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Steve Silverman
Steve Silverman
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Out of State Automobile Accidents-What law Applies?

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I recently represented a Maryland resident who was driving in Delaware when his car was hit head-on by by another Marylander who was driving in the opposite direction. My client suffered substantial injuries requiring multiple surgeries. Because the victim and the defendant were residents of Maryland, I was able to bring suit in Maryland even though the accident happened in Delaware.

The more important question was whether the Maryland Court would apply Delaware or Maryland negligence law. This was a critical issue for the victim because the Delaware law of comparative negligence is much more “plaintiff friendly” than Maryland’s doctrine of contributory negligence (see my previous blog on a discussion of contributory negligence v. comparative negligence” )

When deciding whether Maryland or Delaware law applies to this case, the Maryland Judge will follow the doctrine of lex loci delicti, which states that the law of the jurisdiction where the accident took place controls. Many states, including Delaware, take the position of the Restatement of Conflict of Laws § 145, which sets out the “most significant relationship test” and lays down six factors in § 6 to determine which law should apply when an accident occurs in one state between residents of a different state. In White v. King, the Maryland Court of Appeals clearly stated that Maryland law recognizes the doctrine of lex loci delicti. 223 A.2d 763 (1966).

This holding was reaffirmed in Hauch v. Connor, where the Court of Appeals reiterated that “[t]he rule of lex loci delicti is well-established in Maryland (although in Hauch itself, the Court applied Maryland law to an accident in Delaware based on public policy reasons because the Worker’s Compensation action could not have existed under Delaware law at all). When its rationale has been put into question, ‘this Court has consistently followed the rule.’” 295 Md. 188 at 124 (1983).

Thus, Maryland follows the rule of lex loci delicti. Even though both parties are residents of Maryland, the accident occurred in Delaware so Delaware law applies to this case.