In a recent appellate decision, a Maryland court held that a plaintiff-passenger who is injured in an accident cannot be precluded from recovering compensation for her injuries based on the fact that the driver she allowed to drive her car was negligent. In so holding, the court explained that it did not make sense to apply the doctrine of imputed negligence in a situation such as the one presented in the case.
The Facts of the Case
The plaintiff was injured in a car accident while a passenger in her own car. At the time of the accident, the plaintiff’s husband had parked the car near the entrance to a restaurant and had run in to pick up the couple’s take-out order. As the plaintiff was waiting in the car, the defendant backed up into the plaintiff’s vehicle as she was sitting in the passenger seat.
The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the defendant, claiming that he was negligent in causing the accident. The defendant argued that the plaintiff should be precluded from recovering for her injuries because the negligence of her husband in improperly parking the car should be imputed to the plaintiff, as the owner of the vehicle.
The Doctrine of Imputed Negligence
Under the doctrine of imputed negligence, the owner of a vehicle can be held liable for the negligent actions of a person she allows to use her vehicle. Also called vicarious liability, the doctrine is often used by victims to hold third parties responsible; however, in this case, the defendant argued that the plaintiff’s husband’s negligence should be imputed to the plaintiff.
The Court’s Decision
The court held in favor of the plaintiff, finding that any potential negligence of her husband could not be imputed to her. The court acknowledged that the doctrine had been applied to similar situations in the past, but it explained that times have changed since the doctrine was originally created and that it was time to rethink its continued application.
For example, the court noted that insurance policies now routinely provide coverage for situations in which a permitted driver causes an accident, reducing the need to allow for imputed negligence. Specific to this case, the court held that it was especially odd to apply the doctrine in this case, in which the plaintiff was not alleged to have been negligent at all, yet she suffered injuries due to the negligence of both her husband and the defendant.
Have You Been Injured in a Maryland Car Accident?
If you or a loved one has recently been injured in any type of car accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. And depending on the facts surrounding the accident, there may be more than one party from which you can seek compensation. The dedicated Maryland injury lawyers at the law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen Personal Injury Lawyers have extensive experience handling a wide range of car accident cases, including those involving multiple parties, complex legal issues, and reluctant insurance companies. To learn more, call 410-654-3600 today.
More Blog Posts:
Third-Party Liability in Maryland Drunk Driving Accidents, Maryland Car Accident Attorney Blog, published May 2, 2018.
Court Discusses Government Immunity as It Pertains to the Placement of Road Signs, Maryland Car Accident Attorney Blog, published April 17, 2018.