Based on data from 2017 to 2021, Maryland had an annual average of 45,527 injuries due to vehicular crashes in the state. As significant as that figure was, it was only a fraction of the total number of injuries incurred in the state during the said period. Animal bites, medical malpractice, unsafe property conditions, defective products, and other causes contributed to many more.
Thousands of annual injuries sustained by victims in Maryland lead to personal injury lawsuits. Individuals file cases to achieve justice and receive compensation for the damages and expenses incurred.
However, to file a successful lawsuit, it is best for a Marylander to not just trust and leave everything to their lawyer. They must also have a basic understanding of the law, which they can achieve in this article as it discusses some of the most essential Maryland personal injury laws.
Vehicle Accident Laws in Maryland
Maryland drivers should not be complacent. After all, the state recorded 565 crash fatalities in 2022. And the number is not expected to decrease in 2023.
Practicing safe driving techniques and abiding by Maryland vehicle laws, such as requiring underage bicyclists to wear a helmet, can help other drivers from becoming collision statistics. But if they get involved in an accident, it is best to know some of the state's accident laws.
For instance, Maryland is an at-fault state for accidents. Thus, if an accident victim proves another driver caused the accident, they may be able to receive compensation from the responsible party or their insurance.
Another important law is the article that states that failure to use seatbelts is not evidence of negligence or contributory negligence. Determining negligence is crucial in Maryland personal injury lawsuits; thus, this legislation would be more relevant to plaintiffs and defendants.
Furthermore, Maryland vehicles are required to have insurance to cover injuries they may incur or cause to another person. Without insurance, drivers may lose their licenses, pay a fine, or have their registration suspended.
These are not all the laws concerning vehicle accidents in Maryland. And it definitely will not hurt to know more about car accidents, trucking, and motorcycle laws.
Premises Liability Laws in Maryland
Premise liability laws concern cases where a property's conditions cause an accident.
For instance, if a person slips and falls in a resort due to a puddle from a leak because the owner failed to repair and warn the guests about it, the owner may be liable for the person's injuries. Another example is when a guest drowns in a pool due to a lack of signs indicating the pool's depth.
Owners can be held liable because Maryland laws generally require them to properly maintain their premises or at least warn individuals of existing safety hazards. For instance, Maryland's Real Property laws state landlords must fix or remove hazardous conditions like rodent infestations, structural defects, or a lack of utilities.
However, owners are not always liable for a person's injuries on their property. If the injured person is a trespasser, the property owner generally has no liability towards them, regardless of whether there were hazards on the property or they did not put up warning signs.
Thus, if a plaintiff intends to launch a premises liability case, they must ensure they were not a trespasser in the property to be eligible for compensation.
Animal Bite Laws in Maryland
Data from Maryland's Center for Zoonotic and Vector-Borne Diseases shows that more than 10,000 animal bites were recorded for 2019, with more than 7,000 of those attributed to dogs. With animal bites being such a common occurrence, Marylanders should be aware of laws that encompass such incidents.
For instance, the state's Code of Regulations requires all animal bite and non-bite contacts to be reported to the police, sheriff's department, or animal control center. A health officer or veterinarian will then give instructions based on the report. Failure to report or follow orders may result in misdemeanor charges and fines.
Additionally, Maryland has a dog bite law that may apply to personal injury cases. It states that the owner is responsible for the injuries or deaths their dog causes. The only exemptions are these conditions:
The plaintiff was trespassing (or attempting to) on the property where the dog was.
The plaintiff was committing a crime (or attempting to commit one) against another person.
The plaintiff was teasing, provoking, or abusing the dog.
Landlords may also be liable if they knew their tenants had a dangerous dog but did nothing to protect other tenants or people from the animal.
Product Liability Laws in Maryland
Product liability laws exist so people can hold manufacturers or sellers accountable for any damages or injuries a product may cause.
For example, a child choked on a toy. If the toy did not have choking hazard labels or indicate the age of children it is suited for, its manufacturers may be liable for the child's injury as they were negligent and failed to warn buyers of the product's hazards.
Plaintiffs can also hold product manufacturers or sellers liable for injuries if any of these conditions are met:
The product is defective.
The product is dangerous.
The manufacturer or seller misrepresents the product.
The product is unchanged from manufacturer to user.
The manufacturer or seller breaches specific terms in the product warranty.
Product liability lawsuits are, of course, not limited to toys. They can involve pharmaceutical drugs, car parts, food, and more. Thus, you can practically file a lawsuit for any product, as long as your case is strong and your lawyer is well-prepared against possible defenses.
For example, the defendant’s side may argue that the plaintiff received the item in sealed condition and was not aware of the defect. If their defense is successful, the plaintiff may lose the case.
Medical Malpractice Laws in Maryland
Many people go to the hospital expecting to be healed or cured of their ailments. However, some may come home with a new injury due to a medical or health professional's negligence, incidental error, or deliberate actions. Worse, it may cost them their lives, as is the case with 836 to 1,862 annual deaths in the state due to preventable medical errors.
In such situations, a medical malpractice lawsuit may be launched. However, the process can be complex. For one, Maryland law requires the plaintiff's side to acquire a certificate from an expert stating that the defendant did not follow standard care and caused the plaintiff's injury.
The expert must meet the following qualifications:
Has clinical experience, provided consultation, or taught medicine within five years since the action that led to the injury (experience must also be related to the defendant's specialty or field).
If board-certified, certification must be in a field that is the same as or related to the defendant's specialty.
Must not spend more than 25% of their professional time or activity testifying for personal injury claims and other related work.
Workers’ Compensation Law in Maryland
Injuries can also be incurred at work or due to work. In Maryland, 80 cases of fatal work injuries were recorded in 2021. Most of these incidents occurred in the private construction industry.
To prepare for such situations, employers must have workers' compensation insurance for their employees. The insurance will pay employees an amount equivalent to medical expenses, income loss, and other damages experienced by the employee due to the injury.
There is a process for workers’ compensation claims. Firstly, employers should be informed of the employee's injury, death, or disease. The required time is within 10 days for injury, 30 days for death, and one year for disease. The written notification must contain the employee's vital information, such as name, address, details of the injury, and signature. A copy of Employee Claim Form C-1 and a physician's report must also be submitted.
A hearing by the Workers' Compensation Commission may be held before the claim is approved. The commission implements the state's Workers' Compensation Act and may deny or approve claims based on the outcome of hearings.
It is important to note that employees can no longer sue their employer if they receive compensation. Moreover, the employee must not have deliberately hurt himself to receive compensation.
Maryland Business Liability Insurance Requirements
States may require specific insurance from businesses so they will be prepared for unforeseen situations. In Maryland, meeting the insurance requirements is a must.
Workers’ Compensation Insurance
Workers' compensation insurance covers expenses incurred by a work-related injury, illness, disease, or death. Expenses covered may include medical bills, rehabilitation costs, and lost wages.
Although it is required for Maryland businesses with employees, there is no minimum amount. Instead, employers may consult with the state's Workers' Compensation Commission to determine coverage that best suits their business.
Commercial Auto Insurance
Vehicles used for business purposes require commercial auto insurance. That insurance will cover damages incurred by the driver, passengers, other people, and the vehicle during an accident.
When getting commercial auto insurance, the minimum liability coverage requirements are:
$30,000 for bodily injury per person.
$60,000 bodily injury per accident.
$15,000 property damage.
Maryland also requires two other types of insurance coverage: uninsured motorist coverage and at least $2,500 in personal injury protection. The former covers a victim’s expenses if the at-fault driver does not have insurance or minimum liability coverage. Meanwhile, the latter covers costs regardless of who is at fault.
These are the minimum requirements for uninsured motorist coverage:
$30,000 for bodily injury per person.
$60,000 bodily injury per accident.
$15,000 property damage.
Certain businesses may have to carry insurance that is not required for others. For instance, heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration contractors in Maryland must have general and property damage liability insurance. Other businesses do not need to have them.
How Much Can Someone Sue For an Injury in Maryland?
The amount someone can sue for an injury in Maryland depends on the damages the defendant is charged with.
There is no limit for economic damages, which are calculable expenses like medical bills, and it is upon the plaintiff to provide evidence for the amount they request. There is no limit for punitive damages, which is an extra amount the court charges to punish the defendant.
However, for non-economic damages — like pain and suffering — Maryland statute limits the amount one can sue to $875,000 for lawsuits filed in 2023. If there is wrongful death, the limit is higher.
Contributory Negligence System in Maryland
Although plaintiffs can sue for any amount they wish (subject to limits), they are not always awarded that amount. If the defendant proves that they also contributed to the cause of the injury, such as by being negligent, their requested amount will be reduced.
The amount reduced depends on the system that prevails in the state. Many states follow a comparative negligence system, where the amount is proportional to the plaintiff's fault. However, unlike many states, Maryland adopts the contributory negligence system.
Under the contributory negligence system, plaintiffs cannot recover damages if it is proven that they also contributed to the fault. Even if their contribution is only 10% or 1%, they cannot collect anything.
Exemptions to Maryland's Contributory Negligence System
The contributory negligence system is less lenient than the comparative negligence system. However, there are still a few exemptions to the rule.
For instance, if the plaintiff proves that the defendant had a chance to avoid doing the harm after the plaintiff took their contributing or negligent action, the plaintiff will not be barred from collecting damages.
The Statute of Limitations in Maryland
The statute of limitations is the period within which a person may file a lawsuit. For personal injury lawsuits in Maryland, that period is usually equivalent to three years after the injury was caused. Thus, if you were harmed by a vehicular accident on January 1, 2023, you can sue the driver at fault until January 1, 2026.
Exemptions to the Statute of Limitations for Personal Injury in Maryland
Certain types of personal injury do not follow the standard three-year period. They are the following:
Assault, libel, and slander have only one year as the statute of limitations.
Medical malpractice has a statute of limitations of five years after the injury was committed or three years after the damage was discovered if the plaintiff is over 11 years old. If the victim is under 11 years old, the statute may be tolled, with the extension period depending on circumstances.
Minors have until three years after their 18th birthday to sue for an injury incurred while they were underage.
Legal Resources for Injured Folks in Maryland
Economically disadvantaged folks in Maryland may approach Maryland Legal Aid for personal injury lawsuits. Its civil legal services are free for Marylanders whose household income is below 125% of the federal poverty income guidelines. Interested individuals may contact MLA through its 12 office locations, phone, or website. However, while MLA assists in many cases, it does not handle the following types of lawsuits: active criminal cases, medical malpractice, police misconduct, attorney misconduct, car accidents, small claims, and credit counseling.
The Maryland Court website is an all-in-one legal resource. Firstly, it can connect site visitors to the state's various courts and court offices. It also provides access to court records, fee schedules, court forms, and other information and materials. The site also offers various electronic services, like e-filing, chatting with the District Court Help Center, paying traffic tickets, and more. There is also information about and for lawyers, such as an attorney listing, an attorney search, and legal resources.
PLL is made possible by the collaboration of the Thurgood Marshall State Law Library, nonprofit legal service providers, pro bono attorneys, legal academics, and other individuals and organizations. It is most helpful for Marylanders who intend to represent themselves in a lawsuit. However, even those not planning to self-represent may still find PPL helpful. For one, it has a legal services directory where people can find a list of legal service providers in the state. There is also a legal clinic calendar. It even has a page that provides essential information on personal injury cases.
211 Maryland is a nonprofit resource database that handles many call centers that connect Marylanders to the most needed services. Those who dial 211 may ask to be connected to legal help providers, including those who work pro-bono or charge low fees. If you do not want to call 211, you may still explore the legal services page on the website. It lists certain groups or services you can take advantage of for your personal injury lawsuit. It also has a location map of certain legal service providers in the state.
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