Effect of Contributory Negligence on Jury Decisions in Maryland Motorcycle Accidents

States have different laws concerning the effect of the liability of the plaintiff on their ability to recover. Maryland follows the doctrine of contributory negligence. Under the doctrine of contributory negligence, juries in Maryland motorcycle accident cases may consider the fault of the plaintiff along with the fault of the defendants. If the jury considers the plaintiff’s fault and finds the plaintiff is even partially at fault for their injuries, the plaintiff cannot recover from the defendant(s). However, contributory negligence is not automatically considered in every Maryland jury trial. In Maryland, a court is required to give the jury an instruction on contributory negligence only if the evidence supports such an instruction. That is, there must be evidence to suggest that the plaintiff was negligent in order to warrant such an instruction.

Critics say that the consequences of the contributory negligence doctrine can be extremely harsh for plaintiffs, and most states have adopted a different approach. Many states follow the doctrine of comparative negligence. Under that doctrine, a plaintiff generally can still recover compensation even if they are still found to be at fault. In some states, a plaintiff is limited as long as the plaintiff is found to be 50% or less at fault.

In a recent opinion, one court considered the impact of a jury’s decision finding that the defendant was not liable for the plaintiff’s injuries in a comparative fault jurisdiction. There, the plaintiff was a passenger on a motorcycle when the motorcycle got into a crash with a tractor. The plaintiff filed a claim against the motorcycle driver and the farmer that was driving the tractor.

After a trial against both the driver and the farmer, the jury found the farmer was not at fault. However, the jury form mistakenly instructed the jury to stop after that finding, and the jury failed to decide whether the motorcyclist was at fault. The plaintiff moved for a new trial, and the trial court ordered a new trial against the motorcyclist. An appeals court reversed and ordered a new trial against both defendants. Because the jury was charged with comparing the fault of the defendants, the plaintiff argued that the case should go forward against both defendants. Yet, the state’s supreme court reversed again, holding that the trial should only go forward against the motorcyclist.

The state’s supreme court explained that the jury’s decision concerning the farmer was not tainted by its error concerning the motorcyclist. The court found that the fault of each defendant was not “so intertwined as to mandate a retrial of both defendants.” Therefore, the court ordered a new trial against only the motorcyclist.

Call a Maryland Injury Lawyer Today

If you have been injured in a Maryland motorcycle accident, do not waste time in contacting a Maryland injury lawyer. Cases must be filed within a certain period of time, so acting fast is essential. The Maryland injury attorneys at Lebowitz & Mzhen, Personal Injury Lawyers will work with you and the other parties to attempt to resolve your claim as appropriately and quickly as possible to get you the compensation you deserve. Call them toll-free at 800-654-1949 or contact them online to set up a free consultation.

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