Defenses to Negligence could show up in several personal injury cases. As everyone who has ever been involved in a personal injury case knows, negligence is the bedrock of most claims. When a negligent person does an act that breaches an existing duty of care and causes harm to another person, they will compensate the victim for the damage caused. This rule is predicated on the fact that Maryland is a fault-based compensation state.

However, there are times where the victim of a negligent act would be unable to get compensation. This happens when the defendant can negate one of the elements needed to prove negligence. For instance, if the defendant proves that they did not owe the victim a duty of care, exercised reasonable care, or did not cause the plaintiff damages, they will not pay compensation.

There are two key ways an attorney can successfully defend a victim’s negligence claim in Maryland. We’ll discuss all these in this article. But, first, if you suffer injuries due to a negligent act, our injury lawyers at Pinder Plotkin, LLC, will help you get the maximum compensation.

Common Defenses to Negligence 

Below we look at the common defenses a defendant may put up against negligent claims and how they affect a plaintiff’s case.

Assumption of Risk 

Assumption of risk is a term that has found its way into popular culture and may be used as one of the defenses to negligence. For example, suppose a person knowingly dates a convicted robber and then gets robbed by them. It would be correct to say that they “assumed the risk” of dating a thief. Assumption of risk in law is pretty much the same thing.

Here, the argument is that a person loses the right to complain about the harm they suffered if they unnecessarily expose themselves to that risk. In Maryland, the doctrine of assumption of risks is embedded in the state’s tort laws. Thus, the defense counsel can argue that a victim knowingly and voluntarily assumed the risk inherent in the action or inaction that caused the accident.

For example, suppose a person gets on a friend’s motorcycle for a race and crashes while going over the speed limit. Consequently, the person suffers injuries and wants to sue the motorcycle owner. The doctrine of assumption of risk will serve as a defense.

In Maryland, defense lawyers often raise the assumption of risk as a defense to negligence in personal injury cases. However, it applies to a few auto accident cases, medical malpractice, product liability, and slip and fall cases. Furthermore, it’s the defendant who bears the burden of proving the assumption of risk.

In other words, you do not have to prove that you did not assume any risk. The law provides that the defendant proves that:

  1. The plaintiff knew the risk of potential harm;
  2. The plaintiff appreciated that risk; and
  3. The plaintiff voluntarily encountered the threat of danger.

Contributory Negligence

One of the other common defenses to negligence used in personal injury claims in Maryland is contributory negligence. Contributory negligence is a harsh law that negatively impacts a plaintiff’s case. This tort doctrine applies where a victim’s conduct falls below a certain standard necessary for the plaintiff’s protection and cooperates with the defendant’s negligence that caused the victim harm.

In simpler words, it means that the plaintiff could have avoided injuries if they had not been negligent. For example, suppose a driver fails to wear a seatbelt and strikes their head on the steering wheel in an accident, causing a head injury. The defendant would argue the head injury could have been avoided if the driver had worn the restraint.

Maryland practices pure contributory negligence. This means that even if you contributed only 1% fault to an accident, you would not get compensated once the defendant successfully proves the contribution. In other words, unlike comparative negligence, where the court subtracts your fault percentage from your settlement, this doctrine gives you nothing.

What Is the Difference Between Assumption of Risk and Contributory Negligence? 

Assumption of risk is often confused with contributory negligence, but the two are not the same. The difference between the two lies in how they defeat the recovery of damages. Assumption of risk defeats recovery because the victim previously abandoned the right to complain if an accident occurs.

On the other hand, contributory negligence defeats recovery because it is a cause of the accident. While the two defenses sometimes overlap, they can exist without the other. Ultimately, the reasonableness of the plaintiff’s conduct is the issue for determination.

Let Experienced Maryland Injury Attorneys Help You!

At Pinder Plotkin, LLC, our lawyers know all the possible defenses an at-fault party would bring up. As such, we will prepare the perfect rebuttal and ensure we get you the compensation you deserve. Contact us today to learn more about our services and schedule a free consultation.

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