In an opinion issued on July 6, 2017, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland reviewed a personal injury claim arising out of an accident between an automobile and a pedestrian. The plaintiff was attempting to cross the street when she was struck by a vehicle driven by the defendant. The plaintiff brought a negligence claim against the defendant, which proceeded to trial. Ultimately, the jury found that the defendant was negligent, but it also found that the plaintiff was contributorily negligent, thereby precluding any recovery of damages. The plaintiff subsequently appealed to the higher court.
Under the doctrine of contributory negligence, a plaintiff who fails to exercise ordinary care for his or her own safety and thus contributes proximately to his or her injury is barred from all recovery, regardless of the defendant’s primary negligence. Unfortunately for plaintiffs, it is an all-or-nothing doctrine in Maryland. As a result, if contributory negligence is found on the part of the plaintiff, it prevents the plaintiff from recovering any damages for his or her injuries, even if the defendant was also found negligent. The burden of proving contributory negligence is on the defendant, and the issue is a question of fact for the jury to resolve.
In the case, the defendant had stopped at a stop sign and started to make a left turn, when she struck the plaintiff in the middle of the crosswalk. The defendant testified that she didn’t see the plaintiff until the last moment, when she slammed on her brakes. Ordinarily, a pedestrian crossing a street within a designated crosswalk in Maryland has the right-of-way over oncoming traffic, and the driver of an approaching vehicle must come to a stop when approaching a pedestrian in a cross-walk. The pedestrian’s right-of-way, however, is not absolute, and in some circumstances, a pedestrian may be found to be contributorily negligent. In crossing a street, a pedestrian has a duty to look out for vehicles and protect herself from danger. Although there is no law that she must stop until a vehicle has passed, whether she was negligent in proceeding is a question for the jury.
On appeal, the court noted that the plaintiff had an unobstructed view in clear daylight, and she stepped off the curb into the intersection without observing any vehicles approaching. The plaintiff had testified that she did not know how far she had traveled in the crosswalk prior to being struck, and she did not recall seeing the defendant’s vehicle at any point prior to being struck. The evidence also indicated that the defendant’s vehicle was almost completely through the turn at a 90-degree angle when the plaintiff was struck by the right front of the vehicle. The appeals court concluded that, under these circumstances, a reasonable inference is that the plaintiff failed to see the defendant’s vehicle turning into the intersection directly in front of the plaintiff. Accordingly, the court ruled that the issue of contributory negligence was properly submitted to the jury and that there was evidence for the jury to determine that the plaintiff failed to exercise ordinary care by not looking out for cars while crossing the street.
The Maryland lawyers at Foran & Foran, P.A. provide trusted legal guidance to those who have been injured as a result of negligence. We can help plaintiffs recover medical expenses, lost income, and other damages after auto accidents, slip and falls, medical malpractice, and other accidents caused by careless individuals or businesses. Schedule an appointment to discuss your case by calling (301) 441-2022 or contacting us online.
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