Personal Injury Blog

Maryland High Court Upholds the Doctrine of Contributory Negligence for Accident Cases

"Contributory negligence" is an old legal doctrine, inherited from England, that establishes the legal standard that if you are harmed by someone else's negligence but were partially at fault – even if you were much less at fault than the primary wrongdoer – you cannot recover any compensation, and your lawsuit will fail. Only Maryland, the District of Columbia, and three other southeastern states maintain the doctrine of contributory negligence in its original form. Every other state in America has adopted some form of what is called "comparative fault," meaning that even if the plaintiff is partially at fault, he or she can still obtain some compensation – although that compensation will be reduced to some extent. For example, an injured victim who is 20% at fault for causing an accident may therefore be entitled to recover up to 80% of the compensation they would have otherwise received if the other party was entirely at fault.

This year, Maryland's high court, the Court of Appeals, came very close to repealing the doctrine of contributory negligence and replacing it with a comparative fault system. In the case of Coleman v. Soccer Association of Columbia, a young boy was injured when he jumped onto and swung from a soccer goal that collapsed upon him. The Court of Appeals seriously considered a change in the law, and heard arguments from various intellectuals and interest groups from across the state on the issue. For years, many advocates and legal experts have opposed the use of contributory negligence, as it is typically unfair and uncompassionate for injured victims and families in need.

However, on July 9, 2013, by a 5 to 2 margin, a majority of the Court declined to reject contributory negligence, and reaffirmed the status quo. The Court held that if contributory negligence is to be replaced, it must be done by Maryland's legislature, the General Assembly. Thus it remains the law that if you are in a car accident, you must be entirely free of blame to successfully file a personal injury claim.

If you have any questions about what contributory negligence is, and how it might affect your auto accident claim, you should contact the Maryland personal injury lawyers at Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C. Equipped with decades of combined experience and a well-rounded knowledge of personal injury law, our legal team is prepared to inform you about your rights, the potential merits of your claim, and the ways in which we can be of assistance when fighting for the compensation you rightfully deserve.