A Howard County soccer player’s injury lawsuit being tried in the high court in Maryland could help accident victims fare better in personal injury lawsuits. However, a Maryland lawmaker may propose a bill to block any changes to the existing laws. At the center of the controversy is something we Baltimore car accident injury attorneys are quite familiar with: The Maryland contributory negligence law.
Maryland is one of four states and the District of Columbia that have a “contributory negligence” law on the books. What this means for you, as an accident victim, is if you’re found to be even a tiny fraction at fault in an accident (e.g., a traffic crash or other accident), your insurance claim can be flat out denied and/or you could lose your lawsuit, at trial.
However the Maryland contributory negligence law is now being challenged in the high court. The Washington Examiner reports that, “A case before the Maryland Court of Appeals could change the requirement, making it easier for accident victims to sue — a change that victim advocates are cheering on.”
The case involves Kyle Coleman, a then 20-year-old soccer player who received serious head and facial injuries when a bar from a collapsed soccer goal fell on him. The player sued the Soccer Association of Columbia, Md., which was running the practice when he was injured. Attorneys for the defendant argued that because the plaintiff was swinging from the goal (a practice the association warns against) and had allegedly smoked marijuana earlier in the day, he was not eligible for compensation.
The Baltimore Sun reported in Sept. that “…a Howard County jury found the association was at fault in Coleman’s injury because it did not properly secure the goal. But because the jury also found that Coleman was at least partly responsible for the accident, he did not receive any payout.” An attorney representing the injured soccer player and chairman of the Maryland Association for Justice Political Action Committee reportedly called contributory negligence unfair.
Now the case is playing out in the Court of Appeals – challenging Maryland’s longstanding contributory negligence law. If the case brings about changes in the law about who can sue whom, victims’ rights advocates will be pleased. However state Del. Ben Kramer, D-Silver Spring, Maryland, says if that happens, he will propose a bill in January to keep the laws on the books as they stand.
Baltimore County accident injury lawyers like us see scenarios with contributory negligence play out time and time again – including in motor vehicle accidents. Say a pedestrian is struck down in Baltimore City by a speeding vehicle and suffers broken bones and internal injuries. A clear cut case, right? Not if the pedestrian was crossing the street NOT in a crosswalk. That can count against the individual and reduce or eliminate any compensation he or his family might receive in a lawsuit.
It might not seem fair, but according to the law in Maryland, that’s the way it is. As injury lawyers, we fight hard to obtain the maximum amount of compensation and damages possible for our clients – including in the face of Maryland’s often harsh contributory negligence law. We will watch for the outcome of this case in Howard County, Md., and whether it brings about changes to the law.
Related Maryland Injury Attorney article:
Maryland Medical Malpractice and Negligence: How Do I Know If I Have a Case? (Oct. 2009)
Maryland lawmaker hopes to prevent change making lawsuits easier
The Washington Examiner Nov. 27, 2012
Soccer field accident could remake Maryland personal injury law
Court of Appeals considers allowing injured people to win damages even if partly at fault The Baltimore Sun Sept. 18, 2012