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Premises liability claims can be complicated

Maryland residents may assume that if they are successful in a personal injury lawsuit, they will automatically get 100 percent of the damages that are awarded by the jury. Their assumption would be wrong, however, if they bear some degree of fault for the incident.

Injuries suffered in a slip and fall accident at a private home or a business are often the fault of the property owner. However, when the plaintiff had some responsibility, the amount of the recovery will depend in part on state law.

A few states plus the District of Columbia follow the theory of contributory negligence. Under this law, a plaintiff who had any responsibility, no matter how minor, is completely barred from recovery. Several other states have enacted pure comparative negligence statutes. Under these laws, the amount of the award will be reduced by the percentage of negligence allocated to the plaintiff, and a plaintiff who was 99 percent responsible would still be entitled to 1 percent of the award. Most states follow modified comparative negligence principles, and in these instances a plaintiff must show that the defendant bore at least 50 percent, or in some states 51 percent, of the responsibility in order to recover. The amount of the award will be reduced by the degree assigned to the plaintiff.

Slip and fall litigation can be complex, and they often will require a close examination of the evidence before a lawsuit is filed. Plaintiffs will have to demonstrate that a property owner knew or should have known about a dangerous condition but failed to correct it or to warn invited guests of the potential risks. An attorney can often be of assistance in gathering this information.

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