After a Maryland multi-vehicle accident, determining who caused the crash can be difficult. In some cases, there may be multiple contributing causes of the crash. If a plaintiff files a Maryland negligence against one or more defendants involved in the crash, the plaintiff must show that a defendant’s wrongful action or inaction was a cause-in-fact and a legal cause of the plaintiff’s injuries. Cause-in-fact means proving that a defendant’s conduct actually caused the injury, whereas legal cause means proving that a defendant should be held liable for the plaintiff’s injury.
If two or more independent negligent acts caused the plaintiff’s injuries, Maryland courts will determine whether a defendant’s conduct was a “substantial factor” in bringing about the plaintiff’s injuries. Even if a defendant’s conduct was a substantial factor in causing the plaintiff’s injuries, the harm must have been sufficiently related to the defendant’s negligent conduct. That is, Maryland courts will consider the foreseeability of the harm and the relationship between the defendant’s conduct and the harm. Maryland courts may decline to hold a defendant liable due to policy considerations and fairness. In addition, because Maryland follows the doctrine of contributory negligence, if a plaintiff is found to be even partially at fault for their own injuries in a Maryland negligence case, the plaintiff cannot recover compensation in court. Maryland is one of the few states in the United States that continues to apply the doctrine of contributory negligence. This means that plaintiffs often have to defend against claims that they were negligent in order to succeed in court.
The plaintiff must prove all elements of the case, including causation, by a preponderance of the evidence—that the defendant’s actions were more likely than not the cause of the plaintiff’s injuries. The plaintiff may prove the case through either direct or circumstantial evidence and the plaintiff must identify specific actions or inactions of the defendant that were negligent.