If you're the victim of a motor vehicle or pedestrian accident in Maryland, don't assume the legal odds are stacked in your favor. Like our neighbors in Washington, D.C., Maryland has something called a contributory negligence law. This means if you are found to be even one percent responsible for the accident -- your insurance claim may be denied and you may be barred from collecting damages or compensation for your injuries.
Contributory negligence is the primary reason you need an experienced accident injury lawyer if you're hurt in a motor vehicle crash in Maryland.
The law sounds unfair. And victims' rights advocates would agree it is unfair. However, contributory negligence laws here in Maryland and Washington, D.C. have yet to be overturned.
Like in Maryland, D.C. public safety groups have pushed for legislation to change the district's contributory negligence law to comparative negligence. Comparative negligence determines how the responsibility for an accident would be shared between the parties involved in a crash.
Unfortunately, a bill proposed by a D.C. Council panel to end contributory negligence for bikers and pedestrians was just killed in committee. The bill would have made it easier for bicyclists and pedestrians to collect damages when they are injured in a motor vehicle accident. The contributory negligence standard governs tort claims in the District.
As we know from our experience as accident injury attorneys in Baltimore County, Maryland, bicyclists and pedestrians can suffer catastrophic and fatal injuries when they're involved in a motor vehicle crash.
However that vulnerability was not enough to move lawmakers in D.C. to exempt bikers and pedestrians from the law. Insurance companies object to changing the contributory negligence law, which is no surprise to us. This was D.C.'s third attempt at changing the law, and failing.
Though Maryland's own contributory negligence law is archaic, it still stands. Like our neighbors in D.C., Maryland has also seen bills targeting contributory negligence considered by state lawmakers, only to die a quiet death. (See link to related blog article, below.)
Maryland is one of only four states and the District of Columbia to keep a contributory negligence law on its books. The other states are Virginia, Alabama and North Carolina. Victims' rights advocates describe these contributory negligence laws as "harsh." That's why other states have overturned them.
But until our state lawmakers agree and change the law -- contributory negligence is, indeed, the law of the land in Maryland. That's why we fight hard for our clients. Don't attempt to go it alone if you're injured in a traffic accident…the law is not in your favor.
Related Baltimore Accident Injury Attorney article:
Maryland Personal Injury Law : Court Upholds Contributory Negligence Law in Soccer Player Accident Case (July 2013)
D.C. Council proposal to protect bicyclists, pedestrians dies in committee
WashingtonPost.com Nov. 25, 2014
Comparative vs. Contributory Negligence