Statutes of limitations are procedural laws that set how long a plaintiff, or a person who is injured, has to file a lawsuit. A statute of limitations is, in essence, the deadline for filing a lawsuit. Although the statute of limitations may be different depending on the type of lawsuit that the plaintiff files, there are some common aspects to statutes of limitations, in general.
In Maryland, the statute of limitations for personal injury cases gives you three years from the date of the injury to file your complaint. If you do not comply with the statute of limitations deadline your claim will likely be barred and your case disallowed.
Typically, statutes of limitations deadlines in automobile, slip and fall, battery, and most injury claims are objective and clear. However, Maryland recognizes the “discovery rule” exception to the statute of limitations in products liability cases, fraud cases, and cases of malpractice. Under the discovery rule a statute of limitations does not begin to run until the wrongful act is noticed.
In addition, in the case of minors or incapacitated persons the statute of limitations is tolled until the child reaches the age of majority, or the in competency ends.
When Does the Maryland Limitations Statute Begin to Run?
A statute of limitations begins to run on accrual. Accrual is when the person knows, or should know, that they have a legal claim. In most situations, this will be on the date of an accident. Think of the statute of limitations like a clock or a timer that starts to tick the day that an accident occurs. If there is fraud or a plaintiff was not aware that he or she suffered a harm, the statute of limitations may not start to run until the fraud or the harm is discovered. After the statute of limitations has expired, a lawsuit may not be filed.
For other claims, such as workers compensation claims, there may be additional time periods and procedures that apply. For example, under Maryland Workers' Compensation laws, there is a shorter statute of limitations (2 years) and the employee must comply with more stringent notice requirements by notifying the employer promptly after the accident date or occupational disease onset date is known or the claim will be similarly time-barred.
Maryland also has several different statutes of limitations, most of which are located in Title 5 of the Maryland Courts and Judicial Proceedings Article. However, most of the statutes of limitations for civil lawsuits are three years. The following types of lawsuits have a three-year statute of limitations:
- Personal Injury;
- Products Liability;
- Property Damage;
- Wrongful Death; and
- Medical Malpractice (although in some instances this can be 5 years, depending on when the injury was discovered).
Example of How Maryland Statute of Limitations Works:
For example, suppose that Peter the Plaintiff was in a car accident with Dan the Defendant on June 1, 2014 and suffered personal injuries and damage to his car. In Maryland, the statute of limitations for a personal injury lawsuit is three years. Likewise, the statute of limitations for a property damage lawsuit is three years. Because Peter is aware that he was in an accident and suffered damages, Peter’s date of accrual is June 1, 2014. He may file a lawsuit to recover damages for his medical bills, pain and suffering, lost wages, and property damage to his car at any point on or before June 1, 2017. If Peter files a lawsuit on June 2, 2017, Dan will file a motion to dismiss the lawsuit because the statute of limitations has expired. In this situation, a Maryland court would likely agree with Dan.
As with most legal matters, limitations deadlines can sometimes be unclear. Therefore it is wise to consult with a lawyer early on after an accident, as to the facts applicable to your specific case to determine the statute of limitations in your case.
Does the Statute of Limitations Apply to My Case?
One common legal question that persons who are injured often have is “how long after the accident do I have to file a lawsuit?” In some instances, an injured plaintiff may want to file a lawsuit as soon as possible to receive financial help for their injuries. In other cases, an injured plaintiff may want to wait until they have a more complete idea of how much their lost wages, medical treatment, and/or rehabilitation will cost.
As disucssed about, the law that relates to the time period for filing a lawsuit is called a “statute of limitations.” In most cases, it is a hard deadline. However, as each case is unique, a different timeline or strategy may be warranted in your case. If you have been injured in a car crash, dog bite, slip and fall, or any other accident, you may want to contact one of our Maryland personal injury attorneys to find out what the statute of limitations is in your case and whether or not you will need to file a lawsuit to protect your rights.
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