Maine Auto Accident Laws & Resources
Whether you explore Fort Kent, Bar Harbor, Portland or Jackman, there are thousands of miles to explore in Maine. You can also drive through Bangor, past Moosehead Lake and even see the Appalachian Trail and the Atlantic shore. Maine’s roads are used each year by one million licensed drivers, and they drive an average of 11,000 miles per year. In those miles, Maine drivers have thousands of serious and fatal car accidents per year. Wherever you travel in the Pine Tree State, it is important to have enough auto insurance, and to understand the driving rules and regulations of this beautiful state. If you are ever in a car accident here, you will know how to proceed with an accident claim.
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Statistics and Notable Car Accident Lawsuits
IN 2012, the Maine Department of Public Safety reported that almost 1000 people suffered serious injuries in car accidents, and 164 were killed. These statistics reveal a general rise in serious injuries and deaths. Possible explanations are that the economy is improving, and gas prices are lower. These facts could be causing more people to hit the open roads of Maine.
With the state’s open roads, hills and miles of scenic coastal highway, it is not surprising this state is popular with tourists in cars and motorcycles. But there are more serious accidents occurring in this state since 2015. This is especially true for motorcycles. It was reported recently that 2015 was the worst year for motorcycle fatalities in Maine in 20 years.
The most common reasons for more motorcycle accidents in Maine are:
Not wearing a helmet. Some motorcycle riders choose to not wear a helmet because they think it will not make a difference in saving them in an accident. This is demonstrably false.
Distracted driving: Motorcyclists are more vulnerable to drivers being distracted behind the wheel. There has been an increase in the number of fatal accidents on straight, flat roads in recent years across the country. Absent any other explanation, it is possible more texting and driving is leading drivers to cross the yellow line and strike oncoming vehicles.
- Riding while intoxicated
- Not enough training
- Old motorcycles: Some older riders have been taking up riding again after years. Without practice, they may be getting on motorcycles that are too powerful for their level of training.
Some of the good news for car accident statistics in Maine is that traffic crashes involving teen drivers have dropped in the past three years. As part of a campaign called the 100 Deadliest Days, AAA released statistics in 2015 that showed the average number of traffic deaths for teens in summer months across the country compared to the rest of the year was 43% higher. But teen driving deaths have been on the decline in this state.
Part of the reason, experts say, is teen drivers are given an intermediate license that bars them from driving between midnight and 5 am if they are transporting anyone besides immediate family. A young driver in Maine can then get a provisional license that allows the state to suspend the license for one month for any type of traffic infraction. That policy continues until the driver is 21. This is a strong incentive for children to remember what they studied in driver’s education and get that information into their muscle memory. Experts say once you have several years of driving experience, the chances of serious accidents is much less.
Another new program that is effective in Maine is where the DMV uses decals on the vehicle to show an intermediate licensed driver may be operating the vehicle. This allows the police to pull over a car that a police officer thinks is carrying people who are not close family members.
A major personal injury lawsuit and settlement in Portland, Maine in 2017 involved a teenager who was killed on a hayride at a Halloween attraction. According to lawsuit documents, the ‘haunted’ hayride at the Harvest Hill Farm in Mechanic Falls went out of control due to brake failure and killed the girl and injured 20 others. Prosecutors stated during the wrongful death trial the 1979 Jeep pulling the wagon has several safety problems that led to the death of the teen. The amount of the settlement was not disclosed.
Auto Insurance Requirements in Maine
The laws of Maine require you to have a certain level of auto insurance. If you do not do so, you could suffer serious penalties that include fines and jail time. Under the tort system of this state, you could be sued for actual and economic damages if you are found liable in a car accident. You also can be held accountable legally for emotional and physical pain and suffering damages.
The minimum level of insurance required in this state is:
- $50,000 for bodily injury coverage for each person per accident
- $100,000 in bodily injury coverage for each person per accident
- $25,000 in property damage liability
- $2000 for medical payment coverage for each person
- $50,000 and $100,000 in uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage
Maine does not mandate you to have additional auto insurance coverage such as comprehensive and collision. But if you own a lot of assets and property, it is recommended to supplement your minimal coverage with other insurance.
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Maine Accident Settlement Taxes
Having received a personal injury settlement in Maine recently, it is smart to ask if you need to pay taxes to the US government and Maine state government. For the most part, personal injury settlements are not taxable as income. But there are always exceptions.
First, the IRS states that if you are paid for a personal physical injury sustained in an accident, the money is free of tax. Compensation for pain and suffering related to a physical injury is also not taxable as income. But the compensation must be related to a physical injury. If you are compensated for emotional distress only, this is taxable as income.
If your injury resulted in lost wages in the past and you are compensated for this in the settlement, this is taxable income. Also, if you took a medical expense deduction in a previous tax year, you will need to report as income this part of your settlement.
While punitive damages are fairly rare, know that these damages are always taxable by Maine and by the federal government. They are not compensation for your injuries but are intended to punish the defendant.
If you have any questions about your tax situation, talk to a tax professional immediately.
Negligence Laws in Maine
When you are in a car accident in Maine and another driver is responsible for your injuries, you can be compensated for your damages. Maine has a modified comparative fault system to resolve lawsuits and claims where the injured party was partially responsible for causing the accident. Under this rule, your damages will be reduced by your percentage of fault for the accident. But this amount must be under 50%. If you have been found 50% or more responsible, the claim is barred and you cannot collect compensation.
For example, if you are hit at a stop sign and suffer $10,000 in damages with a broken arm, you would be entitled to that amount if the other driver was 100% responsible. But if your vehicle was over the yellow line and you were 20% responsible for the accident, your damages would be reduced by $2000.
Car Accident Statute of Limitations in Maine
According to state law, you have a limited amount of time to file a personal injury claim in this state. You have to file the claim within six years, and the clock usually begins to run on the date of the accident. The statute of limitations in Maine is longer than most states, but be sure you file your claim well before the deadline.
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Other Maine Driving and Accident Laws
There are several new driving-related laws in Maine that have been passed recently. Be sure you know them, so you do not have problems when driving here:
- Any driver who is cited for texting and driving will be fined at least $250 for the first offense and $500 for the second offense within three years. Texting violations also have a 30-day suspension of your license for a second offense, and 60 days on the third offense. All such suspensions are mandatory and are not appealable.
- Maine has a law that makes it illegal to drive distracted. This law can be cited in a personal injury lawsuit if you injure another person while driving in this manner.
- Active duty military have 180 days to obtain a driver’s license in Maine after they are discharged
- Police officers will accept proof of auto insurance on an electronic device
- A police officer can issue a permit to drive home or to the DMV if you are operating a vehicle with an expired driver’s license.
- The driver’s license of a person with four or more DUIs can apply for early reinstatement after they have served four years of their suspension period, if they have an ignition interlock device installed for four years.
Maine Car Accident Resources
If you have been in a car accident in Maine, you will probably be under stress. It is important to review the resources below so that you know what to do after the accident.
- For anyone who has been in a car accident in Maine that is more than a fender bender, you probably have plenty of medical bills, lost earnings, and pain and suffering. If have thought about a personal injury claim, Lawsuit Info Center can provide assistance. This is a comprehensive website is a great resource that assists injured drivers and passengers to locate a good attorney in their area. The website also is useful to get a rough idea what your case could be worth.
- If you need to get a copy of a crash report in Maine, you can do so at the Maine State Police website. The crash report form is important evidence for making an insurance or personal injury claim.
- You need to report the accident to the Maine State Police if the accident caused death or serious injury, OR it caused damage above $1000 to vehicles and property.
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