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The challenges of Maryland’s contributory negligence law

On Behalf of | Nov 15, 2021 | Medical Malpractice

Medical malpractice lawsuits are a hot topic these days, and a medical error caused by a physician or hospital’s negligence can result in major ramifications, both short and long term. However, a medical malpractice lawsuit could provide some relief.

The outcome of a medical malpractice suit depends on a variety of factors. Although most people would prefer to have their loved one back or restored to full heath, most medical malpractice lawsuits result in a sum of money paid out as damages to the victim or their family, through settlement or verdict. The damage amount is partially determined by the state law regarding negligence.

Comparative versus contributory negligence

Many states use comparative negligence law, which fixes the damage award based on the percentage each party contributed to the injury. For example, if a physician or other medical professional is determined to be 80% at fault for negligence, with the victim being 20% at fault, the full amount of the damage award will be reduced by 20% to account for the victim’s contribution to the outcome.

However, Maryland is one of a few remaining states using contributory negligence law when determining damages in a medical malpractice lawsuit. Under contributory negligence law, a victim of medical malpractice will not be awarded any damages if it is determined that their actions contributed in any way to the injury or outcome. This means even if a medical malpractice victim is found to have contributed even 1-2% the outcome, they cannot recover any damage award.

The contributory negligence standard is strict and can make proving medical malpractice extremely challenging for victims and their families. If the medical malpractice victim is found to have even slightly contributed to the negative outcome, any damage claim will be barred. Over the years, there have been various attempts to change this law, but they have thus far been unsuccessful.

What can be done?

Medical malpractice claims in Maryland can be successful, but having the proper guidance and knowledge is crucial. Because the contributory negligence law makes proving medical malpractice difficult, it is important for victims to speak with an experienced medical malpractice attorney.