Your state's personal injury laws can affect your case whether you decide to file a lawsuit in civil court, or even if you're only seeking a quick insurance settlement. In this article, we'll provide an overview of a few key Maine laws related to personal injury cases.
Maine's "statute of limitations" puts a limit on the amount of time you have to go to civil court and file a personal injury lawsuit against those responsible for your injuries. In Maine, this time limit is six years, and it typically starts to run on the date of your accident. While six years is a long time (Maine's statute of limitations is one of the country's most generous to personal injury plaintiffs), you need to make sure you get your case filed within the deadline, otherwise you'll most likely be barred from bringing it to court at all.
For injury claims against a city, county, or state government agency, you have 180 days to file a formal claim, and two years to file a lawsuit. See: Injury Claims Against The Government
Maine uses a modified comparative fault rule to resolve cases in which an injured person is found to be partly responsible for causing his or her own injuries. Under Maine's comparative fault rule, an injured person's damages are reduced by the percentage of fault assigned to him or her, as long as that percentage is under 50 percent. If the injured person's fault is 50 percent or higher, their claim is effectively barred, and they cannot collect anything from any other at-fault party.
Here's an example of Maine's comparative fault rule in action. Suppose you're driving through an intersection one day, where you have a green light. You're going a few miles per hour over the posted speed limit. Suddenly, a driver turns left in front of you and hits your car, injuring you. It's determined that your total damages are $10,000, but that you are 15 percent at fault (since you were speeding) and the other driver is 85 percent at fault.
In this example, Maine's comparative fault rule applies to reduce your $10,000 damages award by 15 percent, or $1,500, since 15 percent was the amount of fault assigned to you. Your modified damages award is therefore $8,500, which you can collect from the other at-fault party. If your portion of the fault had been 50 percent or more, however, your claim would not succeed against the other driver.
Maine courts are required to apply the state's comparative fault rule whenever the injured person and another party share the fault. The rule also comes up, however, in many insurance settlement negotiations, so it's wise to be prepared.
Maine is a "fault" state for auto insurance purposes. "Fault" or "at-fault" states allow drivers to choose whether to file an insurance claim with their own or another party's insurer, to go to court to prove fault, or both. Maine also requires drivers to carry certain minimum insurance to cover injuries caused by accidents. These options, plus the minimum insurance coverage, give you some flexibility when it comes time to negotiate an insurance settlement after a car accident.
In many states, dog owners are protected (to some degree) from injury liability the first time their dog injures someone if they had no reason to believe the dog was dangerous. This is often called a "one bite" rule. In Maine however, a specific statute (Me. Rev. Stat. Ann., tit. 7, § 3961) makes the owner "strictly liable", meaning regardless of the animal's past behavior, the dog owner is responsible for a personal injury caused by his/her dog.
Some states cap, or limit, damages (monetary compensation) in personal injury cases. Sometimes these caps apply only to certain types of cases (like medical malpractice) or certain types of damages (like non-economic or "pain and suffering" damages).
Maine sets a damages cap of $500,000 on non-economic damages in wrongful death cases. This cap does not apply to other kinds of Maine injury cases, and it does not affect economic damages, like medical bills and lost wages.
To learn more about Maine laws that affect injury cases, see Title 14 of the Maine Revised Statutes on civil procedure or Title 29-A on motor vehicle law.