How Do I Prove Fault in a Slip-and-Fall Accident?

A Maryland personal injury liability primer

By S.M. Oliva | Reviewed by Canaan Suitt, J.D. | Last updated on April 5, 2023

Use these links to jump to different sections:

Accidents happen every day in Maryland. Many are nobody’s fault. But when an accident is the result of a property owner’s negligence, the injured person may be entitled to compensation for their medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering, among other damages.

The term “slip-and-fall” accident is often used to describe a wide variety of accidents that occur on commercial property.

The common example is a customer shopping in a store who slips on a wet floor and falls to the ground. If the customer can prove the store was negligent in failing to clean up the puddle prior to the accident, she may recover damages in a personal injury lawsuit against the store’s owner.

How Maryland Law Makes Personal Injury Cases More Difficult for Victims

Of course, slip-and-fall accident claims are rarely that simple, particularly in Maryland.

For one thing, a property owner is not liable merely because an accident occurred. Indeed, even when the owner invites members of the public onto the property—as is usually the case with a store and its customers—the owner is not legally required to guarantee their safety against all possible hazardous conditions.

Generally speaking, the owner is only liable under one or more of the following circumstances:

  1. The owner, or one of its employees or agents, created the hazardous condition. For example, a store employee spilled the water on the floor and neglected to clean it up before the customer fell.
  2. Even if the owner or its employees did not cause the dangerous condition, it knew of it but failed to do anything about it.
  3. The owner did not have actual knowledge of the hazard prior to the accident, but it should have known there was a problem had it exercised reasonable care. This is known in legal terms as “constructive knowledge.”

Beyond proving liability under one of these theories, however, Maryland also requires the victims to be completely blameless for their accident.

Unlike the majority of U.S. states, that follow comparative negligence, which allow a personal injury plaintiff to recover some damages even if they are partially at fault. Maryland is among a handful of states that continue to follow the older rule of “contributory negligence.”

In plain English, this means that if a judge or jury determines you were even 1 percent at-fault for the accident, you are entitled to recover nothing from the defendant.

An Attorney Can Give You the Best

Contributory negligence certainly makes it more difficult for slip-and-fall accident victims to receive compensation in Maryland.

But keep in mind, contributory negligence only comes into play if the case goes to trial. Many slip-and-fall cases are settled out of court.

Many property owners—and more importantly, their insurance companies—will agree to a negotiated settlement rather than take their chances with a jury. This is why you should always contact a law firm or an experienced Maryland personal injury lawyer following a slip-and-fall accident.

Most accident attorneys offer a free case evaluation. Having an attorney represent you in settlement talks can significantly improve your chances of a favorable resolution. And if you do need to go to court, a skilled personal injury attorney can put you in the best position to refute a contributory negligence defense. 

For more information on this area of law, see our overviews of personal injury and premises liability.

What do I do next?

Enter your location below to get connected with a qualified attorney today.

Find top lawyers with confidence

The Super Lawyers patented selection process is peer influenced and research driven, selecting the top 5% of attorneys to the Super Lawyers lists each year. We know lawyers and make it easy to connect with them.

Find a lawyer near you