In a pivotal ruling in Maryland on Tuesday, the Court of Appeals ruled that the issue of contributory negligence should be addressed by the General Assembly, rather than the court that created the doctrine. The decision came during Coleman v. Soccer Association of Columbia, et al., a case involving the collapse of a soccer goal at a Howard County soccer field. A then 20-year-old young man suffered severe bone breaks around his eye when the goal’s cross bar collapsed.
The reason why this case has garnered such widespread national attention is that Maryland is one of only four states – in addition to the District of Columbia – that prevents injured victims from recovering any compensation if they played any role in causing the accident, regardless of the percentage of fault contributed by the defendant.
The Maryland Association for Justice (MAJ), as well as other advocacy groups and organizations, were hopeful that the Coleman case would spark new changes to Maryland and Washington D.C.’s outdated liability and personal injury laws. Although no decision was reached during the case, the MAJ continues to support a change to personal injury laws for the benefit of injured victims.
Comparative and Contributory Negligence
The primary factors involved in this case and controversy revolve around the subjects of comparative and contributory negligence. In simple terms, contributory negligence – which is currently the law of the land in Maryland and Washington D.C. – means that if an injured victim had any part in contributing to an accident, even if it was only 1%, they cannot recover any compensation.
Comparative negligence, on the other hand, means that if both a victim and a defendant contributed to an accident, victims will still be eligible to recover damages. Recoveries and compensation are adjusted to the percentage of fault involved in the particular case. As an example, a victim who is found to be 25% at fault for causing an accident – which means that the defendant was 75% at fault – would be able to collect 75% of what they would have otherwise collected.
Comparative negligence is widely viewed throughout the legal community and general public as the most ethical and fair method for dealing with difficult personal injury cases in which victims contributed in some form to the accident. Barring a victim from recovering any compensation is viewed as harsh and archaic, not to mention immensely uncompassionate. When victims are unable to recover the compensation they need and rightfully deserve, they can experience tremendous personal, physical, and financial burdens. Injured victims and families in this predicament could easily be overwhelmed and devastated by mountains of medical expenses, debt, and difficulties with physical recovery. The all-or-nothing system created by contributory negligence is strongly opposed throughout the nation as well.
At The Law Offices of Dr. Michael M. Wilson M.D., J.D. & Associates, Attorney Michael Wilson is a physician and attorney who holds legal and medical degrees from Georgetown University. As a physician and as a lawyer who has worked with many injured victims throughout the years, he has seen first-hand how heavily victims and families depend on fair compensation. His compassion, experience, and commitment to the rights of injured victims establish him as a firm supporter of change to Maryland’s laws. He believes that courts should have adopted comparative negligence and rejected contributory negligence.
While change is hopefully on the horizon, only time will truly tell how the General Assembly will handle the matter. For local victims who suffer injuries as the result of a medical professional, these laws can seriously compromise their ability to secure full and fair compensation. As such, victims of medical malpractice should always be focused on working with an experienced lawyer capable of fighting aggressively and intelligently on their behalf. If you wish to discuss your case with Attorney Wilson, please contact a Washington DC medical malpractice lawyer from the firm today.
Dr. Michael M. Wilson is an attorney and a physician who earned his undergraduate degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and his legal and medical degrees from Georgetown University. He has focused in the area of medical malpractice for more than three decades and secured more than $100 million in settlements and verdicts on behalf of clients throughout the country. He is admitted to practice in the District of Columbia and New York as well as the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia and the U.S. Supreme Court. He is listed in America’s Top 100 High Stakes Litigators.