Earlier this month, NBS Washington reported that four motorists, two children and two adults, were taken to a local hospital with injuries following a car accident near Glen Burnie, Maryland. According to the story, the crash occurred Saturday around 4 p.m. when a police officer from nearby Howard County attempted to make an illegal turn at the intersection of Routes 100 and 10, driving into the path of an oncoming 2005 Honda Civic.
The driver of the Civic and passenger were taken to Johns Hopkins Trauma Center with non life-threatening injuries. The two child passengers, 11 and 4, were rushed to Johns Hopkins Pediatric Trauma Center where they are currently listed in critical condition.
Due to the Maryland’s laws regarding the tort of negligence, determining the degree to which each driver involved in the crash was at fault will have a substantial impact on their potential recovery for injuries in the event legal action is taken.
The Doctrine Of Contributory Negligence In Maryland
Maryland remains one of only five jurisdictions in the United States, along with Virginia, Washington D.C., Alabama, and North Carolina, that continues to use the legal doctrine of contributory negligence. Most jurisdictions now operate under the theory of comparative negligence, which allows an injured party to recover damages to the extent for which the other party was at fault for an accident that results in injury. For instance, the recovery of a plaintiff who is deemed to be 30% liable for an accident would be limited to 70% of the total amount of his or her damages.
The doctrine of contributory negligence, on the other hand states that, if a plaintiff’s failure to exercise due care contributes to the cause of an accident, he or she is totally precluded from recovering damages from the other party.
For example, if an individual crosses the street outside of the crosswalk or against a green light and is struck by another person who was driving negligently, the pedestrian could potentially be barred from recovering for his injuries because his negligent act may have contributed to the cause of the accident. In this example, even an individual who is only 1% at fault for an accident may be unable to recover any damages.
As this blog has discussed before, previous attempts have been made to persuade the Maryland court system to do away with the doctrine, however, these efforts have not yet been successful. Instead, the courts have mitigated the unforgiving consequences of the contributory negligence doctrine by fashioning various exceptions to the rule.
The most commonly recognized exception to the rule is the “last clear chance” principle. The principle applies when a defendant has “a fresh opportunity to avert the consequences of his original negligence and the plaintiff’s contributory negligence,” but fails to do so. When a defendant has a chance to prevent the consequence of his negligence, but does not take advantage of it, he can be held liable despite the plaintiff’s contributory negligence.
The qualified attorneys of Brassel, Alexander & Rice, LLC have extensive experience representing individuals who have been injured by the negligent driving of another. If you or someone you know has been injured in a car accident, contact the attorneys of Brassel, Alexander & Rice, LLC today.