Maryland Court Addresses Contributory Negligence of Plaintiff in Car Accident Case

In a recent decision, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland addressed the issue of contributory negligence in a car accident case. In Yanes v. Mamado (Md. Ct. Spec. App. July 12, 2016), the plaintiff filed suit against the defendant and the defendant’s employer following a motor vehicle accident. At the bench trial, the parties stipulated that the defendant was negligent. The only remaining question, therefore, was whether the plaintiff was contributorily negligent in causing the accident. After reviewing the dashcam from the defendant’s van, the circuit court determined that the plaintiff was contributorily negligent and found in favor of the defendants. The plaintiff brought the subsequent appeal.

In Yanes, the defendant was driving a shuttle when he entered an intersection on a red light and turned left. When the plaintiff continued through the intersection on a yellow light without stopping, the defendant’s van struck the plaintiff’s vehicle. Although the parties agreed that the defendant was negligent in entering the intersection on a red light, the issue for the appeals court was whether the lower court erred by concluding that the plaintiff was contributorily negligent by approaching a yellow light without slowing down, or otherwise proceeding with caution.

Maryland Transportation Code § 21–402(a) provides that if the driver of a vehicle intends to turn left in an intersection, he or she shall yield the right of way to any other vehicle that is approaching from the opposite direction and is in the intersection or so near it as to be an immediate danger. However, the boulevard rule, codified by statute, provides that when a driver approaches a through highway from a smaller road, the driver must yield the right of way to all traffic already in it. The appeals court found that the boulevard rule did not apply to Trans. § 21–402(a), since the street at issue was not a “through highway” and was governed by traffic signals, not signs. The appeals court therefore declined to extend it in Yanes.

Contributory negligence occurs when a plaintiff fails to undertake the appropriate degree of reasonable and ordinary care in the face of a risk, and when combined with the defendant’s negligence, this failure brings about an injury to the plaintiff. In Yanes, the court noted that a driver may enter an intersection on a yellow signal, but he or she must exercise due care, since a yellow signal universally connotes the use of caution. Although the dashcam did not show when the light turned yellow, the court found that the plaintiff could clearly see several vehicles turning left directly across his line of travel. As a result, the lower court could conclude that a driver exercising due care would have slowed down upon approaching the intersection, since he would have appreciated the risk that he might not be able to safely cross the intersection without reducing speed to avoid the turning vehicles. The appeals court accordingly affirmed the judgment against the plaintiff.

Accident victims can hold negligent individuals and businesses accountable for injuries caused by their careless actions. At the Maryland firm of Foran & Foran, P.A., our experienced trial lawyers assist plaintiffs in bringing negligence claims against the parties responsible for their injuries. We have represented victims of auto accidents, slip and falls, medical malpractice, and other incidents. To discuss your injury case with a knowledgeable attorney at Foran & Foran, P.A., call us at (301) 441-2022 or contact us through our website.

More Blog Posts:

Maryland Court Affirms Verdict for Plaintiff in Car Accident Case, Maryland Personal Injury Blog, published June 15, 2016

Maryland Court Rules in Favor of Insureds, Awards Underinsured Motorist Coverage in Moped and Motor Scooter Cases, Maryland Personal Injury Blog, published December 14, 2015

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