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.