Maryland Tort Law Not As Bad As It Seems For Personal Injury Lawyers
Posted on behalf of Goldberg Finnegan, LLC on Dec 10, 2008 in Personal Injury
Many Maryland personal injury lawyers and car accident lawyers complain that Maryland is a difficult jurisdiction to practice in because of several tort reform measures we have. Our law firm believes that Maryland is a great place to practice personal injury law, and we know how to navigate its challenges. The ugliest part of the story is that Maryland has pure contributory negligence. That means that if our client (the plaintiff) is found by the jury or judge to be even 1% at fault for the accident, even if the defendant tortfeasor is 99% at fault, then our client is barred from recovery.
This is harsh, and unfair, and only about 4 states in the entire country have this law on the books (unfortunately, Virginia and Washington, D.C. also have pure contributory negligence). Even in basic rear end accidents where liability of the defendant is clear, defense attorneys often will argue that the plaintiff is 1% at fault and therefore barred from recovery if, for example, they stopped too suddenly. Usually juries see through this trial tactic.
The good news is that Maryland has joint and several liability. This means that if there are multiple negligent parties, each party is responsible for the full amount of any judgment. Many states do not have joint and several liability, and in those states, each wrongdoer is only responsible for their proportionate share of the damages.
Another disappointing aspect of Maryland law is that we have a cap on non-economic damages (pain, suffering, disfigurement, grief). We believe that the cap on non-economic damages is unfair-especially to women and the elderly who are less likely to have substantial economic losses. The cap varies depending on whether it is a medical malpractice case or a personal injury case (auto accident, slip and fall, truck accident).
The good news is that there is no cap at all on economic damages (medical bills, lost wages, etc.). Therefore, cases where there is a large life care plan for future economic losses are extremely valuable in Maryland. Examples of these cases are cerebral palsy cases, brain damaged baby cases, brachial plexus cases, truck accident cases, and other cases involving catastrophic injury.
Another challenge in Maryland is that there are certain counties which are notorious for having low and unfair jury verdicts. Such counties include Montgomery County (Rockville), Maryland, Howard County, Maryland (Columbia, MD), Cecil County, MD, and counties on the Eastern Shore such as Wicomico County (Salisbury), Dorchester County. Other jurisdictions have better jury verdicts. We believe that the best jury verdicts come out of Baltimore City, Maryland and Prince George's County, Maryland (Upper Marlboro). Unfortunately, sometimes we are forced to litigate cases in conservative jurisdictions.
The good news is that our lawyers have had great success in some of these more conservative jurisdictions-particularly in Montgomery County, Maryland. Kevin Goldberg grew up in Montgomery County and went to Wootton High School. Kevin Finnegan lives in Gaithersburg, Maryland and is also a resident of Montgomery County. Thomas (Tad) Farrington lives in Silver Spring, MD which is also in Montgomery County. The bottom line is that if you have a Montgomery County personal injury case or medical malpractice case, we believe that our attorneys are well equipped to get a great result there.
Another good aspect of Maryland law is that we have the collateral source rule. This means that a negligent party is responsible for the full value of the plaintiff's damages even if the plaintiff received partial compensation from his own insurance or others goodwill. For example, if a medical bill is $1,000.00 and the plaintiff's health insurance paid $500.00, the defendant would owe the entire $1,000.00 bill. By the same token a plaintiff is entitled to all of their lost wages for time missed from work even if they got paid through sick leave. The policy behind this is that a negligent party is not permitted to benefit from insurance policies or credits (e.g. sick leave) earned by the claimant. Some jurisdictions do not have the collateral source rule.
The bottom line is that Maryland is a great place to practice law. Our Maryland lawyers are top notch, and we fight hard to get our clients the best possible results. We know how to navigate the tricky waters of contributory negligence. If you are involved in an accident in Maryland and are injured, our law firm will do everything possible to get you the justice that you deserve. We will protect your rights.