If you're involved in a personal injury case in Maryland, you're probably wondering what state laws might apply to your case. Whether it's an insurance claim that's headed for settlement, or a lawsuit in the state's civil court system, here's a look at a few key Maryland personal injury laws that could come into play.
Maryland laws set a deadline, known as a statute of limitations, on the amount of time you have to go to court and file a personal injury lawsuit after an accident. In Maryland, this deadline falls three years after the date of the accident, in most cases.
It's critical to keep this deadline in mind and abide by it as you plan your strategy for your injury case. Even if you're only filing an insurance claim, you want to leave yourself plenty of time to have the fallback option of taking the case to court if a fair injury settlement can't be reached. If you don't get your lawsuit filed before the three-year window closes, you'll lose the right to have the court hear your case.
For injury claims against a state government agency, you have one year to file a formal claim, and three years to file a lawsuit. See: Injury Claims Against The Government
It's not unusual to file an insurance claim or lawsuit over an accident, only to hear the person or company you filed against argue that you share some fault for what happened.
When it's determined that an injured person shares any amount of fault for the incident that led to their injuries, Maryland courts apply a fairly harsh rule called contributory negligence, which prevents the injured person from collecting damages from any other at-fault party.
Here's an example. Suppose that you're driving a few miles per hour over the posted speed limit, when another driver turns left in front of you. Eventually, your total damages from the accident are calculated at $10,000. However, you are found to be 10 percent at fault for the accident (since you were speeding), and the other driver is found to be 90 percent at fault.
Under the contributory negligence rule followed in Maryland, you will be barred from collecting any money from the other driver. Even though the other driver bears most of the fault, your damages are zeroed out automatically, because your own negligence played a role in the accident.
Maryland courts are required to apply this rule whenever an injured party is found to be partly at fault for an accident. However, insurance adjusters may also bring up the rule during settlement negotiations, so it's wise to be prepared.
Maryland's auto insurance laws are based on a "fault" or "at-fault" model. This means that injured persons are free to file claims with their own insurer or another driver's insurer, or go to court to prove fault and seek damages. Maryland requires drivers to carry a minimum of $30,000 in coverage for bodily injury per person and $60,000 per accident. In many cases, these limits (or the limits of an involved driver's actual policy, if higher) may be enough to cover your damages.
In 2014, Maryland's dog bite laws were significantly overhauled. Under Maryland Courts and Judicial Proceedings Code Annotated Section 3-1901, an owner of a dog that is "running at large" when it attacks someone can be held "strictly liable" for all injuries and other damages stemming from the dog's aggressive behavior.
"Strict liability" means no negligence or any kind of fault on the part of the owner needs to be shown. In most other situations, when a dog bites or attacks someone in Maryland, it creates a "rebuttable presumption that the owner knew or should have known that the dog had vicious or dangerous propensities." The dog owner will need to prove that he or she did not have that knowledge in order to avoid liability.
When it comes to damages in personal injury cases, some states place "caps," or limits, on certain categories of compensation, like non-economic (or "pain and suffering") damages. Other states cap damages in certain types of injury cases, like those stemming from medical malpractice.
Maryland caps non-economic damages in all types of injury cases. These caps change on October 1 of each year to reflect the rate of inflation. For injuries that occurred between October 1, 2011 and September 30, 2012, for instance, the caps on non-economic damages in Maryland are as follows:
The cap that applies to a given case depends on when the injury occurred, which is usually measured from the date of the accident. For instance, if you were injured on October 2, 2011, the example caps listed above would apply.
The Code of Maryland contains laws that apply to various injury cases. Important sections to focus on include "Courts and Judicial Proceedings," which covers injury case procedures, and "Transportation," which covers motor vehicle laws.