What Is the Personal Injury Statute of Limitations in Maryland?

Learn the basics of Maryland's personal injury statute of limitations, find out when different deadlines and exceptions might apply, what to do if you have a claim against the government, and more.

By , Attorney · University of Missouri–Kansas City School of Law

Suppose you live in Maryland and you've been hurt in an accident—maybe a slip-and-fall, a car wreck, or some other mishap where another person's carelessness caused you harm. You might be thinking about filing a personal injury lawsuit. If so, you need to understand the deadline, called a "statute of limitations," that Maryland law puts on your ability to file your case in court.

We begin with the basics of Maryland's general personal injury statute of limitations. From there, we'll point out a few exceptions to the general rule, explain the special rules for claims against the government, and walk you through a some situations when the filing deadline might be extended.

Maryland's General Personal Injury Filing Deadline: Three Years

Maryland law has a general, or "catch-all," statute of limitations that applies to most civil cases, including personal injury lawsuits. Found at Md. Code Cts. & Jud. Proc., § 5-101 (2024), this general rule applies unless there's a more specific statute of limitations for your case. Under this rule, in most cases you have three years, usually beginning on the date you're injured, to file your lawsuit in court.

What does this general rule mean? It means that you must file the document that starts your case (called a "complaint") in court not later than three years after the date you were hurt by another's wrongdoing. But if there's a more specific rule that applies to your case, you have to follow the more specific rule. Let's look at a few of those.

More Specific Statutes of Limitations

Be on the lookout for statutes of limitations that are tailored to particular kinds of cases. Follow the wrong statute and you might file your case too late.

Medical malpractice cases. When you've been hurt by a careless doctor's medical malpractice, the time limit to file a lawsuit is the earlier of:

  • five years from the date of the malpractice, or
  • three years from the date you discovered your injury.

(Md. Code Cts. & Jud. Proc., § 5-109(a) (2024).)

Different deadlines might apply to medical malpractice cases involving children, foreign objects left in a patient's body, or injuries to a patient's reproductive organs. (See Md. Code Cts. & Jud. Proc., § 5-109(b-c) (2024).)

Assault and defamation cases. Say you have a dispute with your neighbor. In a fit of rage, the neighbor punches you in the nose. Maryland law calls that an assault, though it's also known as a battery. The time limit for you to sue is one year from the date of your injury. (Md. Code Cts. & Jud. Proc., § 5-105 (2024).)

The same one-year deadline applies when someone makes a defamatory statement about you.

Special Rules for Personal Injury Lawsuits Against the Government

Suing the government—whether Maryland or a city, county, or other municipality—isn't like suing a private person or a business. Before you're allowed to sue, you have to give the government notice of your claim, often much sooner than the deadline to file a lawsuit. Failure to provide the required notice means you can't sue in court. Here's a quick overview of the rules.

Notice of Claim Against Local Government

Before you can sue a local government (as defined in Md. Code Cts. & Jud. Proc., § 5-301(d) (2024)) or its employees, you must provide the government with written notice of your claim. The deadline to give this notice one year after your injury.

Your notice must describe the "time, place, and cause of [your] injury." (Md. Code Cts. & Jud. Proc., § 5-304(b) (2024).) Deliver it, in person or by certified mail, to the persons or government entities described in Md. Code Cts. & Jud. Proc., § 5-304(c) (2024).

Understand that sending the government notice of your claim isn't the same as filing a lawsuit. If the government denies your claim after you give the required notice, and if you still want to pursue the claim, then you can file a lawsuit in court.

Notice of Claim Against State Government

You can't sue Maryland unless, within one year after the date of your injury, you provide the Maryland Treasurer with written notice of your claim. (Md. Code State Gov't., § 12-106(b) (2024).) Be sure to include in your notice the information required by Md. Code State Gov't., § 12-107(a) (2024). The Treasurer's Office has an online claim form to simplify filing.

If your claim against the state is denied after you file the required notice, you're allowed to sue. You must file your lawsuit within three years after your claim "arises." Most often, that's the date when you were injured.

Can the Filing Deadline Be Extended?

Like every state, Maryland has carved out situations when a statute of limitations won't run or will be paused, giving you more time to sue. Be careful here. If you rely on an exception to file your case after the applicable limitation period has run out, you can expect to be challenged by the defendant (the party you're suing). The burden is on you to prove that an exception applies.

Injured Person Is Legally Disabled

Legal disability means that a person isn't legally able to take care of their own affairs without the help of a parent, guardian, or court. People who are younger than 18 and those who are mentally incompetent are considered legally disabled under Maryland law. The limitation clock doesn't run for the period of their legal disability.

But once the disability ends, they must file a lawsuit within the sooner of:

  • three years, or
  • the applicable limitation period.

(Md. Code Cts. & Jud. Proc., § 5-201 (2024).)

Responsible Party Leaves Maryland

When a defendant leaves Maryland before a claim against them arises, the statute of limitations doesn't run while they're out of state. When they return, the clock starts running. (Md. Code Cts. & Jud. Proc., § 5-205(b) (2024).)

Defendant Fraudulently Conceals Facts From You

When a defendant fraudulently conceals from you facts that would let you know you have a claim, the limitation period doesn't start running until you discover or reasonably should have discovered the fraud. (Md. Code Cts. & Jud. Proc., § 5-203 (2024).)

Get Help With Your Maryland Statute of Limitations Questions

Here's the simple truth about statutes of limitations: They're among the most difficult, complicated, and hard-to-apply of all laws. Pick the wrong statute, miss an exception to the rule (or an exception to an exception), or make even the tiniest mistake and the penalty can be draconian. Statutes of limitations are designed to be claim killers. It's the only reason they exist, and they do their job very well.

If you have a personal injury claim, don't take needless chances. Speak to a Maryland personal injury lawyer about your case, and do it sooner rather than later. Time is the enemy of personal injury cases. If you're ready to get the help you need, here's how to find an attorney in your area who's right for you.

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