According to the American Bar Association (ABA), some exceptions where contributory negligence laws do not apply include:
- Personal injury cases involving minors, particularly children younger than five years of age
- Product liability cases
- Personal injury cases where the “last clear chance” rule might apply
You can have a law firm review your personal injury case to determine whether contributory negligence may be used as a viable argument against you. If contributory negligence laws do not apply to your case, you may be able to win compensation for your injuries and losses. A personal injury lawyer can explain which laws are relevant to your case and help you structure your arguments to pursue financial recovery.
Minors Are Not Held to the Same Standard as Adults in Personal Injury Cases
The Maryland Law Review issued an article in 1954 on the contributory negligence of children regarding the Miller v. Graff, Mahan v. State, and Bozman v. State cases. The journal determined that children aged five and younger do not have the capability to understand the dangers of their surroundings or risks in certain actions in the same way as a full-grown adult would, and thus cannot be held contributory negligent for their injuries.
The comparison to adult negligence is key. Small children may be considered negligent, but when compared to children of similar age, their negligence is reasonable due to their maturity levels and experience. Legal adults, however, are capable of processing risk hazards and upholding a duty of care to others and themselves.
In cases involving children older than five but younger than 18, their negligence may be compared to other children of similar age to determine whether their actions or omissions were reasonable or contributory to the cause of the accident.
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Manufacturers Have More Responsibility to Ensure Their Products Are Safe
Product liability cases refer to injuries or illnesses that occur because of a defective or hazardous product. These cases follow the strict liability tort rule, which places more liability on the manufacturer because their product was sold in the public market and should have been tested for potential hazards to avoid causing harm to the general consumer population.
Product defects are generally categorized in three ways: defects in the product’s design, manufacturing, or labeling (sometimes referred to as “marketing”). There are still arguments that manufacturers can make to claim contributory negligence by the plaintiff; however, these arguments must be able to prove how the plaintiff used the product incorrectly or how they already had prior knowledge of the product’s risks. As a defense, this can be difficult to definitively prove and may be dismissed.
The University of Baltimore Law Review cites the Sheehan v. Anthony Pools case as the main formula of structuring an argument against product manufacturers, noting why they are subject to strict liability. Essentially, the journal breaks the argument down as so:
- The plaintiff bought the product.
- The seller sold the product in its defective condition.
- The product’s condition made it “unreasonably dangerous” to consumers.
- The defective product injured the plaintiff.
- The defective product should not have been sold in the public market if it had gone through proper testing to discover its defects.
Plaintiffs May Still Be Able to Use the “Last Clear Chance” Rule
As a final argument, plaintiffs may be able to use the “last clear chance” rule to their defense against contributory negligence claims. The rule mandates that whoever had the last opportunity to avoid the cause of injury is held to a higher negligent degree and holds liability. In such a case, if the defendant had the last opportunity to practice more care and avoid the accident from happening, they may be held liable for their negligence.
Your lawyer can review your case and inform you whether the last clear chance rule may apply to your case.
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The Law Offices of Adam M. Smallow Wants to Help You Strategize Your Personal Injury Case
While contributory negligence can be an intimidating doctrine to injured parties, it is not a fail-safe argument for defendants to use against plaintiffs to avoid paying compensation. There are some exceptions where contributory negligence laws do not apply, and there may be strategies available to you in your case that may help you refute the defendant’s attempts to absolve themselves of liability. A personal injury lawyer from the Law Offices of Adam M. Smallow may be able to review your case and begin strategizing your case arguments based on their experience with similar cases in Maryland.
You do not have to go through the litigation process alone and risk being unprepared for the opposing party’s statements. An Edgewood personal injury lawyer can serve as your legal guide and advise you when necessary as challenges come. If you have more questions about the personal injury process in Maryland, feel free to call our law office at (410) 777-8960 for a free consultation. A team representative can review your case and explain your legal options, including how one of our attorneys may be able to assist you.
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