Understanding Negligence Law In Maryland, Washington DC & Virginia

An Easy-To-Understand Explanation From Our Personal Injury Lawyers

Negligence is one of the primary causes of personal injury claims. A basic negligence claim consists of proof of:

  1. A duty owed,
  2. A breach of that duty,
  3. An injury, and
  4. That the breach caused the plaintiff's injury

When you've been involved in an auto accident, usually the defendant in the claim has caused the accident unintentionally, it what is known under the law as negligence.

Comparative and contributory negligence are defenses available to mitigate the amount that a defendant may have to pay to a plaintiff for damages. Each of these defenses is based on an assessment of fault towards the plaintiff.

Depending upon the laws of the state where the case is heard, comparative or contributory negligence may be applicable.

Contributory negligence is, by far, the most oppressive to the plaintiff. In those states that allow this defense, if a defendant can prove that the plaintiff is even as little as 1% responsible for the accident, then he or she recovers nothing.

Contributory Negligence

For instance, if the evidence shows that a defendant was speeding and went through a stop sign and that the plaintiff was only one percent at fault because he or she didn't swerve or brake quickly enough, then the plaintiff may be entitled to no recovery.

Contributory negligence is used in Maryland, Virginia and Washington, DC.

Comparative Negligence

Less oppressive to the plaintiff and more prevalent throughout the county is comparative negligence. In comparative negligence, the award of damages to the plaintiff will be reduced in direct proportion to the plaintiff’s percentage of fault.

For instance, if you are 30 percent at fault for an accident, you could recover 70 percent of your damages. If you are 70 percent at fault for an accident, you could recover only 30 percent of your damages.

All of the other parties alleged to be at fault would then be responsible for paying you 30% of your total damages, apportioned between them in proportion to the amount of fault assigned to them.

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