Maryland’s Contributory Negligence Law: How It Affects Personal Injury Cases

When it comes to personal injury cases in Maryland, the state’s contributory negligence law can have a significant impact on the outcome of a case. This law is unique to Maryland and a few other states, and it can be difficult to understand for those who are not familiar with it. In this article, we will explore what contributory negligence means and how it can affect personal injury cases in Maryland.

What Is Contributory Negligence?

Contributory negligence is a legal doctrine that exists in a few states, including Maryland. Under this doctrine, if a plaintiff in a personal injury case contributed to their own injury in any way, they are barred from recovering any damages from the defendant. In other words, if the plaintiff is even 1% at fault for their own injury, they cannot recover any damages in court.

How Does Contributory Negligence Apply to Personal Injury Cases in Maryland?

In personal injury cases in Maryland, contributory negligence can be a significant hurdle for plaintiffs to overcome. For example, if someone is injured in a car accident and the other driver was clearly at fault, but the injured person was not wearing their seatbelt, the defendant’s defense team might argue that the plaintiff’s failure to wear their seatbelt contributed to their injuries. If the court finds that the plaintiff was even 1% at fault for their own injuries, they will not be able to recover any damages from the defendant.

How Can Contributory Negligence Affect Settlement Negotiations?

Because of the strict nature of Maryland’s contributory negligence law, defendants in personal injury cases may be less inclined to settle out of court. They know that if the case goes to trial and the plaintiff is found to be even partially at fault, they will not have to pay any damages. As a result, defendants may be more willing to take their chances in court rather than agreeing to a settlement.

What Are the Exceptions to Contributory Negligence in Maryland?

There are only a few exceptions to contributory negligence in Maryland. One is the "last clear chance" doctrine. Under this doctrine, if the defendant had the last clear chance to avoid the accident but failed to do so, they may still be held liable for the plaintiff’s injuries, even if the plaintiff was partially at fault. This can be a difficult doctrine to prove, but it is worth exploring if you believe it applies to your case.

Another exception is the "assumption of risk" doctrine. This applies in situations where the plaintiff knowingly and willingly assumed a risk that led to their injury. For example, if someone is injured while playing a sport, they may be barred from recovering damages if they knew the risks associated with the sport and chose to participate anyway.

What Should You Do If You Are Injured in Maryland?

If you are injured in Maryland, it is important to speak with an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible. An attorney can help you understand the state’s contributory negligence law and how it might affect your case. They can also work with you to build a strong case and pursue the compensation you deserve.


Maryland’s contributory negligence law can make it difficult for injured individuals to recover damages in personal injury cases. If you are injured in Maryland, it is important to speak with an attorney who understands this law and can help you navigate the legal system. With the right legal representation, you may be able to overcome the hurdles posed by contributory negligence and recover the compensation you deserve.

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