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Changes to Comparative Negligence Laws in Bicycle and Pedestrian Accidents in Maryland

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2018 By

Parts of Maryland and surrounding areas, including Washington, DC, are very walkable. It is easy for pedestrians and cyclists to get around the city, even commute to work, by walking, running, or riding their bikes. The walkability of these areas also makes it very appealing for people who enjoy outdoor fitness activities. This means that there is a lot of foot traffic on the City streets. Cyclists are abundant in the area as well and it isn’t unusual to see accidents involving cars and pedestrians or cyclists.

Accidents like this can be traumatic and the injuries can be quite dramatic and catastrophic. Filing an insurance claim can compound the difficulty and stress when the victim seeks compensation for damages or injury. Most states recognize these difficulties and maintain a “comparative fault” policy when a crash occurs. However, a handful of states, Maryland and DC included, have long maintained a “contributory negligence” policy. This has changed in DC for certain persons but not all. Maryland meanwhile has tried but not passed anything as of this legislative term through the Annapolis legislature.

What is Comparative Negligence?

In most states, comparative negligence is used when judging personal injury cases. lt looks at both the defendant and claimant, weighs the negligence of each, and bases the damages awarded on the percentage of the fault of each side. For instance, if the claimant was found to be 25 percent responsible for an accident, they would recover 75 percent of the damages they sought instead of 100 percent. In some states, if the court finds the claimant to be at least 50 percent at fault, they are not entitled to any damages.

What is Contributory Negligence?

In personal injury claims, contributory negligence refers to behavior or action of the plaintiff that contributed to the accident, thus causing the injury. The plaintiff could be partly responsible or wholly responsible for their injuries or damage. For instance, if a person was crossing against the light at an intersection and they were hit by a car, they would be at least partially responsible because they were crossing against the light. If the pedestrian was in a crosswalk their claim may survive if the defendant driver then ignored the danger or gunned his engine.

Comparative Negligence in Maryland

In the 2018 Maryland General Assembly session, Senate Bill 465 was presented, establishing comparative negligence in the state. This would have been a huge sea change from Maryland’s long standing strict contributory negligence policy and it has been met with outright resistance from insurance companies as well as local governments and defense attorneys. The logic presented in the bill is that contributory negligence policies inhibit recovery of the plaintiff whereas comparative fault allows the plaintiff to recover at least part of the damages if they are partially at fault. This allows them the opportunity to recover from the accident.

This would definitely help pedestrians and cyclists who are on Maryland streets like what is allowed in Washington DC now! That would allow recovery now barred from recovery by the prohibitive confines of contributory negligence policies. Victims would be able to move forward and get the medical treatment and lost income recovery they need; lt seems the tide is turning, and the bill was gaining traction. The legislative session is over until next year but we will be back next year to encourage a fairer treatment for victims of negligence. Only time will time.

Comparative Negligence in DC

For decades Washington, DC was among the few states that had pure contributory negligence policies, but in November 2016 that changed. With the passage of the Motor Vehicle Collision Recovery Act of comparative negligence policies were put in place. Specifically, the Act allows a plaintiff to recover damages if they are less than 50 percent at fault in an accident with a vehicle. This was welcome news for all pedestrians and cyclists in one of the most walkable cities in the country. The Act covers all non-motorized users which not only includes bicycles, but also skateboards and Segway’s. This Maryland bike law was passed by the City council signed by the Mayor and approved by the United States Congress.

The few states that still subscribe to the harsh contributory negligence policy are receiving a lot of pressure from cyclist groups and others to come in line with the 46 state majority (92%) and offer more protection to cyclists and pedestrians. Whether or not they will follow suit is something we will just have to wait and see.

If you have been injured in a bicycle or pedestrian accident, you need legal representation right now. The laws surrounding these types of accidents are very complex and you shouldn’t try to go it alone. You may be entitled to receive compensation for your injuries and an experience, knowledgeable personal injury attorney can help you get it. Contact DuBoff & Associates today and get the representation that you deserve.

Your initial consultation is free, and we will work tirelessly to ensure that you receive the maximum that you deserve. Don’t wait to see if things will work themselves out, let us take your case so you can get back to living your life and healing. We are handling these new D.C. comparative negligence cases right now.

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