Recent Case Illustrates Why Maryland and Washington, D.C.’s “Joint and Several Liability” System Favors Plaintiffs

Earlier this month, an Arizona appellate court issued a written decision in an auto accident case, holding that the lower court erred in not allowing the sole defendant to name an additional defendant whom she believed to be in part liable for the plaintiff’s injuries. The court in Cramer v. Starr based its decision on the fact that Arizona was a “several liability” state.

In short, Cramer struck another motorist, Mungia. Mungia then sought out medical treatment, culminating in a surgery. The surgery ended up making her symptoms worse, and she sued Cramer for negligence without naming the doctor in the lawsuit. Cramer then asked the court for permission to name the doctor as an additional defendant under a medical malpractice theory of liability.

“Several Liability” Versus “Joint and Several Liability”

There are two basic statutory schemes that states use to determine how much an at-fault defendant can be required to compensate a plaintiff. In a “several liability” state, defendants are severally liable to the plaintiff for the damages they caused. This means that any one defendant cannot be required to pay more than their share of the damages. For example, if a defendant is determined to be 30% at fault in an accident, and the total damages suffered by the plaintiff were $500,000, the defendant who was 30% at fault will only be required to pay $150,000.

“Joint and several liability” – which is used in both Maryland and Washington, D.C. – is more plaintiff-friendly in that any at-fault defendant can be held wholly liable for all of the plaintiff’s damages. This means that if one or more of the defendants is not present in the lawsuit or is insolvent, a plaintiff may still be able to recover the full amount of their damages from a single defendant.

The Importance of Naming All Parties Involved

Since Maryland and Washington, D.C. are both “joint and several” jurisdictions, it is crucial for anyone considering filing a personal injury lawsuit to be sure to name all potentially responsible parties from the outset of the case. For example, if a truck accident is 30% the fault of the trucking company and 70% the fault of the truck driver, a plaintiff may be able to recover the full damages award from the trucking company, even if the truck driver himself is unable to pay any of the compensation amount.

Have You Been Involved in a Washington, D.C. or Maryland Accident?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a serious Maryland or Washington, D.C. car accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. The skilled attorneys at the personal injury law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen Personal Injury Lawyers have decades of collective experience handling cases arising in the Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. areas, including those involving multiple defendants. To learn more about how you may be entitled to compensation, call 410-654-3600 today to set up a free consultation.

More Blog Posts:

State Court Finds Premises Liability Case against Government Sufficient to Proceed Toward Trial, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, July 20, 2016

Statute of Repose Bars Medical Malpractice Plaintiff’s Case, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, August 2, 2016

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