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United States District Court for the District of Maryland
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Bar Association of Montgomery County, Maryland

Car Accidents

Personal injuries caused by negligent, careless, and reckless driving are common in Maryland. If you have suffered injuries because of someone else’s driving, you should consult with an experienced Maryland car accident attorney in order to obtain the maximum relief available to you. There may be a significant gap between what you are entitled to and what another driver’s insurance company offers to pay you. Insurers retain significant percentages of the premiums paid by their insured members by not paying out the full value of what an accident costs to accident victims. Knowledgeable legal counsel can help you navigate the complexities of the insurance and damage recovery process, and assist you in seeking the financial compensation you deserve.

Negligence Under Maryland Law

Negligence is one of the most common reasons for personal injuries from car accidents. In legal terms, negligence claims consist of: (1) a duty, (2) a breach of that duty, and (3) an injury (4) caused by the breach of duty. Those who are injured as a result of someone else’s driving may be entitled to compensation for all their current medical expenses, future medical expenses, the cost of vehicle repair, reimbursement for lost income, rental car expenses, and pain and suffering.

Maryland is one of five jurisdictions in the United States that continues to follow the “contributory negligence” doctrine instead of comparative negligence. In comparative negligence states, damages awarded to an accident victim are decreased according to his or her percentage of fault for an accident. In a contributory negligence state like Maryland, if an accident victim did not use due care and thereby “contributed” to the cause of the accident at all, he or she is barred from recovering anything. Therefore, if a jury finds the accident victim even 1% at fault for the accident, she cannot obtain an award.

Some examples of contributory negligence by the plaintiff are: speeding, making sudden or unexpected movements, riding with a drunk or sleepy driver, or riding in a car that has defects like faulty brakes or nonworking turn signals. Any of these actions can be a complete bar to a plaintiff’s recovery if they partially caused the accident. However, they do not act as a bar if they merely worsened injuries, rather than caused them.

Since 1868, Maryland has also followed the doctrine of the "last clear chance." Under this doctrine, a defendant can be liable in spite of a plaintiff’s contributory negligence if the defendant has actual knowledge (or a duty to know) that a particular course of conduct is going to injure the plaintiff, but fails to use ordinary care to avoid the course of conduct where the plaintiff cannot be reasonably expected to avoid the accident himself. This standard is extremely difficult for a plaintiff to prove, just as the contributory negligence standard is hard to overcome.

Critics of Maryland’s use of the contributory negligence doctrine have long called for Maryland to change its personal injury rules. Until this happens, contributory negligence may be used as a full defense to a personal injury action. Due to the difficult standards imposed by these doctrines, it is imperative to retain an experienced personal injury attorney to advocate on your behalf. If you have been injured in an auto accident, the Maryland car accident attorneys at the office of Anthony A. Fatemi, LLC can evaluate your case and help you determine the best strategy for pursuing relief. Contact us at (301) 519-2801, or complete our online contact form today.

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