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Negligence and Violating Statutes

Often when a person violates a law, someone else is harmed. In some cases, that other person may have a compensable injury that gives rise to a personal injury suit based in negligence. When that happens, Maryland law treats the legal violation as evidence that the violator was negligent.

Evidence of Negligence

Under Maryland law, violating a statute such as a leash law, building safety code, or statute prohibiting cell phone use while driving does not give rise to negligence as a matter of law. However, if an injured person can show that the at-fault party violated the law, that violation will be treated as evidence that the at-fault party was negligent, as long as:

●The plaintiff is a member of the class that the statute is designed to protect;

●The injury is of the type that the statute was designed to prevent; and

●The violation of the statute was the proximate cause of the injury.

Protected Class

First, the statute must have been enacted for the purpose of protecting against the type of harm that the plaintiff suffered. The plaintiff must be a member of a particular class to be protected from certain specific types of harm and not merely a member of the general public.

For example, laws prohibiting cell phone use while driving are enacted to protect other motorists and pedestrians. Building safety codes are designed to protect the people who go inside the building. Additionally, Maryland’s law mandating seatbelt use may not be used as evidence of negligence or as evidence of contributory negligence to reduce an accident victim’s recovery.

Protected Injury

Secondly, the injury must be the sort that the statute was designed to protect against. For example, if the violation of a leash law is to be used as evidence of negligence, the injury at issue must be a dog attack. If a person was injured because of tripping and falling while running away in fright at seeing an unleashed dog, that injury would not be the kind of harm that the leash law was designed to protect against. However, a dog bite would be.

Proximate Cause

Finally, the violation of the statute must be the proximate cause of the injury. This means that there must be a sufficiently close causal connection between the violation and the harm. For example, a building code may require adequate lighting in parking lots, but a business does not adequately light its parking lot. In winter, the lot is covered in black ice, and a customer trips and falls at night in the poorly lit lot. Though the parking lot was not well-lit, the ice, rather than the poor lighting, was the proximate cause of the injury. Thus, the customer will not be able to use the code violation as evidence of negligence.

However, if the customer trips over a curb in the lot because the poor lighting makes it difficult to see the curb, proximate cause does exist and the customer will be able to introduce the violation as evidence of the business’s negligence.

Compliance with Statutes

Though the violation of a statute is evidence of negligence, compliance with a statute will not necessarily preclude a finding of negligence. If a reasonable person would have taken steps beyond those required by statute to protect against harm, then mere compliance will not be sufficient to protect against liability.

Charles County, MD Personal Injury Lawyers that Fight for You

If you have been injured because of another’s carelessness or wrongdoing, please contact a Maryland personal injury attorney at the Law Office of Robert R. Castro to schedule an initial consultation.

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