Maryland Personal Injury Laws & Liability Rules

Learn some of the basics of Maryland personal injury law, including time limits to file lawsuits, what happens if you share blame for the accident, and limits on damages you can collect.

By , Attorney

Thinking of filing a Maryland personal injury (PI) insurance claim or lawsuit? Before you do, take the time to learn some of the basics of Maryland's PI laws. We'll explain Maryland's auto insurance system, the deadlines for filing suit in Maryland courts, where and how to file a PI lawsuit, and more.

Maryland's Statutes of Limitations for Personal Injury Lawsuits

Maryland has enacted several deadlines, called "statutes of limitations," on the time you have to file a PI lawsuit after an accident. We begin with the state's general three-year deadline. Then we'll look at some exceptions and special rules that apply in particular cases.

General Rule: Three Years From the Date of Injury

As a rule, a lawsuit "shall be filed within three years from the date it accrues… ." (Md. Code, Cts. & Jud. Proc. § 5-101 (2023).) Most often, a legal claim "accrues" on the date you're injured. So Maryland's general rule is that you have three years from the date you're injured to file a lawsuit in court.

Assault and Defamation

You must file a lawsuit for assault or for defamation (publishing a false factual statement about you that harms your reputation) within one year after the date your claim accrues. (Md. Code, Cts. & Jud. Proc. § 5-105 (2023).)

Medical Malpractice

If you've been injured by a careless health care provider, you must file a medical malpractice lawsuit within 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) (2023).)

Special rules might apply when the malpractice victim is a child. (See Md. Code, Cts. & Jud. Proc. § 5-109(b-c) (2023).)

Injured Person Is Legally Disabled

If an injured person is legally disabled when their legal claim accrues, the limitation clock doesn't start to run until the disability is removed. A person who's under 18 or mentally incompetent is considered legally disabled.

Unless the applicable limitation period is greater than three years, once the disability is removed the injured person must file suit within the earlier of:

  • three years, or
  • the applicable limitation period.

(Md. Code, Cts. & Jud. Proc. § 5-201 (2023).)

Injury Fraudulently Concealed

When the party who's responsible for your injury fraudulently conceals it from you, the limitation clock doesn't begin to run until you discover or should have discovered the fraud. (Md. Code, Cts. & Jud. Proc. § 5-203 (2023).)

Defendant Leaves the State

When the defendant (the party you're suing for your injury) leaves the state, as a general rule the statute of limitations doesn't run while they're away. The clock starts (or resumes) running when the defendant returns to Maryland. (Md. Code, Cts. & Jud. Proc. § 5-205 (2023).)

Suing the Government

Special rules apply when you're suing Maryland or a local government for personal injuries.

Notice of Claim Against Local Government

As a general rule, if you want to sue a local government (as defined in Md. Code, Cts. & Jud. Proc. § 5-301(d) (2023)) or its employees, you're first required to provide the government with written notice of your claim. You have to give this notice within one year after your injury.

The notice must describe the "time, place, and cause of [your] injury." (Md. Code, Cts. & Jud. Proc. § 5-304(b) (2023).) It must be delivered, in person or by certified mail, to the persons or government entities described in Md. Code, Cts. & Jud. Proc. § 5-304(c) (2023).

Giving notice of your claim isn't the same thing as filing a lawsuit. If the government denies your claim after you give the required notice, you then must file your 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, Cts. & Jud. Proc. § 12-106(b) (2023).) The notice must include the information described in Md. Code, Cts. & Jud. Proc. § 12-107(a) (2023). The Treasurer's Office has an online claim form you can use.

You can sue Maryland if your claim is denied after you file the required notice. You must file your lawsuit within three years after your claim "arises." That's usually the date on which you were injured.

Maryland's Auto Insurance System

Maryland is a traditional "fault-based" insurance state. If you're hurt in a car accident that was someone else's fault, you can bring an insurance claim or a lawsuit against the responsible party to recover compensation (what the law calls "damages") for your injuries.

We begin with an explanation of fault-based insurance and how it works. Then we'll talk about the insurance coverages Maryland requires.

How Fault-Based Insurance Works

Say you're hurt in a Maryland car wreck. The other driver's negligence (carelessness) caused the accident. Because Maryland is a fault-based state, that driver is on the hook for all of your damages, both economic and noneconomic.

Economic damages include things like your medical bills, lost wages, and other out-of-pocket expenses. Noneconomic damages compensate you for injuries like pain and suffering, emotional distress, lost enjoyment of life, and more.

You can file an insurance claim or a lawsuit against the negligent driver to recover these damages. Their auto liability insurance pays your damages up to the policy limits. If your damages exceed their coverage limits, they're personally responsible for the excess.

Insurance Coverages Required by Maryland Law

As a rule, every motor vehicle owner is required to maintain these coverages:

  • liability insurance
  • unless waived or rejected, personal injury protection (PIP) insurance, and
  • uninsured motorist insurance.

(Md. Code, Trans. § 17-103 (2023).)

Liability Insurance

As a general rule, every motor vehicle liability insurance policy sold in Maryland must provide these minimum coverage amounts:

  • $30,000 for bodily injury to, or the death of, one person in an accident
  • $60,000 for bodily injuries to, or the deaths of, two or more people in an accident, and
  • $15,000 for property damage caused in an accident.

(See Md. Code, Ins. § 19-504 (2023), Md. Code, Trans. § 17-103(b) (2023).)

Personal Injury Protection (PIP) Insurance

Maryland requires this form of "no-fault" insurance, even though it isn't a no-fault state. (Md. Code, Trans. § 17-103(b) (2023), Md. Code, Ins. § 19-505(a) (2023).)

Every auto liability policy must include PIP insurance of at least $2,500. For up to three years after an accident, this coverage pays:

  • reasonable and necessary medical expenses
  • costs to obtain replacement household services, and
  • 85% of lost income.

(Md. Code, Ins. § 19-505(b)(2) (2023).)

The first named insured under an auto policy can waive or reject PIP coverage. (See Md. Code, Ins. §§ 19-506, 19-506.1 (2023).)

Uninsured Motorist Coverage

Finally, Maryland drivers must have uninsured motorist (UM) insurance with coverage limits at least equal to the state's required auto liability minimums—$30,000/$60,000 for bodily injury and $15,000 for property damage. (Md. Code, Ins. § 19-509(e) (2023).)

What If You're Partly to Blame for an Accident?

Maryland is one of a tiny handful of states that continues to follow a harsh rule called "contributory negligence." (See Coleman v. Soccer Ass'n. of Columbia, 432 Md. 679 (2013).) Under this rule, if your own negligence contributes to cause your injuries—by even the tiniest amount—you're barred from recovering any damages.

Here's a quick example. Suppose your car is rear-ended while stopped at a traffic light. Unbeknown to you, because of a bad fuse, your tail lights weren't working at the time of the wreck.

At trial, the jury finds your total damages to be $75,000. The jury assigns 99% of the blame for the collision to the defendant. But because your taillights were out, the jury decides you were 1% at fault. Under Maryland's contributory negligence rule, how much of your total damages can you collect?

Zero. Even 1% of the blame for an accident precludes any recovery for your injuries.

In nearly every personal injury case, you should expect the insurance adjuster or defense lawyer to look for ways to pin even a tiny amount of the blame on you. Give serious thought to hiring an experienced Maryland personal injury lawyer to help you navigate your way around this draconian rule. It's almost certain to be an issue in your case, and it's a stone-cold claim killer.

Where and How to File a PI Lawsuit in Maryland

Your personal injury case is a type of civil lawsuit. Where and how you file it will be controlled by Maryland law and by court rules called the Maryland Rules of Civil Procedure. If you aren't well versed with these rules—and chances are you're not—you should have a Maryland lawyer handle your court case.

Where to File

Most PI lawsuits are filed in the entry-level trial court that has the authority to hear all or nearly all kinds of cases. In Maryland, that's called the circuit court.

If your total damages aren't more than $30,000, you can file your PI lawsuit in the district court. (Md. Code, Cts. & Jud. Proc. § 4-401 (2023).) But the district court doesn't have jury trials—all cases are tried by the judge.

You must file your lawsuit in the proper Maryland county. When your case is based on a claim that the defendant negligently caused you harm (most PI cases are), you can file your lawsuit in the county where:

A corporation can be sued in the Maryland county where it has its principal business office.

How to File

You begin a Maryland PI lawsuit by filing a complaint with the court. (Md. R. Civ. Proc. 2-101(a) (2023).) Your complaint must be accompanied by an "information report," which provides basic information about the case. (Md. R. Civ. Proc. 2-111(a)(1) (2023).)

In separately numbered paragraphs, (Md. R. Civ. Proc. 2-303(a) (2023)), your complaint should describe:

  • the parties involved in the case
  • when, where, and how your injuries happened
  • your injuries
  • what the defendant did wrong to cause your injuries, and
  • the relief (usually money damages) you want the court to award you.

If you're asking the court to award you damages of $75,000 or less, you should specify the amount of damages you want. But if you're asking for more than $75,000 in damages, your complaint should say only that you want the court to award in excess of $75,000. (Md. R. Civ. Proc. 2-305 (2023).)

Once you've filed your complaint, you'll need to see that the complaint, the information report, and a summons (an order commanding the defendant to appear and defend the case) are "served" on—meaning formally delivered to—each defendant. Generally speaking, in Maryland there are three ways to serve papers:

  • by certified mail
  • by the sheriff, or
  • by a private process server.

(Md. R. Civ. Proc. 2-121(a), Md. R. Civ. Proc. 2-123 (2023).)

Depending on the kind of PI case you're filing and who you're suing, there may be special pleading or service requirements that apply to your case. Check with an experienced Maryland attorney for advice tailored to your needs.

Maryland Limits Damages in PI Cases

Maryland is one of several states that has enacted limits, or "caps," on damages in personal injury cases. Unlike some states, which only limit damages in specific kinds of cases, Maryland has capped damages across the board, in all PI cases.

Maryland law caps only noneconomic damages, meaning those for injuries like pain and suffering, emotional distress, disability, disfigurement, and more. There's no cap on economic losses.

Caps in Medical Malpractice Cases

Under Md. Code, Cts. & Jud. Proc. § 3-2A-09 (2023), noneconomic damages for medical malpractice injuries arising on or after January 1, 2023, are capped at:

  • $875,000 for malpractice claims that don't result in wrongful death, and
  • $1,093,750 for malpractice claims resulting in wrongful death.

The cap for injuries not causing death increases by $15,000 each January 1. The cap for wrongful death injuries is equal to 125% of the non-wrongful death cap.

All Other PI Cases

The cap statute for all other PI cases is Md. Code, Cts. & Jud. Proc. § 11-108 (2023). For injuries not causing wrongful death that occur on or after October 1, 2022, but before October 1, 2023, noneconomic damages are capped at $920,000. If the injury results in wrongful death, the cap is 150% of the cap for non-wrongful death injuries, or $1,380,000.

Finally, the cap is the sum of the previous two caps, or $2,300,000, when:

  • the injuries result in wrongful death, and
  • there's also a survival action brought on behalf of the wrongful death victim.

The non-wrongful death cap increases by $15,000 each October 1, which increases the other two caps, too.

What's Next?

If you're looking for legal advice that's tailored to your situation, talk to a personal injury lawyer in your area. You can also learn more about personal injury lawsuits, settlements, alternatives to resolving your case in court, and more:

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