In Maryland, to prove your case in an auto accident lawsuit, you must show that the defendant was negligent, i.e., that the defendant did something wrong to cause the accident. In turn, even if the defendant was negligent, the defendant can win by showing that you were also negligent. When a plaintiff is negligent, this is called “contributory negligence.” If the defendant is negligent but the plaintiff is contributorily negligent, the defendant wins completely.
Exception to the Rule
But one exception lies, and this is the doctrine of “last clear chance.” If both parties were negligent, but the defendant had some final opportunity to avoid the accident, and the defendant committed the last negligent act, the plaintiff can still recover. The emphasis is on last – the defendant and the plaintiff cannot both be negligent at the same time (unless the defendant then commits a second negligent act).
So, for example, imagine that you are riding a motorcycle, slip on a patch of water, and land in the middle of the road in broad daylight. A minute later, a car comes along. The driver is texting, doesn’t see you lying there, and runs over you, further injuring you. In this case, the driver is negligent, and you are contributorily negligent, but the doctrine of last clear chance may apply so that you can still recover.
If you have any questions about whether you can recover after an automobile collision, you should contact the personal injury attorneys at Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C.