Personal injuries can affect victims physically, mentally, emotionally, and financially. When another person or entity causes those injuries, it can feel overwhelming to decide whether to pursue legal action to recover compensation. That is why we have provided a comprehensive guide of what you need to know if you are considering filing a personal injury lawsuit in Maryland.
Your first step should be to identify who may be responsible for causing your injuries. Proving responsibility will typically require you to satisfy the four elements of negligence: duty of care, breach of duty, causation, and damages. Damages can include compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. However, you may not be able to recover if you are found to be contributorily negligent for your injuries. In any case, you likely only have three years from the date you sustained your injuries to file your lawsuit, so you must act quickly.
The experienced Baltimore personal injury lawyers at Rice, Murtha & Psoras are waiting for your call. We can work with you to assess the validity of your case and help you calculate the amount of compensation in damages that you stand to gain from filing your lawsuit. Don’t wait until it is too late. Call us for a free consultation today. We can be reached at (410) 694-7291.
Identify Who is Responsible for Your Injury
If you are planning to file a personal injury case in Maryland, you will first need to determine who the defendant (or defendants) will be in your case. the defendant is the person or entity responsible for negligently causing your injuries.
Depending on the case, correctly identifying the negligent party may be difficult, particularly in instances where multiple parties are involved. However, you do have the ability to name multiple defendants in your personal injury lawsuit and allow them to battle amongst themselves.
When considering whether a particular party was responsible for your injuries, it can be helpful to apply the four elements of negligence to the facts. These four elements will be necessary to prove your case in court. Read more about the elements of negligence below or contact one of the Ocean City personal injury attorneys at Rice, Murtha & Psoras today.
Determine Whether There Was Negligence
In any personal injury case, another party’s negligence is the most common cause of the plaintiff’s injuries. Negligence is the failure to exercise the appropriate level of care, which results in the injury to the victim.
In order to succeed in a personal injury lawsuit under a theory of negligence, the plaintiff will have to prove four separate elements. These elements are duty of care, breach of duty, causation, and damages. the plaintiff must prove each element by a “preponderance of the evidence,” which essentially means that the alleged negligence was substantially more likely than not the cause of the injuries.
Below are summaries of each of the elements and what proving them may entail in your case.
Duty of Care
A legal duty of care arises when one party owes a legal responsibility to another. In a vacuum, no one person owes a duty to another. However, there are a number of common situations where duty can be created. For instance, drivers on public roads owe a duty to other drivers, passengers, cyclists, and pedestrians within their sphere of influence. Property owners, such as retail chains and restaurants, owe a duty to the patrons they invite onto their property. Teachers owe a duty to students, doctors owe a duty to patients, and so on.
The nature of the duty owed depends on the relationship between the parties and the common practices in the field. As a result, the standard of care owed often differs based on the circumstances. For instance, doctors owe a substantially higher level of care to patients than most others who owe duties because doctors receive substantial training before being allowed to practice and patients are particularly vulnerable when in the care of doctors. Vulnerability also plays a role in determining the standard of care in other circumstances, such as common carriers like airlines.
Proving the standard of care for a particular relationship often requires expert testimony from another professional in the same area as the defendant who can attest to what they might have done in the same circumstances. Your Towson personal injury lawyer can obtain expert witnesses for you to demonstrate what the standard of care should have been in your case.
Breach of Duty
Once you have established the standard of care that you were owed by the defendant, you must also show that the defendant failed to meet that standard of care. This is referred to as “breach of duty” for negligence purposes.
You do not have to point to a specific action to demonstrate breach of duty in a negligence case. You can also use the defendant’s failure to act to show breach. For instance, if the defendant was a property owner who knew of a hazardous condition and failed to notify guests (for instance, with a “wet floor” sign), their inaction is enough to constitute a breach of duty.
If a defendant owed a duty and breached it, they were negligent, but that is not enough to recover in a personal injury case. You must also show that the defendant’s negligence was both the direct and proximate cause of the accident and resulting injuries.
Negligence is the direct cause of the injuries when the negligence is a “substantial factor” in bringing about the injury. This is different than the “but for” test that many other states use. As an example of direct causation, let’s say that Car A and Car B both run red lights from different sides of an intersection and collide with Car C. In a “but for” state, neither Car A nor Car B would be liable, since the accident would have happened anyway if either one was not present. However, in a substantial factor test state (such as the one used in Maryland), both can be found liable as they both factored into the plaintiff’s injuries.
As you can tell, causation can be a complicated element to prove in a personal injury case for negligence. Your Annapolis personal injury attorney can work with you to help you understand the requirements of the causation element in your particular case.
Damages is the term that lawyers use to describe the actual consequences of your injuries that were caused by another person’s negligence. Remember, when you file a personal injury lawsuit, you are aiming to recover compensation that reflects the harms you have suffered. If your injuries do not present an opportunity for recovery, you will not be able to recover in your lawsuit. Read more about how damages are calculated below or call one of our Bel Air personal injury attorneys for an estimate of how much you stand to recover in your lawsuit.
Rule Out Contributory Negligence
While Maryland law does feature the plaintiff-favoring substantial factor test as noted above, plaintiffs must also unfortunately deal with the state’s antiquated contributory negligence rule. Maryland is one of only five states that still employs contributory negligence, a defense commonly asserted by defendants in personal injury cases.
According to Maryland’s contributory negligence theory, a personal injury plaintiff will not be able to recover in their lawsuit if the plaintiff is shown to be even partially responsible for their own injuries. This contrasts with the comparative negligence theories of other states, which allow for a reduction of compensation based on percentage of fault. In Maryland, if the plaintiff is even 1% to blame for their injuries, they will be barred from recovery.
For example, let’s say that Driver A fails to stop at a stop sign and collides with Driver B in an intersection. Driver A would typically be proven negligent and therefore liable for Driver B’s injuries. If, however, Driver B was shown to not be wearing a seat belt at the time of the accident, a Maryland court could determine that Driver B was contributorily negligent and therefore barred from recovery for their injuries.
Calculate Your Damages
Once you have established that the defendant’s negligence caused your injuries, you will have the opportunity to show how the injuries have impacted your life for the purposes of compensation. You must show damages in order to file your lawsuit. When you file your claim, you will allege these damages, so it is important that you identify all possible damages ahead of your lawsuit.
You will win compensation based on your harms in a number of different areas. For one, you will be able to collect compensation in line with any medical expenses you incurred as a result of your injuries. Some compensable medical expenses include hospital stays, emergency procedures, surgeries, prescription medication, and rehabilitative physical therapy.
You can also recover for any lost wages due to missed time at work while recovering from your injuries. If your condition prevents you from performing the requirements of your job for an extended period of time or indefinitely, you may be compensated accordingly for your decreased earning power. You may even be compensated for any paid time off that you take while recovering.
It is also important to recognize the ways in which the injuries impact you outside of the direct financial costs. While the physical, mental, and emotional distress that you may experience as a result of your injuries may not be financial in nature, you will likely be able to achieve a proportional financial recovery through damages. Maryland law recognizes that the pain and suffering your injuries are likely to cause were the defendant’s fault and will award damages accordingly.
For a full picture of your potential damages in your Maryland injury lawsuit, sit down with one of our Columbia personal injury lawyers as soon as possible.
Ensure that You Are Within the Statute of Limitations
In order to file your personal injury case in Maryland, you will need to adhere to the appropriate time limit. You do not have forever to file your lawsuit. According to Maryland law, personal injury plaintiffs generally have three years from when they knew or should have reasonably known about their injuries to file their lawsuit. If you fail to file your claim within the statute of limitations, the court will most likely throw your lawsuit out before you have the chance to make your case.
In most cases, the three-year time limit starts when you sustain your injury. However, there are certain situations where this becomes less clear. For instance, if you were exposed to toxic chemicals or other hazardous substances that the defendant did not tell you about, the statute of limitations will start to run once you discover your injuries and their cause.
There are other instances where exceptions to the three-year limit may apply. For instance, if the injury victim was a minor at the time of the injury, they will have three years from the day when they reach maturity (typically, their 18th birthday) to file their lawsuit. If the defendant is a government entity or agency, you must meet notification requirements that differ between jurisdictions and will actually shorten your time limit.
Preparing and filing a personal injury lawsuit can take time. This is particularly true where the injuries are complex and serious or where there is more than one defendant to be named in the claim. Avoid the consequences of filing late by contacting one of our Maryland personal injury attorneys today.
Need More Info on Your Personal Injury Case in Maryland? We Can Help
Rice, Murtha & Psoras will help you assess the merits of your case and prepare your filings so that you can get started on recovering for your injuries. For a free consultation on your options, call us at (410) 694-7291.