How Does Contributory Negligence Affect Bicycle and Pedestrian Accident Victims?

By Peter DePaolis

As we have reported in our newsletters, Washington, D.C., Virginia and Maryland all have contributory negligence laws that make it difficult for accident victims to recover damages.

These laws prevent injured persons from holding another person liable if the injured person slightly contributed to an accident. For example, persons involved in a pedestrian accident, who may have stepped off a curb that was not designated as a walkway, could be found to have contributed to the accident. When this occurs, a victim may not be entitled to compensation, even if speeding or distracted driving played a role in the accident.

Interestingly, most states have comparative negligence laws, meaning a victim can be found negligent but still receive a percentage of an award.

Recently, the Washington Post reported that safety advocates for bicyclists and pedestrians in Washington D.C. are now lobbying the D.C. Council to change laws to allow special exemptions to contributory negligence.

The legislation being pushed before the council includes exemptions for bicyclists and pedestrians from the doctrine of contributory negligence.

While it is a step in the right direction, many advocates would like to see the laws changed so that all victims can obtain damages even if there is contributory negligence. Additionally, many trial lawyers have expressed concerns over the changes, as they may limit the ability of plaintiffs to be fully compensated when multiple defendants are at fault for an accident.

If the council decides to approve the exemptions, we will let you know. As of last week, a vote on the changes was delayed.

Who Should I Speak to If My Loved One Is Injured by a Negligent Driver?

Pedestrian and bicycle accidents can result in serious injuries, including head injuries,

spinal cord injuries, broken bones and amputations. These injuries are in addition to

death.  A person should not have damages withheld, because his or her role may have contributed just slightly to an accident.

Injury treatment is expensive. If a negligent driver has injured you, our attorneys are here to help you. Call us today.

Koonz, McKenney, Johnson & DePaolis L.L.P.

Maryland, Washington, D.C. and Virginia Injury Attorneys

Sponsored by: Attorney Kelly Fisher

Did You Know: Only four states and Washington D.C. have contributory negligence laws.


About the Author
Peter DePaolis joined the firm in 1980 and has since represented a large number of individuals involved in automobile collisions, truck accidents, bus crashes, defective products, and medical malpractice cases. A significant portion of Mr. DePaolis’ practice is devoted to working on behalf of people suffering from asbestosis, mesothelioma, and other asbestos-related cancers. He has led his firm’s fight against the asbestos industry and has recovered over $30 million in damages for asbestos victims and their families.