Comparative Negligence in Maryland

Under Maryland’s contributory negligence law, you can only collect damages from a car accident if you have zero fault.
Written by Tiffany Leung
Reviewed by Kathleen Flear
Maryland is a contributory negligence state, meaning that you can only submit a claim to the other driver’s insurance company if you are found to be at zero fault. 
Your state’s comparative negligence laws will dictate if you can claim a portion of your damages from an at-fault driver after a car accident. Regardless of what state you drive in, being familiar with their comparative negligence law will ensure your insurance claims are handled properly.
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What is comparative negligence?

Comparative negligence is a principle that enables parties to claim damages from the other party according to the fault they are assigned.
In other words, if you get into an accident with another driver, and 40% of the fault is assigned to you, you will have to cover 40% of the damages. The other driver, who is assigned 60% of the fault, will be required to cover 60% of the damages.
Personal injury lawsuits and third-party insurance claims both abide by the comparative negligence principles. When handling a case, the judge, jury, or insurer will assign fault to the parties involved. The percentage they receive translates to the portion of damage costs they are responsible for.

Comparative negligence vs. contributory negligence

The three principles of comparative negligence are pure comparative negligence, partial or modified comparative negligence, and contributory negligence. Every state will follow one of the principles defined below: 
  • Pure comparative negligence: All parties involved are responsible for covering damages in proportion to the fault they are assigned. 
  • Partial or modified comparative negligence: Damages can only be claimed by the injured party if their fault is under 50 or 51%. 
  • Contributory negligence: The injured party cannot recover any damage costs unless they are assigned zero fault. 
Currently, there are 12 states that base their law on pure comparative negligence and 5 states that base their law on contributory negligence.

What is Maryland’s comparative negligence law? 

Maryland is one of the only five contributory negligence states. This means that you are only entitled to claims if you are assigned 0% fault
As an example, if you are found to be 1% at fault, you will not be allowed to submit a claim to the other driver’s insurance provider. The same goes for the other driver—they cannot submit a claim with 99% assigned fault.

What happens if there are more than two responsible parties? 

The fault will be divided among all the drivers involved in an accident with more than two individuals at fault. If you are not assigned any fault, you can file a claim with either or both insurance companies. The insurance companies will compensate your damages based on the fault assigned to the other drivers. 

How is fault decided in a comparative negligence case?

Insurance companies will consider all the evidence submitted when assigning fault.
Jotting down as much information as possible to submit with your claim would be beneficial—especially information about the road conditions, time and date, weather, and the cars involved. Ideally, you would also write down information about the other drivers.
When possible, interview any witnesses to record what they saw and take pictures of damages as well as the surrounding area. This information will help back up your statements. 
Keeping a detailed record of the incident can help the insurance providers assign fault correctly.

How does car insurance work with comparative negligence? 

With Maryland being a contributory negligence state, you can only submit a claim to recover damages from another driver’s insurance company if you have zero fault. Your compensation will be based on the percentage of fault the other driver is assigned.
Imagine a scenario where you are driving past a driveway in the neighborhood. Another car backs out of the driveway quickly and crashes into your car.
After considering all the evidence, the insurance companies find that the other driver didn’t check his surroundings before proceeding to leave his driveway. They also find that you were slightly above the speed limit and weren't able to stop your car before the other driver backed out. As a result, the insurance companies assign both you and the other driver 50% of the blame.
According to Maryland’s comparative negligence law, neither of you can claim 50% of your damages with the other driver’s insurance company, since neither of you has zero fault.

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