute stands in stark contrast to many other states, which use a “comparative negligence” rule. Plaintiffs in those states can often win a judgment for compensation even though the defendant shows some degree of negligence on the plaintiff’s part. In such instances, the plaintiff’s compensation award is typically reduced proportionally based on the degree of his or her fault in accident.

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I am proud to have had Lebowitz & Mzhen represent me in an automobile personal injury case I was involved with. Not only did they come through with a settlement worth far more than I thought possible, the entire office was always friendly, knowledgeable, and ready to answer any questions I had. Should an incident like this occur again, I will not hesitate to contact Lebowitz & Mzhen for their counsel, advice and representation, and I would wholeheartedly recommend them to anyone seeking honest and effective attorneys. Mark B.
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