Victims of a car accident can emerge from the crash with severe or life-changing injuries. When this happens, a victim will be concerned about how they can recover compensation for their injuries. Fortunately, you may be able to file a lawsuit to recover damages to help with your medical bills and other expenses caused by the crash.
If you validly file an injury lawsuit against the party responsible for the accident within three years of the date of the accident, you may be able to recover damages for your accident. Estimating damages is difficult without specific information about your injuries and their consequences. You may recover for your medical bills, lost wages, replacement or repair value of your vehicle, and pain and suffering experienced due to your injuries. Many car accident attorneys in Maryland will work on contingency fee structures, which means that you won’t owe anything in legal costs if you don’t recover for your case through settlement or decision.
If you or a family member was a victim of a car accident in Maryland, you should consult with an experienced Baltimore car accident attorney as soon as possible. At Rice, Murtha & Psoras, we are dedicated to providing you with the legal representation that you need to file a lawsuit against a negligent driver. We recognize the burden of dealing with a serious injury after a car crash, and we are ready to fight for you. Rice, Murtha & Psoras is here to explain how to file a car accident lawsuit in Maryland. Call (410) 694-7291 today to schedule your free consultation.
The police have arrived at the scene of your accident and give the other driver a ticket. Does this guarantee that you’ll win your lawsuit? No.
The insurance company pays out for property damage. Does this mean you will automatically get a payment for bodily injury? No.
Neither of those scenarios will guarantee that you will prevail in court if your case goes to trial. This shouldn’t stop you from filing a claim.
When to File a Lawsuit Following a Car Accident in Maryland
You will have three years from the time of the car accident to file your claim. the Maryland statute of limitations bars car accident injury victims from filing their civil lawsuit if it has been more than the allotted three-year period since the accident. the timeline is subject to change in certain circumstances, such as where the at-fault party leaves the state for an extended period of time, but once the clock runs out, you could be left without access to the recovery that you deserve.
You can file immediately after the accident, or at a later date if you are including both property and personal damages. You may want to complete your medical treatment, so you are clear on what amount is needed to cover past or future costs. Once your injuries have been tended to and you have received a diagnosis, you should begin the process of filing your lawsuit as soon as possible. the necessary steps before filing, such as identifying defendants and estimating damages, can take time, particularly when the injuries are severe or complex. This process starts with contacting an experienced Maryland car accident attorney.
It is likely that insurance companies will immediately begin investigating the claim once they receive notice. Depending on the circumstances of the accident and the severity of your injuries, it may be wiser to obtain the help of an experienced Ocean City car accident attorney sooner rather than later. That way, your lawyer can immediately begin to investigate your claim, preserve evidence, check police reports, speak with witnesses while the memory of the car accident is still fresh in their minds, and retrieve video and other evidence to support your case.
How to File Proof of Service
For an additional fee, you can choose to have the court or a sheriff or constable serve the documents for you and submit an “affidavit of service” to the court on your behalf. If you plan to notify the defendant by mail, you must use certified mail (also called “registered mail” or “return receipt requested”) to send the complaint, summons, and any supporting documents.
It is important to use some form of certified mail, because that is the only way you will have proof that the mail was delivered to the defendant. If the defendant does not accept and sign for the certified mail, service has not been made.
Where to File Your Lawsuit
Depending on the amount of damages you suffered as a result of your car accident, you may not have a choice as to where and what type of lawsuit you must file.
If you are seeking $5,000 or less in monetary damages only, small claims court would be the most appropriate forum. Regular civil cases in District Court cover up to $30,000 in damages, with the Circuit Court hearing the most serious cases.
Small Claims ($5,000 or less in cash)
In small claims court, the rules are simpler and more informal, and the fees are less expensive. Things move quickly because the claims are for money only. Trials are usually set in 60 days. Particularly in property damage cases, small claims may be the fastest method of recovery. If the case doesn’t go your way, you can start over by filing an appeal.
Regular Civil Case ($5,000+ damages)
If your claim is for more than $5,000, or you are seeking more than just monetary damages, you must file a regular civil case. Here, things get more complicated. While the initial process is the same, the fees are more expensive, and the procedural legal rules are more complex. Formal discovery rules must be followed, including the issuance of written interrogatories, which are questions that must be answered under oath before trial.
You are expected to know these rules and follow all of them accordingly. Being a non-lawyer is not an excuse. If rules and timelines are not followed, your lawsuit will be dismissed.
Who Should You Sue for a Car Accident in Maryland?
Before filing your car accident lawsuit in Maryland, you will need to identify each party that was at fault for the accident. This can be the driver or owner of another car, truck, bus, or other vehicle. it could also be the entity responsible for preventing dangerous conditions on the roadways. In instances where more than two cars were involved in the accident, it can be hard to parse blame between them. If you and your attorney determine that more than one party is responsible for your injuries, you have the ability to name multiple defendants in the same lawsuit.
If you are suing an insurance company, you must figure out exactly whom to file against and where to file. Many companies assign a resident agent to receive service for them. Look up the full formal corporate name for the insurance company and be sure the addresses are accurate. Similarly, you must provide the exact name and address of individual defendants.
Note that passengers can also file a lawsuit even if they were in the car that was 100% at fault. This is important for victims involved in accidents while riding in taxis, buses, and vehicles operated by rideshare drivers such as Uber and Lyft.
Uninsured and underinsured drivers can also be named in your lawsuit. Even if you discover that the driver who hit you has no insurance, you can still file a lawsuit against them. Many drivers are also underinsured, but that should not stop you from seeking appropriate money damages.
Special Rules in Maryland Car Accident Cases
If you have arguably contributed to the accident in any way, your recovery may be in jeopardy. In any injury lawsuit filed after a car wreck, you must prove that the defendant’s negligence or recklessness was 100% responsible for the accident.
If you contributed even just 1% to causing the accident, you may not be able to recover damages from the other driver. This is because of a Maryland rule known as the “contributory negligence theory” and it is rigidly in place even if the other driver was 99% at fault. If you sue for your injuries after a car accident, you should expect the other side to attempt to argue that you were contributorily negligent.
Examples of contributory negligence include situations where the victim was driving at excessive speeds, not wearing a seatbelt, or otherwise failed to follow the rules of the road. An experienced Towson car accident attorney will be able to guide you through this process and prepare your arguments against contributory negligence to ensure your best chances for recovery of any amount.
How Much Can You Sue For Following the Car Accident?
Limits on Recovery
In Maryland, there is a maximum amount of damages a plaintiff can receive for non-economic damages like pain and suffering. Currently, if the victim is not killed, the most they can receive for pain & suffering is $875,000. However, there are no limits on recovery for economic damages like lost income or medical expenses.
Breakdown of Potential Damages
If you succeed in your car accident lawsuit, you are entitled to an award of economic damages for the following economic damages:
- medical bills (past and future)
- lost wages
- other incidentals that you incurred as a result of the accident
You may also recover for non-economic damages that are calculated based on some of the below factors:
- physical impairment
- loss of limbs
- loss of consortium
In certain instances, you may be able to pursue punitive damages. Punitive damages are only available in situations where the defendant’s conduct was particularly reckless or intentionally heinous that it warrants punishment to deter future violators. Examples of instances where a court might award punitive damages include accidents caused by drunk drivers, drag racing, or accidents caused while attempting to evade police. While not available in most cases, punitive damage awards can represent the most value of any of the damage theories, so it is important to identify them where they may be available.
Depending on the extent of your damages, an individual represented by an experienced Maryland personal injury lawyer will net triple the amount of compensation compared to a party representing themselves.
Consequences of Filing Your Own Lawsuit
Regardless of the amount you are seeking, you will need to pay for your own lawyer if you suddenly find yourself overwhelmed, or up against a hostile insurance company.
What Happens if You Lose?
If you lose and the judgment is above your own policy limits, you will be responsible for the excess amounts. the defendant will not care how they get their money, whether that means getting it through wage garnishment, attaching your life savings, personal property, or even the equity in your home.
The question is whether bringing the lawsuit on your own is worth that risk. In smaller cases, an attorney may cost more than the case is worth and filing on your own makes sense.
What Happens if You Win?
If you win and the other side is ordered to pay you a certain sum, you still have to retrieve the money. Some insurance companies take a long time to pay out or they may refuse to listen to your requests for the money you were awarded. If so, you may have to file yet another cause of action just to get what is rightfully yours.
What Happens if You Settle Along the Way?
Once you accept an offer, you will most likely sign a release that will bar any further claims against the defendant. You will not be able to sue for additional medical expenses or other bills that arise in the future. Having an attorney will help you retrieve all that you are entitled to.
Even if you have an offer of settlement from an insurance company, before you accept, it may still be wise to consult an attorney. They may be able to tell you if the settlement is fair, based on their knowledge and years of experience in car accident cases They may even be able to leverage the offer into a larger settlement.
Evaluating Settlement Offers Prior to Filing a Car Accident Lawsuit in Maryland
Once the other driver reports the accident to their insurance company, the insurer will act quickly to limit their own liability for the accident. This typically includes a representative reaching out to the injury victim about the accident and their potential claim. the representative, also known as a claims adjuster, may ask the injury victim questions about the accident or even offer them a settlement deal.
Dealing with Claims Adjusters
If the claims adjuster asks you for responses to their questions or attempts to get you to confirm their version of the events, you should be aware of the potential consequences of your response. Claims adjusters can use your statements against you if your case goes to court. If you admit any fault for the accident, the insurance company could use your words to argue that you were contributorily negligent. Remember, a Maryland car accident injury victim cannot recover compensation if they were also responsible in part for causing their own injuries.
Settlement Agreement Offers
The claims adjuster may offer you cash compensation to settle your claim on the spot. Settlement agreements can have the benefit of resolving an injury claim sooner and avoiding the need to go to court. However, insurance companies do not offer settlements lightly. Their goal is to pay you as little as possible so that you go away. Therefore, settlement offers are almost always much lower in value than what you rightfully deserve. You should not feel obligated to accept the first settlement offer that comes your way.
Using an Attorney When Dealing with Insurance Companies
Your Maryland car accident attorney can communicate with claims adjusters for you so that you don’t make a mistake and say something that could hurt your case. You and your lawyer can evaluate settlement offers together and reject, counter, or accept when it most benefits you. the settlement negotiation process can continue all the way through your case, including filing, discovery, and the actual trial. the longer you wait, the more likely you will be to receive a higher settlement offer. Don’t make any decisions or statements until you hear from your lawyer first.
Our Maryland Car Accident Attorneys Can Help
Filing a lawsuit in a car accident case is relatively straightforward and is generally no different than the procedure followed in other types of lawsuits. the difficulty arises in how well you understand the laws that apply to your situation, how much time you have to do the paperwork and research (see above for example of forms) and the cost to you if you do not win.
The experienced Aberdeen car accident attorneys at Rice, Murtha & Psoras can help you in all of these areas and more. To find out more about our services, schedule a free initial case consultation today by calling (410) 694-7291.