What do Maryland, Virginia, the District of Columbia, Alabama and North Carolina have in common? These are the four states remaining that still follow the antiquated “contributory negligence” law.
Under “contributory negligence”, if a victim is found to be even 1% responsible for their injury, they are completely barred from recovery. This harsh method of handling a victim’s injury claim has been rejected by 46 states that instead follow the common sense “comparative negligence” method. Under “comparative negligence”, a victim’s recovery is directly proportional to their own fault.
For example, if you are 10% responsible for your injuries, and someone else is 90% responsible, you are only allowed to recover 90% of your damages from the tortfeasor.
Recently, the Maryland Court of Appeals re-visited the issue of “comparative negligence” in a case named Coleman v. Soccer Association of Columbia. In Coleman, a 20 year-old man was serving as a volunteer coach. While warming up, he kicked a soccer ball into the net, and went to retrieve the ball. While entering the goal, he jumped up and grabbed the crossbar.
Unfortunately, the Defendant, who was responsible for maintaining the fields and equipment, failed to anchor the goal to the ground. As a result, the goal fell backwards onto Mr. Coleman’s face. As a result, Mr. Coleman needed multiple surgeries, and now has three titanium plates permanently in his face.
Even though the jury found that the Defendant was negligent, Mr. Coleman was completely barred from any recovery because they also found that Mr. Coleman was partially at fault for the injuries.
In their opinion, the Court of Appeals determined that it was the responsibility of the Maryland legislature to pass a bill changing “contributory” negligence to “comparative” negligence. In fact, a “comparative negligence” bill gets introduced in the legislature on an almost annual basis. One year, the bill passed the Senate 48-1, before quietly dying in the House Judiciary Committee without even receiving a vote.
Unfortunately, the reality is that insurance industries deep pockets prevent these common sense changes to this antiquated law. It is estimated that insurance companies invest over $1.8 billion annually in their lobbying efforts to prevent states such as Maryland from passing “comparative negligence”.
Recently, the District of Columbia took a big step towards changing its contributory negligence laws. A bill was introduced to change District of Columbia to a fairer comparative negligence system. Unfortunately, due to insurance lobbying pressure, a last minute change was made to change to a comparative system for victims of bicycle accident injuries only. Despite falling short, this bill is a positive step in the right direction, and hopefully a sign of changes to come.
You can make a big difference in helping Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia leave the ranks of the “1%” states. Contact your local representatives and ask them to support a comparative negligence bill.
Further, if you or a loved one was injured in an accident, it is imperative to get a free consultation from the personal injury attorneys at Dross Berman LLC to protect your claim against a “contributory negligence” denial.