Car accidents are an unfortunate part of life. Fortunately, most result in just some damage to your car and not in serious injuries. However, that is not always the case. If you or a loved one has been hurt in a car accident, then you need to understand how Maryland law will impact your ability to financially recover through an insurance settlement or personal injury lawsuit.
When another party causes an accident, injured victims have options. Our Baltimore car accident lawyers understand the effect Maryland laws and statutes have on a personal injury claim. From traffic citations to the minimum required insurance coverage, the law will influence the decisions you make after an accident.
The attorneys and staff at Rice, Murtha & Psoras have been serving Maryland residents for over thirty years. Because of our extensive experience with Maryland statutes and case law, our office is able to provide our clients with highly professional and aggressive legal representation. If you have mounting medical bills and are losing income because of your injury, you need attorneys that will fight for you. Call (215) 709-6940 to discuss your options and the law.
Traffic Laws in Maryland
Maryland traffic laws have been put into place to help ensure that traffic moves smoothly, provide guidance for motorists, and protect the safety of drivers, passengers, and pedestrians. Unfortunately, many accidents occur when these rules and regulations are ignored. By understanding Maryland’s right-of-way laws along with other traffic regulations, a motorist will be aware of what conduct is acceptable and know when another driver’s behavior was unreasonable, careless, or reckless. When accidents occur, our Maryland car accident attorneys often rely on violations of the traffic laws to help determine fault and liability.
While Maryland law outlines when a driver should yield the right of way, it is also clear that no motorist should assume they are automatically entitled to that right. the circumstances surrounding the situation should always be considered and every driver in Maryland is legally responsible for safely operating their vehicle to avoid collisions.
Intersections exist where two or more roads meet. Under Maryland law, traffic at intersections is controlled by stop signs, yield signs, or traffic lights. Depending on the situation, drivers are required to yield the right of way to other drivers.
- For stop signs, the driver who arrived at the intersection first has the right of way.
- When drivers arrive at the intersection simultaneously, the driver on your right has the right of way.
- At a four-way stop, the driver on your right has the right of way.
- Any vehicle, bicycle, or pedestrian in the intersection has the right of way.
Accidents often occur when someone is turning at an intersection. A Maryland driver is required to yield to the traffic in the opposing lane before turning. Failing to yield to an oncoming motorcycle is a common cause of devastating accidents.
Not every intersection in Maryland has four-way stops. Nonetheless, there are still rules regarding which driver has the right of way.
- If you have a yield sign, then other motorists have the right of way.
- If you are entering a public roadway from a private driveway, road, or parking lot, the traffic on the public road has the right of way.
- If the road you are on is entering into a “T” intersection, the traffic on the crossroad has the right of way.
Interstates and Highways
When entering onto a highway or interstate from an access ramp, the traffic flowing on the road has the right of way. You are required to yield to the oncoming traffic when merging and are not permitted to pass other vehicles.
Pedestrians lack the protection of a vehicle. Therefore, they are afforded additional safeguards under Maryland law. As a general rule, pedestrians have the right of way at intersections, whether a crosswalk is marked or not.
- Motorists are required to stop for pedestrians who are in a crosswalk.
- It is illegal for a driver to pass another vehicle that is stopped at a crosswalk.
- When attempting to make a left-hand turn on a green light, a driver is required to yield to pedestrians in the adjacent crosswalk.
- If a right turn is permitted, a motorist must still yield to any pedestrians in the crosswalk.
Speed Limits in Maryland
Maryland traffic laws also define the maximum speed limits any driver traveling on the state’s roadways can legally drive. Speeding is a common cause of accidents in Maryland. When a motorist travels at an unreasonably excessive speed, they are likely to cause a catastrophic or fatal accident. Drivers who violate Maryland’s speed limits could face citations, fines, suspended licenses, or arrest.
Maryland has a uniform speed limit of 30 mph in business districts, residential areas, and school zones. Fines are doubled in school zones when posted lights are flashing. For highways and interstates, Maryland has a relatively low-speed limit. the maximum speed limit of 65 mph is lower than approximately 40 other states.
Steps to Take if You Are in an Accident in Maryland
Unfortunately, despite the traffic rules and regulations put in place to help protect people, accidents occur. When you are in a car wreck, there are specific steps you should take to protect your health and legal rights. If another person or party caused the crash, you should be thinking about gathering evidence to begin building your claim and protecting yourself from liability.
Call Local Law Enforcement
Under Maryland law, you are not required to report every car accident to the police. However, six circumstances create a legal obligation to report an accident.
- You must report an accident when someone was injured. This could be a passenger in one of the vehicles involved or a pedestrian.
- If a driver involved in the accident was drunk, you are required to contact the police.
- When a vehicle is damaged and inoperable, you need to contact law enforcement to have the car towed and the roadway cleared.
- If another driver refuses to exchange information, you need to call the police.
- If one of the drivers involved in the collision does not have a license, it must be reported.
- Should a driver flee the scene of the accident, you are obligated to call the authorities.
Whether you are legally obligated to or not, our Annapolis car accident lawyers’ advice is to still report an accident to the police. If there is only property damage, there could still be a dispute as to what occurred and who should be held liable. When you file a claim with your insurance company, or the other driver’s insurer, you should have documented evidence that the accident occurred. A police report will contain vital information that could support your claim. Additionally, you might feel fine immediately following an accident only to begin experiencing symptoms or physical consequences the next day or two. If you failed to contact the police, proving liability in an insurance settlement negotiation or personal injury lawsuit could be more difficult.
Get Medical Treatment
Many accident victims do not have a choice in this matter. Because of their injuries, it is necessary to receive emergency care. However, many accident victims walk away feeling fine or just bruised and sore. If you are one of these lucky individuals, you should still seek medical treatment. it is not uncommon for accident victims to experience a rush of adrenaline immediately following a harrowing crash that masks the extent of their injuries.
Furthermore, the seriousness of many injuries, including damage to your internal organs, might not be readily obvious. Tracing your injuries to the trauma of a car accident is vital when working with an insurer or filing a personal injury lawsuit. Any delay in seeking medical treatment will jeopardize your health and decrease the chances of obtaining the compensation you might deserve.
Gather Information from Drivers and Witnesses
You should gather the personal contact and insurance information from any other drivers involved in the accident. Include the license plate number of their cars as well. In addition to the other drivers, you should get the names and contact information of anyone who witnessed the accident. While this information might appear on the police report, some witnesses leave before the police arrive. Having eyewitness testimony that supports your description of events is critical for insurance negotiations and or a trial.
Most people have a cellphone equipped with a camera. If you have one, you should take pictures of the scene of the accident, the position of the vehicles, the damage, and the road conditions. Photographs of your injuries are also important evidence. Take as many as you can – it is impossible to take too many photos. These images could be used to document what occurred, assist an accident reconstructionist, and help witnesses remember what happened.
Notify Your Auto Insurance Company
Nearly every insurance policy has a mandatory deadline for reporting an accident. Depending on your coverage and what occurred, you might be required to file a claim with your company. When speaking to an adjuster, you should stick to the facts – do not offer personal opinions or comments. If you get a call from another driver’s insurer, you are not obligated to speak with them. Before speaking with any insurance adjuster, it is a good idea to talk with an experienced Ocean City car accident lawyers.
Contact Our Maryland Car Accident Attorneys
Accident victims need to know their rights. If another person caused the collision, you could be entitled to monetary damages. On the other hand, if you believe your actions caused the accident, you need to protect yourself from liability. Our Pasadena car accident attorneys are available to review your case, evaluate your claim, discuss the strength of your case, and negotiate with an insurance company or file a personal injury claim in court.
Dealing With Your Insurance Companies After an Accident in Maryland
After a car accident in Maryland, the type of insurance coverage you have and who was at fault for the wreck will determine who is liable for paying the damages.
Under Maryland law, vehicle owners are required to maintain insurance coverage. While Maryland mandates the minimum coverage, you are certainly entitled to have additional coverage. the current minimum insurance coverage amounts are listed below.
- $30,000 per person/ $60,000 per accident for bodily injury
- $15,00 for property damage
- $30,000 per person/ $60,000 per accident for uninsured motorist coverage
- $2,500 for personal injury protection
If you were at fault, your liability coverage would cover all victims in a car accident, including the other driver and any passengers in their vehicle. When another party is responsible for the crash, their insurance coverage could pay for your damages, including any injuries to your passengers.
Personal injury protection (PIP) is coverage for your injuries when you are in an accident. Also known as medical payment insurance, it serves as “no-fault” coverage. This means that your PIP will go into effect no matter who caused the accident.
Uninsured motorist coverage is just what it says – insurance coverage for your injuries and damages if you were in a collision caused by another driver who did not have auto insurance.
Determining Responsibility for a Car Accident
When working with an insurance company, a claims adjuster will make a determination of who was responsible. This is done by reviewing the police report and conducting an investigation into the accident, including examining the damage to the vehicles, visiting the scene of the accident, and speaking with witnesses.
Unfortunately, not every case is cut and dry. A claims adjuster works for the insurance company. They are not interested in what is best for you. A common tactic used by adjusters is to engage in friendly conversation to get you to say something that could be used to reduce or deny your claim. In some cases, an adjuster will offer a significantly lower amount than you deserve hoping that a quick settlement will entice you to accept.
While it is not a good idea to speak with a claims adjuster without consulting an attorney, you should never sign a settlement agreement without talking with one. Our knowledgeable Rockville car accident lawyers have the expertise and resources to evaluate your claim so you understand what it is worth. Furthermore, our office would handle the negotiations so you could concentrate on healing. By having legal representation, you could avoid some common and costly mistakes. the insurance company also knows you are serious. the threat of a lawsuit often results in a reasonable settlement.
Filing a Claim With Your Insurance Company
When you call your insurance provider after an accident, they will guide you through the claims process. You will be asked questions regarding the accident and given a list of information necessary to evaluate your claim. You need to remember not to discuss your injuries or medical history with the insurance adjuster. An attorney should handle this part of the negotiation.
Typical questions will include inquiries about when the accident occurred, the site of the crash, and the circumstances surrounding the incident. You will also be asked whether a police report was made and if you took photographs of the accident scene. Depending on who was at fault, you might be seeking compensation from your insurance company or another driver’s insurer.
Dealing with the Other Driver’s Insurance Provider
If another driver caused the crash, you would likely receive a call from their insurance company or an attorney representing another party. They could request that you answer a few questions or make a recorded statement. While you should be polite, you do not want to say anything that could harm your claim or a potential lawsuit. You have no legal obligation to agree to a recorded statement. In every case, you should refer them to either your insurance company or our Maryland car accident attorneys. Any pertinent information the insurance company needs could be obtained through the police report – you do not have to provide any information.
It is also important to note that you are obligated to speak with your insurance company. This includes providing any information necessary to have your claim processed. However, if you are asked questions about your health or injury, you should speak with an attorney first. Never agree to give a recorded statement.
Filing a Car Accident Lawsuit in Maryland
If you are unable to come to a reasonable settlement amount or if an insurance company denies your claim, you should speak with one of our Maryland car accident attorneys if you have not done so. There might be other options available, including seeking monetary damages through a personal injury lawsuit against another driver, a third party, or their insurance provider.
Our office will walk you through your available options, advising you of your chances of success. Normally, personal injury cases are taken on a contingency basis, so even if you believe you are unable to afford legal representation, you still have the ability to file a lawsuit. Under a contingency agreement, our office will not be paid unless the claim is successful.
Statute of Limitations in Maryland
A statute of limitations is a law that sets a definitive deadline to bring a lawsuit to court. Under Maryland law, car accident cases are included in the broader category of personal injury claims. More specifically, Md Courts and Judicial Proceedings § 5-101 states that a civil claim for personal injury must be filed within three years from the date of the injury.
Therefore, in Maryland, your time limit starts ticking down on the date of the car accident. This three-year deadline must be adhered to by any driver, passenger, motorcyclist, bike rider, or pedestrian injured in the accident.
Three years sounds like a long time. However, if you allow the applicable deadline to pass in your situation, your case will most likely be barred or quickly dismissed. Furthermore, just because you have three years to file your claim does not mean you should wait that long. Any delay in contacting an attorney decreases your chances of a successful lawsuit. Court cases depend heavily on the evidence presented. If you wait to begin building your case, valuable evidence and witnesses could become unavailable or unreliable. For example, surveillance video is often deleted on a weekly or monthly basis. In some cases, it could be as short as twenty-four hours. A video of the accident could be the most compelling piece of evidence available. Unfortunately, if our office cannot send contact the camera owner in time, the footage could be lost forever. Additionally, taking a statement from a witness two years after the accident does not provide the same creditable evidence as talking with them days or weeks following the crash.
Even if you are convinced you will be settling your case with an insurance company, you should leave yourself time to file a lawsuit if necessary. One tactic used by insurance providers is dragging the settlement out beyond the statute of limitations. Nonetheless, you should still gather evidence and prepare the foundation for a lawsuit while negotiating with an insurance company. Any documentation, testimony, or evidence that could be used in court also provides you leverage when dealing with an insurance claim.
One last note on the statute of limitations – it does not apply to insurance claims. the policy’s terms will govern any claims made against your insurance company. If you are filing a claim with a third-party insurer, it must be made within a reasonable time after the crash. While this time frame might appear vague, it is usually considered to be a few days at most.
Negligence and Maryland Car Accident
The majority of personal injury cases, including those arising from car accidents, are based on negligence – meaning someone did something wrong. For instance, a negligent driver could have ignored a stop sign and rear-ended another car or refused to yield the right of way when merging onto a highway.
The standard to determine whether a person was negligent is summarized in a simple question: would a reasonable and prudent person have done the same thing under the same circumstances. Legally, our Maryland personal injury attorneys will have to prove four elements of negligence.
To hold anyone liable for causing an injury, you must demonstrate that they owed you a duty of care. Duty of care is a legal obligation not to cause harm. Motorists in Maryland have an obligation to safely operate their vehicles, for instance, obeying all applicable traffic laws.
When a party violates its duty of care, it is considered a breach. This is where the question above comes into play. A breach occurs when a driver deviates from what a reasonable person would have done under the same or similar conditions. For example, texting while driving shifts a driver’s focus from the task at hand and creates an unreasonable risk to others. A reasonable person would keep their attention focused on the road ahead.
Not every poor decision or careless conduct results in an accident. To hold another person liable for your damages, you need to prove that their breach of duty caused your injury. If someone rear-ends your car because they were texting a friend, it might not be that difficult to prove causation. However, many accidents are not as straightforward, especially if they involve multiple cars and poor road conditions.
The final element required to prove negligence is damages. If you have not suffered a quantifiable injury, you do not have the grounds for a successful personal injury lawsuit. Therefore, you need to demonstrate that your incurred damages, such as medical bills, lost income, and pain and suffering.
Negligence Per Se and Negligent Entrustment
In some car accident cases, a traffic citation or other violation of the law could be construed as evidence of negligence. This is known as negligence per se. If a judge decides that a violation of the law is sufficient evidence of negligence, they will have to determine that the law was designed specifically to prevent the type of harm or injury that occurred.
A vehicle owner could be held liable for damages if they permit someone they know or should have known was likely to cause harm to others to operate their car. Under the theory of negligence entrustment, a car owner who allows a person with an extensive history of accidents or who is clearly intoxicated to drive their vehicle could be held liable for the damages that occur. This legal principle comes into play when trucking companies or other businesses that hire drivers fail to conduct proper background checks.
If the driver using the vehicle causes an accident, the driver and the owner could both be held responsible for the damages. In most cases, the available insurance will cover both claims. However, if the driver did not have expressed or implied permission to drive the car, then any claim against the owner’s insurance will likely be denied. it is critical to have our Bethesda car accident attorneys working on your behalf should any complicated issues arise/
Contributory Negligence and Maryland Car Accidents
Maryland accident victims have an additional hurdle to overcome when pursuing compensation through a personal injury lawsuit. In many cases, the at-fault party is clear. However, in other situations, the injured accident victim could have contributed to the collision as well. At the end of a trial, the jury will be tasked with calculating the appropriate damages to be awarded. They will also be asked to assign a percentage of blame to each party involved in the accident. This percentage could significantly impact a plaintiff’s compensation.
Maryland follows the “contributory negligence” rule. Under this legal construct, a plaintiff is prohibited from receiving monetary damages if they have been found to have contributed to the accident. the percentage amount does not matter. If a jury found that the plaintiff’s conduct was 1% to blame, they will not be permitted to collect from the defendant.
This harsh rule bounds both judges and juries in Maryland. Furthermore, it also serves as a guide for insurance adjusters when examining and evaluating your claim. A claims adjuster will base their decision on what is likely to happen in court. If they believe that your will be found to have contributed to an accident, they will deny your claim. If they believe it is likely, the claims adjuster will drastically reduce your settlement offer.
While this appears to be an unfair rule, our Charles County car accident attorneys are familiar with the tactics defense attorneys will employ. You should not let this rule deter you from pursuing a personal injury claim if you were injured due to another’s negligence. We will carefully and thoroughly review your claim so we can provide the best legal advice possible.
Wrongful Death and Survival Actions After Maryland Car Accidents
Some devastating car accidents result in fatalities. A subset of negligence claims is wrongful death and survival actions. When someone is killed in a car accident because of another’s negligence, there are usually grounds for both claims.
While both wrongful death and survival claims arise from the death of another, there are some significant differences. First, a wrongful death claim is filed by the deceased’s beneficiaries – typically their spouse, children, or parents. Eligible plaintiffs are entitled to claim damages such as the loss of companionship, protection, advice, society, guidance, counsel. In addition to these intangible damages, a beneficiary could seek economic damages, including lost wages or the cost of services lost.
The deceased’s estate files a survival action through a personal representative. Through this claim, the estate is able to seek damages the deceased incurred before they died, including pain and suffering, medical costs, and funeral and burial expenses.
Maryland’s statute of limitations also governs wrongful death and survival claims. Similar to a personal injury lawsuit, a wrongful death claim or survival action must be filed within three years from the individual’s death. it is important to note that it is not three years from the injury or accident. A wrongful death lawsuit could follow a personal injury claim if the victim does not succumb to their car accident injuries for months or years. Furthermore, the failure to file a timely personal injury claim does not bar a wrongful death or survival claim.
Experienced Maryland Car Accident Attorneys Are On Your Side
The law can be intimidating, yet it impacts all aspects of our lives. Car accidents are no different. Maryland law governs how you operate your vehicle to the type of insurance you are required to maintain. Additionally, personal injury claims must comply with many procedural rules. Our Maryland car accident attorneys are here to help you navigate these tumultuous waters. Call Rice, Murtha & Psoras at (215) 709-6940 to schedule a free consultation