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Testing the legal standards of personal injury

Standards for personal injury cases vary by state. Personal injury standards for most of the US allow juries to award damages based on their prediction of responsibility upon each party.  Thus a jury can award damages to “injured person A” even when both “injured person A” and “liable company X” participated and were, therefore, both responsible (albeit each to a different extent) for the onset of injury/harm to the individual.

Contributory negligence

Maryland’s standards are, by national standards, comparatively strict. Individuals seeking compensation for injuries sustained cannot win where the individual has played any role (whatsoever) in the injury-causing accident. This kind of standard was adopted in the 19th century and is known as pure contributory negligence.

It essentially mandates that there can be no consideration of the share and/or extent of the blame for the injured individual versus for the responsible and/or negligent party. When the standard of pure contributory negligence is used, if any amount of blame can be attributed to the injured party, then no compensation can be awarded, regardless of how the rest of the blame is divided among the parties.

For the first time in decades, Maryland’s restrictive standard is facing a potentially critical test. The case involves a 20-year old soccer player (Kyle Coleman) whose face was injured after it was crashed into by a goal post. Due to Maryland law, Coleman’s attempt to sue the Soccer Association of Columbia (the company responsible for running Coleman’s soccer practice) failed to yield any compensation, since the jury found him partially responsible for injuries sustained. Apparently, Coleman grabbed onto the top of the goal post during practice, which is what caused the post to come crashing into his face, breaking the bones around his eye.

The jury also found the Soccer Association of Columbia responsible. The Court of Appeals is hearing arguments from Coleman’s lawyer, who is arguing for an end to pure contributory negligence in Maryland.

References & Resources

Duncan, Ian (2012). “Soccer field accident could remake Maryland personal injury law.” The Baltimore Sun: Sept 17, 2012. Retrieved 18 Sept. 2012 from

“Contributory negligence.” Legal Dictionary: The People’s Law Dictionary. Retrieved 18 Sept. 2012 from


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With more than 40 years of combined experience, the personal injury attorneys at Fellerman & Ciarimboli strive to provide the best service to clients in Philadelphia, Northeast Pennsylvania, and throughout the Keystone State.





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