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How Maryland Being a Contributory Negligence State is Different from Other States

The Tenth Amendment of the United States Constitution reserves certain powers for States, giving them the ability to create and govern their own laws as long as it falls within the scope of the constitution. This gives us 50 different tort legal systems in America, which system car accident lawsuits fall under.

First – Understanding The Doctrine of Negligence

For the tort system each state will create its own Doctrine of Negligence which are the laws that outline how the legal system should operate if a citizen or business does not act within a reasonable Duty of Care with any act that can impact another person. This system does occasionally tie in with the criminal legal system but a good portion of the time not always, especially with personal injuries off the road.

When it comes to motor vehicles on the roads most states will only try you through the criminal legal system for the traffic violation you had. The tort system will allow the victim of the accident to try you and your insurance company. For example, If you were speeding then ran into another car the criminal legal system will work to penalize you for the traffic violation of speeding since with the criminal legal system the state becomes the plaintiff. Whereas with the Tort system the plaintiff is the accident victim, they file a lawsuit against you and your insurance company, mainly for compensation.

Maryland is a Contributory Negligence State

There are 5 states that have chosen their doctrine of negligence for motor vehicle accidents to be contributory negligence. Those states besides Maryland include; The District of Columbia, Virginia, North Carolina, and Alabama. How contributory negligence states work is if you contribute to the fault of the accident at all you’re not entitled to receiving compensation from the other drivers car insurance company. A reason why a state would go with this system is for a couple reasons:

  • To keep insurance rates lower to attract more people to move to the state – contributory negligence can keep rates lower
  • To motivate drivers to be smarter on the roads – knowing that a mistake will cost you can be motivating to drive better
  • To keep the legal process simple – with some modified (can receive compensation as long as you’re not 50% at-fault or more) comparative fault states it can make things more complex

Examples of How Contributory Negligence Works

In a rear-end accident if you’re the driver that hit the other car you’re considered at-fault. Lets just say the driver in front of you dropped their phone and went to pick it up, while reaching for it they hit the brakes in an area where they shouldn’t be stopping. You slam on your brakes but its too late you ended up hitting them. The driver you hit in front of you would not be entitled to compensation from your insurance company. Hopefully with their own insurance company they have collision coverage and PIP coverage, these coverage’s on that individuals insurance will have to kick in to pay for the damages. Insurance companies especially in Maryland will fight hard if they can see where a person contributed to the negligence because all it takes is 1% of contribution to the accident and you’ll lose your compensation from the other party.

Example Where Someone Was 100% At-Fault

Imagine being at a stop-light and you’re obeying the traffic law by stopping, yet another driver doesn’t hit the brakes and runs right into the back of you. Say you experience whiplash and all sorts of other physical damages. That persons car insurance company will have to pay a heavy price because that person was 100% at-fault.

Another Example of Contributory Negligence

Lets imagine you were turning left at a yield on green light, all of a sudden a driver from oncoming traffic hits your car in the intersection as you were turning left. You may be at-fault for turning in front of the driver, but say your lawyer is able to prove the driver was going above the speed limit, that can mean that driver contributed to the fault of the accident as well. With both drivers contributing some fault to the accident it’s left up to the individuals insurance companies and the drivers to pay the bills for their own damages.

The Difference Between Contributory Negligence States and No Fault States

No fault states typically just don’t care about the story they want you and your insurance company to pay your bills. They do this to almost completely clear up their civil courts. Where as the contributory negligence states want to know if someone was 100% at-fault for the accident. You still have a good case if you’re not in a no-fault state like Maryland!

Our Auto Accident Lawyers Know the Contributory Negligence System

We have the experience you need to prove you were at-fault at all. In fact we know the moves insurance companies will try to make in a car accident lawsuit to prove you were at-fault by just 1%. We can help you if you’ve been injured, our lawyers are ready to get the ball rolling!

Meet Our Lawyers

Attorney Greg Jimeno of MarylandAttorney Greg Jimeno of Maryland

Gregory P. Jimeno, Esquire


Attorney Frank Gray of Maryland

Frank C. Gray, Jr., Esquire.


Attorney Magaly Bittner of Maryland

Magaly Delisse Bittner, Esquire


Attorney Jessica H. McConnell, Esq.

Jessica McConnell, Esquire