Are There Exceptions to Contributory Negligence in Maryland?June 9, 2023
Maryland is one of only five states following the rule of contributory negligence. Under contributory negligence, if the injured driver contributed even one percent to the accident, they are barred from pursuing compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more. This can make a personal injury case an uphill battle.
Despite this, Maryland cites that contributory negligence helps keep insurance costs low, motivates drivers to act reasonably and safely, and provides a more efficient legal system. However, contributory negligence may seem unfair to those who are injured mainly through the negligence of others.
There are exceptions, however. In certain circumstances, you may be entitled to recover damages despite having a percentage of blame for the accident.
Last Clear Chance Doctrine
If the responsible party fails to take a final opportunity to avoid causing an accident and injuries, contributory negligence may not apply. The doctrine establishes a duty of care on the responsible party. It mandates a higher degree of negligence on whoever had the last opportunity to avoid an injury-causing accident but failed to do so.
Maryland Seat Belt Law
In Maryland, all vehicle occupants must wear a seat belt, though law enforcement may not stop a vehicle specifically for lack of seat belt use. The state considers seat belt violations as an “add-on” if discovered after an officer stops the vehicle for another violation. Maryland is one of approximately 30 states that does not consider a seat belt defense, meaning that failing to wear a seat belt may not be regarded as contributing to negligence in car accidents.
Failure to wear a seat belt is not considered a proximate cause in Maryland, and doing so has no role in increasing or decreasing the likelihood of an accident. Injuries from car accidents are typically worsened when not wearing a seat belt, which many states consider a factor in determining fault and calculating damages. The Maryland statute states that failure to wear a seat belt may not:
- Be considered as evidence in contributing to or determining negligence.
- Limit liability for any party.
- Impact recoverable damages.
Since seat belt use is allowed to determine negligence, lawyers and witnesses are prohibited from referencing seat belt usage during trials regarding personal injury, wrongful death, or property loss.
In car accident cases, contributory negligence may not be a defense if there is clear evidence that they intentionally caused the accident.
In Maryland, minors aged five and under are not held to the same standard as adults in personal injury cases due to their inability to understand their surroundings’ risks and inherent dangers. As such, contributory negligence does not apply when children aged five and under cause an accident resulting in injuries.
However, in children older than five but younger than 18, their negligence is compared to other children of similar age to determine whether their actions or inactions were reasonable or contributory.
Baltimore Personal Injury Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Represent Clients Injured by the Negligence of Others
Maryland’s contributory negligence law makes filing personal injury claims against the more responsible party challenging. If another has injured you, contact our Baltimore personal injury lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton. For a free consultation, call us at 800-547-4LAW (4529) or contact us online.
We have offices in Baltimore, Glen Burnie, Lanham, and Owings Mills, allowing us to represent clients in Maryland, including those in Anne Arundel County, Baltimore County, Carroll County, Harford County, Howard County, Montgomery County, Maryland’s Western Counties, Prince George’s County, Queen Anne’s County, Southern Maryland, and the Eastern Shore, as well as the communities of Catonsville, Essex, Halethorpe, Middle River, Rosedale, Gwynn Oak, Brooklandville, Dundalk, Pikesville, Nottingham, Windsor Mill, Lutherville, Timonium, Sparrows Point, Ridgewood, and Elkridge.