Baldwin & Briscoe P.C.
301-862-4400
22335 Exploration Drive Ste. 2030
Lexington Park, MD 20653
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Negligence

 

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Defenses
Damages

 

This page provides information about the general tort of negligence.  While negligence applies to automobile accident claims, the scope of this page is much broader than that.  If you are looking for information specifically about car accident claims, you should click here.

 

 

When a person files a negligence claim in court, they are alleging that the defendant has failed to abide by some standard of conduct and that the defendant has breached a duty of care that has injured the plaintiff in some way.  The most typical form of a negligence claim arises when there is an automobile accident.  Negligence claims can arise from many different factual scenarios.

 

In bringing a lawsuit for negligence, the plaintiff must plead and prove the following elements:

 

1.       That the defendant owed a duty of care to the plaintiff.

2.       That the defendant took some action, or failed to take some action resulting in a breach of that duty of care.

3.       That as a result of the defendant’s breach of the duty of care that the plaintiff has been injured or has suffered monetary loss; and

4.       That the loss or injury that the plaintiff has incurred is proximately caused by the action or inaction of the defendant.

 

In evaluating a potential negligence action, the first thing that the plaintiff must consider is what duty is owed to him by the defendant.  The duty that is owed to the plaintiff depends on the relationship, if any, between the parties.  Generally, there are two things to consider when evaluating whether a duty exists: (1) the nature of the harm that is likely to result from a failure to exercise due care; and (2) the relationship that exists between the parties.

 

For a duty to arise, there must be some close or direct effect between the defendant’s behavior and the injured party.  A person is required to take reasonable care to avoid acts which would injure others.  The existence of a duty depends on whether the harm that might result is foreseeable as well as what is in the public interest.   A duty exists where a person knows or should know that certain conduct imposes an unreasonable risk of harm to another.

 

Generally, a person does not owe any duty to render aid to a person in distress or to intervene to protect another person from a criminal act.  Whether a duty is owed can also depend on the nature of the relationship between the parties. 

 

If there is a duty, then the next consideration is defining that duty.  For adults, the standard of care is ordinary and reasonable care.  For children, the duty is that care ordinarily exercised by children of the same age, capacity, discretion and experience under similar circumstances.

 

There are various circumstances in which a standard of care higher than ordinary and reasonable care applies.  An public bus driver, for instance, owes his passengers the highest degree of care to provide safe means and methods for transportation. 

 

Negligence often arises in the context of premises liability.  This may occur for instance where here is a slip and fall on a wet floor, or a displaced floor tile.  The owner of real property generally owes some duty to those coming on his property.  The extent of that duty, however, depends on the nature of the relationship.

 

Invitee.   An invitee is an individual who is on the property for a purpose related to the landowner’s business.  A patron in a store is an invitee.  A landowner or tenant has a duty to use reasonable and ordinary care to keep the property safe for invitees to protect the invitee from injury caused by any unreasonable risk that the invitee,
exercising ordinary care, would not discover

 

Licensee.   A licensee is an individual who is a social guest.  The owner owes a licensee a duty to exercise reasonable care to warn the licensee of any dangerous conditions that are known to the owner, but not readily discoverable.

 

Bare Licensee.  A bare licensee is a person that is on the property, but for his or her own purposes.  For a bare licensee, the duty on the landowner is only to refrain from willfully and wantonly injuring the bare licensee and refrain from creating new, undisclosed sources of danger without warning the licensee.

 

Trespasser.  A trespasser is a person on the property without permission.  A landowner owes no duty, except to refrain from willfully or wantonly injuring him.

 

The owner of a business is not automatically legally liable because someone gets hurt on the premises.  In fact, there is not even a presumption of negligence.  The duty is on the injured party to show that a breach of duty occurred.  Where, however, the owner, or an agent of the owner, such as an employee, has knowledge of a danger, that employee has a duty to take action to protect the invitees against the danger.

 

Maryland law does not recognize “dram shop liability.”  A “dram shop” claim allows an individual injured as a result of someone’s consumption of excessive alcohol to recover against the establishment that served the alcohol.  Dram shop laws would provide an additional source of relief from the victim of a drunk driving accident, for instance. 

 

 

Defenses

 

There are various defenses to a negligence claim under Maryland law. 

 

Assumption of Risk.  A plaintiff cannot recover if the plaintiff has assumed the risk of the injury. A person assumes the risk of an injury if that person knows and understands, or must have known and understood, the risk of an existing danger, and voluntarily chooses to encounter the risk.  When a person engages in an activity such as a sport, they assume the normal risks incident to the activity, but not any enhanced risk, unless they have specific knowledge of the enhanced risk.

 

Contributory Negligence.  A plaintiff cannot recover if the plaintiff’s negligence is a cause of the injury.  The defendant has the burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence that the plaintiff’s negligence was a cause of the plaintiff’s injury.  It does not matter, under Maryland law, how much the plaintiff’s negligence contributed to the loss.  If the plaintiff’s negligence contributed, even a little bit, Maryland law completely bars recovery by the plaintiff.  Contributory negligence can be avoided in some circumstances where the defendant had an opportunity to avoid the injury after the plaintiff’s negligence occurred and fails to do so.

 

Proximate Cause.  Proximate cause means that the injury sustained is the natural and logical result of the defendant’s negligent action.  There must be a nexus between the defendant’s action and the plaintiff’s injury.  In the absence of a causal link, the defendant, even though negligent, is not legally liable for the plaintiff’s injury.  An important question here is whether the injury was a naturally foreseeable result of the defendant’s negligence. 

 

 

Damages

 

A person who is the victim of negligence must prove damages to obtain a verdict.  There are a number of things that the plaintiff in a negligence action can recover.  These include:

 

Medical expenses incurred as a result of the injury

Medical expenses that will be incurred in the future

Loss of past earnings

Loss of future earnings

Noneconomic damages, including compensation for pain and suffering, inconvenience, physical detriment,

disfigurement and loss of consortium

Other out of pocket expenses incurred as a result of the negligent act

 

Generally, the plaintiff in a negligence action does not recover punitive damages.  However, there is a possibility of recovery of punitive damages where the defendant’s conduct is characterized by evil motive, intent to injury, ill will, or fraud. 

 

The information contained on this page is provided as general information and does not constitute legal advice.  The experienced attorneys at Baldwin, Briscoe & Steinmetz, P.C. can assist you if you are the victim another person’s negligence.  We’d be happy to sit down with you and review your situation and provide appropriate advice.  Call today for a no-obligation consultation.  There is no consultation fee for cases involving personal injury.

 

 

The Law Offices of Baldwin, Briscoe & Sgteinmetz, P.C. also offers these services:

Bankruptcy and ForeclosureBusiness LawCivil LitigationCriminal DefenseEmployment, Disability, and Consumer RightsFamily LawGovernment Contracts LawIntellectual Property, Personal InjuryReal Estate, Social Security Disability & Workers’ Compensation and Wills, Trusts, & Estates

 

 

  

Contact Us

The Law Offices of Baldwin, Briscoe & Steinmetz, P.C.

22335 Exploration Drive

Suite 2030

Lexington Park, MD 20653

301-862-4400 Phone

301-862-3009 Fax

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Our Attorneys

Samuel C.P. Baldwin, Jr., Esq.

Janice Briscoe, Esq.

Richard J. Steinmetz Jr., Esq.

David J. Hebb, Esq.

Sandra Kaufman Jonasen, Esq.


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With an office conveniently located in Lexington Park, The Law Offices of Baldwin, Briscoe & Stienmetz, P.C. serves clients in the counties and cities of Lexington Park, Leonardtown, Hollywood, Mechanicsville, Loveville, Helen, Breton Bay, Chaptico, Charlotte Hall, Golden Beach, Avenue, La Plata, Waldorf, Newburg, Port Tobacco, Port Charles, Solomons Island, Prince Frederick, Chesapeake Shores, Hughesville, Benedict, Nanjemoy, Lusby, Port Republic, St. Mary's County, Charles County, Calvert County, Prince George's County, Southern Maryland.


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