Meetings can be scheduled by appointment at various locations for the convenience of our clients. If you can't come to us, we'll come to you.
Baltimore, MD
410.576.4287410.576.4287
Tysons Corner, VA
888.540.2599888.540.2599
By Appointment Only
Bethesda, MD
301.470.7201301.470.7201
Washington, DC
202.659.0555202.659.0555

Maryland Personal Injury Law Basics: What You Need To Know

Posted on: July 26, 2016

Maryland Personal Injury Basics

1. Deadlines – Maryland Statute of Limitations

Maryland law prescribes limitations deadlines by which personal injury lawsuits must be filed. Failure to comply with the statute of limitations results in a total bar to the claim. The Maryland limitations statute discusses various time limits for various types of lawsuits. Generally, for a personal injury/general negligence lawsuit, Maryland allows three years from the date of the accident to file the claim. See MD Cts. & Jud. Proc. § 5-101. There are several uncommon exceptions to this rule, (i.e. for minors, or cases involving fraud.) If the claim is against a government agency, there will most likely be more stringent requirements for providing notice to the government entity in order to preserve the claim under a local government tort claims act.

2. Maryland Auto Insurance Rules – Fault Based Jurisdiction

Unlike many no-fault jurisdictions, Maryland is a “fault-based” jurisdiction. That is, the State has opted for an “at fault” model wherein victims of third-party negligence can assert claims against the at-fault tortfeasor regardless of the amount of their damages or injury. Under this system anyone that is injured is free to file a claim against their own insurer, the other party’s insurer, or even go to court to prove fault.

This means that the injured party can file a claim with their own insurer, the insurer of another driver, or go to court and seek damages by proving the other party was at fault. Maryland insurance law promulgates that drivers must have $30,000 in coverage at minimum (for bodily injury, per person). They must also have at least $60,000 in coverage for two or more persons per accident (for bodily injury) and $15,000 in coverage for property damage. There is no requirement that any driver carry Uninsured Motorist coverage, however, absent a valid waiver, uninsured motorist coverage limits are generally assumed to be the same as the liability limits on a policy.

3. Maryland Shared Fault Rules

Maryland recognizes the defense contributory negligence. This occurs when the injured party is partially responsible for causing own injuries. In Maryland, contributory negligence prevents the injured party from collecting damage. If a judge or jury finds a Maryland claimant contributory negligent, the finding operates as a total bar to recovery. In practice, when filing a lawsuit or insurance claim due to an accident, it is not uncommon to have the entity or person you are filing against respond with saying that you are partially at fault for the accident. The reason this occurs more frequently in Maryland than most other States in America is because Maryland has adopted the harsh  Shared Fault body of contributory negligence laws.  See the case of Schwier v. Gray, 277 Md. 631 (1976) for a more detailed analysis.

It is important to note that the body of case law in Maryland does not concern itself with the amount of contribution of fault by the claimant. Rather, the body of law looks to whether the claimant shares in any amount of fault. The analysis is thus somewhat binary. If it can be said that the claimant shares in any amount of fault as a matter of law, then the claimant is not permitted to recover for his injuries at all.

Example of this in practice: For example, if you are operating a vehicle over the speed limit and another driver hits you and causes an accident that leads to you being injured, contributory negligence might prevent your from being awarded any compensation against the other driver due to the fact that you were technically breaking the speed limit, even if the other driver shares a majority of the fault in the accident. The defendant would need to prove that your contributing negligence was a proximate cause of the harm you sustained. If such a showing were made, your negligence would negate any claim that you bring. Insurance adjusters frequently use contributorily negligence arguments as a basis to deny insurance claims under Maryland law.

4. Strict Liability Laws

While not necessarily pertaining to automobile accidents per se, Maryland does utilize a number of strict liability doctrines in its body of law. For example, with respect to animal negligence cases, Under the Judicial Proceedings Code Annotated Section 3-1901, Maryland adopts strict liability for the owner of a dog that is running at large off leash. That means that the owner can be held liable for all the damages that arise out of the dog’s unleashed behavior regardless of whether the owner was negligent in some way.  This kind of “Strict Liability” mandates that owners thus keep their dogs on a lease or else face serious consequences if harm as caused by a result of their failure to comply with State statutes. The liable entity is simply liable or “on the hook,” for damages that arise out of their actions, regardless of whether such actions can be determined to be negligent or not.  Indeed, in some cases, Maryland statutes and caselaw adopt rules that certain actions, for example not leashing your dog, shall create reubuttable presumptions that operate as a prima facie case of negligence. The Defendant is always free to argue in rebuttal against such a presumption, however in strict liability scenerios, there is often no such counter argument. Strict Liability laws usually are applied to activities that are deemed inherently dangerous by the legislature.

The most common example of this in the Maryland law concerns Maryland Pit Bull Injury Cases. In these cases, Maryland courts have frequently ruled in the past, there is no need to show that the owner of the pitbull was either negligent or at-fault or even knew subjectively of the dog’s dangeous propensities. Owner’s of these dog breeds may face liabilty if their dog causes harm, regardless of whose fault it is. We have previously written about some of the recent changes in Animal Law in Maryland here.

5. Contributory Negligence, Assumption of Risk and Other Legal Defenses

In addition to the contributory negligence defense, another possible defense to a personal injury suit in Maryland is the doctrine of “assumption of risk.” Maryland law holds that a person has assumed the risk of injury when she or he has full understanding and knowledge of an existing danger and voluntarily exposes herself or himself to that danger. So, a successful assumption of risk defense proves that you (the claimant) knew of the risk and danger involved and proceeded anyway. This defense is most commonly encountered in slip and fall cases involving icy conditions, where the claimant voluntarily walks on or near ice and still gets hurt. However, assumption of risk defenses can apply to all variety of negligence claims as well, as long as the above criteria are satisfied.

6. Damage Caps

Some states place limits or “caps” on certain types of injury cases or categories of compensation such as medical malpractice or “pain and suffering”, respectively. Maryland places a cap on non-economic damages in all injury cases. Non-economic damages are damages that cannot be quantified. Lost wages, legal fees, and medical bills are known as economic damages since they can be quantified. Non-economic damages would be injuries such as blindness, paralysis, or loss of limbs.

Maryland places a cap on non-economic damages. Every year on October 1st the caps change to adjust for inflation. The caps are as follows (From October 1, 2015 – October 1, 2016)

  • $2,037,500 for wrongful death, non-medical malpractice and survival claims with two or more beneficiaries,
  • $770,000 limit on medical malpractice injuries that arise from the same incident
  • $962,500 wrongful death medical malpractice claims with two or more beneficiaries
  • $815,000 for non-medical malpractice injuries that arise from the same incident.

The cap that applies to a case depends on the date of the injury. This is often times the date of the accident.

Getting Legal Assistance in Maryland for Your Personal Injury Claim

If you are involved in an accident the first thing you should do after seeking immediate medical attention is contact an attorney. Personal injury laws can be complicated and difficult for a layperson to navigate. The body of Maryland tort law is vast and it is intertwined with civil procedure, insurance law, evidence law and many other areas of practice. All bodies of law are complex, “living” entities. Laws change with time, with legislation, and with the will of the democratic public. In time, even the above laws and guidelines will most likely become obsolete, overturned, modified or rewritten. Thus, whenever facing a legal problem, it is advisable to seek legal counsel.

Justin Katz is a personal injury lawyer who represents injury victims in Maryland, Virginia and Washington DC
Connect with me

Read Some of Our Recent Client Reviews!

Brittany Peterson
Brittany Peterson
08:19 17 Nov 18
Had a very awesome experience fast settlements... Communication was a A+ ...Strongly recommend Mr.Katz. !!! Ms. Robin made me felt like family was always there when i needed her and when i had a question.
Yarnell Goodwin
Yarnell Goodwin
23:38 15 Nov 18
Got a little more settlement money than expected. Was provided great service and prompt responses. I greatly appreciate it!
Ashley Poole
Ashley Poole
01:05 08 Nov 18
Attorney Bob Katz and his staff are highly recommend. Customer Service was impeccable. Every phone call and email was responded to in a timely manner. Natalie Ulrich was very professional, helpful and thorough every step of the way, which resulted in a stress free experience. I will recommend this law firm to family and friends!
Tania Jefferson
Tania Jefferson
17:51 06 Nov 18
Customer service was A+. All questions were answered promptly and information was shared appropriately. Concerns were addressed and I was made aware of all updates on my case. I would whole heartedly recommend this firm.
edward Robinson
edward Robinson
03:00 06 Nov 18
I highly recommend Mr. Katz and his staff. They were friendly, compassionate and really showed they had their clients best interest at heart. There was never a time you called them they didn't respond or returned your calls and answer your questions.They took the worry, and stress and turn it into reassurance. They were diligent and just down right professional. My wife and I really thank God for allowing us to cross paths on a professional business experience. Ms. Rebecca Slatery is the most courteous, compassionate soul. We wish you all peace, love and blessings. Thank you for your service.
J JR
J JR
20:11 31 Oct 18
I decided to use this firm again for an accident I was involved in. As always they were professional and caring. Rebecca slattery was the paralegal assigned to my case and she was professional and kept me up to date with everything. I would recommend this firm to friends and family!
Cedric Jones
Cedric Jones
19:04 23 Oct 18
Erica Z is amazing with keeping you to date and staying communication with you during the entire process. Meghan Young was a wonderful lawyer made me feel extremely comfortable in the courtroom and she also fights for the best possible outcome for you..GREAT LAW FIRM
Nguyen Le
Nguyen Le
16:44 23 Oct 18
It was a great experience being taken care of by Rebecca Slattery and Meghan Young, they helped me resolve my case and were very courteous and professional. Highly recommend working with this law firm
Soun Gil
Soun Gil
21:35 17 Oct 18
Ms. Park helped me out through my whole accident process. She took her time with me and made sure I understood everything. I would recommend to her all of my friends if they were to get into any accident.
Yejin Chung
Yejin Chung
15:40 12 Oct 18
I highly recommend. My family’s experience with this office was great. Christina Franetovich was very helpful throughout the whole process, which made this experience less stressful. She responded to my questions immediately and made sure that I understood everything.
Claudette Pope
Claudette Pope
13:18 30 Aug 18
I was referred to Gordon & feindblatt in 2014 when my family was in an accident, Mr. Katz personally consulted with me by phone and he was very polite and professional, Mr. Carpuso, one of the litigation attorneys even came out to our home and went over our case with us, he made sure all of our needs was addressed and before he left our home that day I felt like we were old friends. that case was settled and I was very pleased, I have used this law firm twice since then and the results are always the same, I have nothing but great experiences with Gordon & Feindblatt the staff are courteous and professional and they get the job done but the one in particular that really stood out for me is Rebecca Slattery, she is truly a gem, she is so compassionate, she walked me through the entire process, she even checked up on me from time to time just to see how I was feeling and I really appreciated her kindness. I will use this law firm again and again for any future legal issue that may arise and I would highly recommend Gordon & Fiendblatt to friends, family and co-workers.
UniversalSniping
UniversalSniping
02:32 04 Aug 18
The lawyer who was initially handling my case parted ways with the company and I was assigned a new lawyer. This new lawyer was amazing! Christina Franetovich made me feel secure by double checking all the facts and notes in my case so that I was not worried during this transition. I was on disability from an a different accident while she was finalizing my case, and I had called and hounded her about the time frame of my settlement very frequently to the point that I felt guilty for calling so much. Christina was very sympathetic to my situation and assured me that she would do everything in her power to make sure the situation would be resolved quickly. She actually finalized my case before the time frame she had given me, was always very courteous and knowledgable on the phone, and I feel extremely lucky that she ended up handling my case because the previous lawyer was not as amazing with customer service as Christina. She also has a way of making you feel comfortable and builds incredible rapport quickly. I am going to highly recommend her to my friends and family. Thank you Christina!!!
Richard Hose
Richard Hose
02:26 27 Jun 18
On Feb 23, 2017 I was in a bad accident on the JFX. I had been rear end by another driver. Almost immediately I felt pressured by the other drivers insurance. Everything from wanting a recorded statement; to failing to acknowledge responsibility. No one would answer my questions, nor would anyone take responsibility. I was frustrated and overwhelmed with everyone from the towing company, to the repair shop, to the insurance company nightmare I just entered. I reached out to Attorney Robert Katz and I was assured they were here to help. He provided with some much needed information, and told me not to worry, Sarah his Paralegal would be in touch to help get things moving. Sarah reached out as expected and explained their process and walked me through what my expectations would be. She as well assured me they were here to help me navigate the obstacles. What Sarah really did was so much more than help. She took the stress and burden off my shoulders and assumed ownership for handling everything on my behalf. I knew what to expect, and I received regular updates throughout the entire process. Honestly, I received so much more than I anticipated. Some of the most frustrating items to chase after are medical records and hospital charges. While I was trying to recall events and timelines, she had already obtained my records and information. She made this process so painless. I truly cannot say enough about the exceptional service she provided. Many thanks for all your help. Sincerely, Richard Hose
Andrea Barajas
Andrea Barajas
15:13 16 May 18
My husband and I were in a car accident in August 2017. We contacted Bob Katz team for legal representation in our case. Kristen A. Turner was our paralegal and she was excellent. It took 9 months for us to receive our settlement and Kristen kept us updated throughout this entire process. She was very kind and patient as I happened to have several questions. She always answered my questions promptly and thoroughly. I would highly recommend this firm and Kristen if you are in need of legal assistance.
TheOfficalCeeandDee
TheOfficalCeeandDee
15:24 09 Feb 18
My experience here was great. My lawyer Rebecca was so professional and I love her personality. She handled my case well and kept me updated and made the process easy and always made me feel comfortable to call whenever I needed to know anything.
Next Reviews