Thursday, July 12, 2012

A white knuckle morning.

This morning's rising sun felt warm on my face, but it could not ease my growing apprehension. To my immediate left, a middle aged man stared intently over his bifocals at his glowing computer screen. His focus unnerved me as he appeared oblivious to all other objects within his immediate area.  And to my immediate right, a young lady gestured forcefully with her left arm as her right hand pressed a cell phone against her right ear. Whatever she was saying, I was happy not to be on the other end of that particular phone call.  In front of me, an elderly gentleman struggled to read a small folded newspaper. He paid no heed to the young lady, me, or Mr. Computer Screen. He appeared to fumble with a pencil or pen.

All of this terrified me.

You see, I was in my truck, traveling south on Route 95 at 65 MPH at the time. These folks were my fellow travelers, guiding their own 2000 pound vehicles toward points south of Baltimore.  Only thirty minutes earlier, I had kissed my wife goodbye, and whined a bit about being late for court.  But at that moment, I was not as concerned about getting to the circuit court in Rockville on time as I was about getting home--ever. 

As long as these nuts are on the road, I'm going to buy a larger truck.

A whole bunch of these folks are going to be in serious auto accidents,while they are reading, calling, texting and doing all manner of things when they should be DRIVING.  And many of these accidents will occur with other drivers who are also reading, calling texting and doing all manner of non-driving things.  Who wins in court?

Maryland is a jurisdiction where the plaintiff's contributory negligence, however slight, bars recovery. But did you know that Maryland is in the very, very small minority of states with this rule?  Look at this little group:


Alabama Power Co. v. Schotz, 215 So.2d 447 (Ala. 1968).

Wingfield v. People's Drug Store, 379 A.2d 685 (D.C. 1994).

Board of County Comm'r of Garrett County v Bell Atlantic, 695 A.2d 171 (Md. 1997).
North Carolina

N.C.G.S.A § 99B-4(3).

Baskett v. Banks, 45 S.E.2d 173 (Va. 1947).

The great majority of our United States applies comparative negligence, where recovery by the injured plaintiff is reduced or prohibited based on the percentage of fault attributed to the plaintiff.

So, if my happily distracted fellow travelers have an accident in states other than the five southern states listed, they may still recover.  But if their extra-curricular activities contribute to their accident, in any way, they get nothing in Maryland.

As if you need another reason not to drive distracted.

Visit the Young & Valkenet website.