Establishing Negligence Per Se In Maryland Personal Injury Cases

Maryland personal injury lawsuits, although often complicated, boil down to four simple elements. In order to be successful, the plaintiff must prove (1) the defendant owed them a duty; (2) the defendant breached that duty; (3) the breach caused the plaintiff’s injuries; and (4) the plaintiff suffered real damages as a result. In some cases, the first two of these elements can be established just by the existence of a statute and the defendant’s violation of that statute. When this happens, the claim is considered negligence per se, and the plaintiff then only really has to establish two of the elements, instead of four.

A state appellate court recently considered a negligence per se claim in a wrongful death suit. According to the court’s written opinion, the deceased was driving his four-wheeler on another’s property, and the owner had given him permission to be there. While driving, one of the vehicle’s wheels fell into a well that was hidden from view by vegetation. This caused the vehicle to turn over, and the driver fell into the well and tragically died.

The deceased’s wife, the plaintiff in this case, brought a negligence action against a forestry service who had done work on the property, alleging that they were negligent in failing to report the open well to the property owner. The plaintiff pointed to a state statute that required anyone aware of “an open abandoned well or hole” located on “public or private property” to the governing authority. According to the plaintiff, this statute created a duty, and the defendant’s failure to report the well-constituted a breach of that duty, satisfying two of the required elements in a negligence suit.

Unfortunately for the plaintiff, the court ultimately ruled that this was not a negligence per se claim because the statute did not apply to the defendant. The statute in question applied to those who were actively aware of an open abandoned well or hole, and the evidence presented showed that the defendant was not actively aware and did not know of the well’s existence. As such, the plaintiff was unable to move forward in her claim, because she was unable to establish the elements of duty and breach.

Have You Been Injured In a Maryland Accident?

If you, or someone you love, have recently been injured in a Maryland accident, you may be wondering who was at fault and how you can recover against them. The personal injury law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen can help. Our dedicated attorneys represent clients in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington D.C. in a wide variety of cases, including Maryland wrongful death claims, medical malpractice, car and truck accidents, and slip and falls. We understand that the aftermath of an accident can be stressful and overwhelming, and our compassionate attorneys want to help by handling your claim so you can focus on healing. If successful, you may be able to receive financial compensation to cover medical bills, funeral expenses, lost wages, and more. To learn more and schedule a free, no-risk consultation, call us today at 800-654-1949.

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