Contributory negligence is a legal doctrine upheld in Maryland. This doctrine dictates that if a plaintiff contributed to the cause of an accident in any way, they might be denied compensation for their damages due to being partially negligent. This doctrine can serve as a harsh standard to meet since even one percent of contributory negligence can bar a plaintiff from receiving damages.
For this reason, many people opt to work with a personal injury lawyer in Maryland to help them anticipate potential counterarguments the opposing party or parties might make in their case. To learn more about why contributory negligence is upheld in Maryland, continue reading.
Maryland Is One of Four States That Still Upholds Contributory Negligence
According to the American Bar Association (ABA), Maryland is one of four states that abides by the contributory negligence doctrine, along with Alabama, Virginia, and North Carolina. The District of Columbia also abides by this rule.
Many states have converted to a comparative negligence doctrine, having once followed contributory negligence. Comparative negligence is more forgiving toward plaintiffs and allows them to recover compensation even if they were partially at fault. However, their reward may be affected by their degree of negligence.
Pivotal Cases in the 2010s Confirmed Contributory Negligence in Maryland
In 2010 and 2013, two pivotal personal injury cases heard by the Court of Appeals of Maryland established how contributory negligence remains a viable defense in Maryland. These cases serve as a point of reference for personal injury lawyers to consider when building their arguments for their clients, both for prosecution and defense.
George Poole v. Coakley & Williams Construction, Inc.
George Poole v. Coakley & Williams Construction, Inc. is a 2010 personal injury case that determined how viable an argument about the plaintiff’s assumption of risk may be.
An “assumption of risk” refers to a plaintiff’s prior knowledge of the risk of the danger involved in the case situation. If the plaintiff understood that the event or hazard had an element of risk involved before they were injured, the defendant may contest the plaintiff’s claim for compensation and use contributory negligence as a counterargument.
To do this, the defendant must also prove that the plaintiff definitively had this knowledge beforehand, not that they should have had it. This distinction might involve proving that the plaintiff had experience with the hazard or event or that the danger should have been obvious enough for the plaintiff to avoid it.
Coleman v. Soccer Association of Columbia
The Coleman v. Soccer Association of Columbia case in 2013 recently established why contributory negligence is still upheld in Maryland and is often cited as an example of the doctrine’s power in the state.
James K. Coleman, a volunteer soccer coach, filed a lawsuit against the Soccer Association of Columbia after sustaining facial fractures when a goal post fell on his face. The accident occurred after Coleman jumped up and grabbed the goal bar, only for the goal to fall forward because it was not anchored. Coleman argued that the Soccer Association was negligent because they did not anchor the goal post. The Soccer Association contested that the accident would not have occurred if Coleman had checked to see if the goal was anchored first, which would have been his own duty of care.
Because Coleman was found partially at fault for his accident, he was not allowed to collect compensation for his damages.
Scholars Have Been Criticizing Contributory Negligence for Years
The Coleman v. Soccer Association of Columbia case has been criticized by scholars in the past, namely in 2014 in the Maryland Law Review. In their essay, “Apportioning Liability in Maryland Tort Cases: Time to End Contributory Negligence and Joint and Several Liability,” scholars Christopher J. Robinette and Donald G. Gifford argue that the contributory doctrine remains too lenient on defendants and does not hold them accountable for their negligence against plaintiffs.
While some scholars argue that Maryland should convert to a comparative negligence state, the fact is that contributory negligence remains in law today.
The Law Offices of Adam M. Smallow Wants to Fight for Your Case
Contributory negligence can be an intimidating obstacle to overcome in personal injury cases in Maryland. Hiring a lawyer who is familiar with this legal doctrine and has experience fighting against it may help you get the compensation you need to recover from your damages. The Law Offices of Adam M. Smallow works hard to prepare our clients’ cases for defense arguments regarding contributory negligence, and we aim to help support your case with enough evidence as well.
If you are still wondering what contributory negligence is and how it pertains to your case, call our law firm at (410) 877-6021 for a free case evaluation. You can speak with a member of our team about your accident and where your case stands. We can also refer you to trusted medical providers during this call that our staff and families would use.
If you decide to work with us, we can set up your client profile and also provide you a unique texting number for you to reach us at any time, any day of the week. We make ourselves available for contact as much as possible, so do not hesitate to reach out today.