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Maryland Auto Accident Laws

Maryland Auto Accident Laws and Resources

From Ocean City to Annapolis to Baltimore, there are thousands of miles of roads in Maryland. Nearly 5 million drivers travel on Maryland’s roadways each year, enjoying all that the state has to offer. Yet the Old Line State’s roadways can prove dangerous. If you live in or plan on visiting Maryland it is a good idea to become familiar with Maryland auto accident laws.

The Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) collects data on the state’s accidents. According to MDOT, the state averages 111,885 accidents per year. These accidents lead to an average of 48,257 injuries and 511 deaths. Prince George’s County alone had 350 fatal collisions between 2015 and 2018. Victims included 251 motorists, 94 pedestrians, and 5 bicyclists.

An estimated 25% of all crashes in Maryland occur on country roads. In 2019, there were some 30,000 citations issued along Indian Head Highway. These citations were for impaired driving, aggressive driving, distracted driving, and speeding. And Maryland also has the distinction of one of the worst intersections in the United States. It is located at Eastbound Gorman Avenue and Southbound U.S. 1 in Laurel.

Continue reading to learn about important Maryland auto accident laws. Knowing the laws and standards in the state of Maryland may help you in the event of a car accident.

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Maryland is an “At-Fault” State

Many of the states in the US are fault-based and Maryland is included in that list. So what does fault-based mean? In regards to a car accident, the person responsible for causing the crash is also responsible for paying the damages. In most cases, insurance companies end up paying settlements and covering those damages.

After an accident, the victim typically lets their insurance company know about the car accident. That insurance company will reach out to the at-fault driver’s insurance company. They will start the process of reaching a settlement and providing a payout. Other options involve filing a claim directly with the at-fault driver’s insurance or filing a car accident lawsuit.

Maryland Auto Accident Laws Statute of Limitations

Most legal proceedings have to follow certain timelines determined by the state’s statute of limitations. This is true when it comes to car accidents. If you do not abide by these timelines, you may forfeit your right to compensation.

The relevant statute is Maryland Courts and Judicial Proceedings Section 5-101. Under the statute, a car accident victim has 3 years to file a lawsuit. The clock starts running from the date of the accident. For wrongful death claims, your window for filing a claim begins on the day the death occurred.

However, most people pursue an insurance claim prior to filing a lawsuit. In Maryland you do not have limits regarding when you file a claim. However, the insurance companies are aware that there is only a certain window of time where you can sue them. It is in your best interest to file your claim within three years of the accident happening.

Contributory Negligence in Maryland Auto Accident Cases

Maryland is one of only 4 states that have a contributory negligence standard. Under this rule, an injured victim cannot recover if he played any role in causing the accident. This is true even if the other driver was 99% at fault for the car accident.

Maryland’s rule is different from most states. These states follow a comparative negligence standard. In a comparative negligence state, a victim’s damage award is based on their level of fault. Therefore, in a modified comparative negligence state, a victim cannot collect if she is more at fault than the other driver. Maryland is a pure contributory negligence state, meaning any fault at all bars a person from a settlement.

For instance, suppose you get into a car accident. You suffer significant injuries and property damages. You miss several months from work while you recover. Your medical bills total $50,000 and your lost wages are $10,000. And your property damages are $5,000.

You file a lawsuit against the other driver and her insurance company. Then, you prove that the other driver was negligent at trial. But the jury also finds that you were 25% at fault for the accident. Due to Maryland auto accident laws, the pure contributory negligence rule will prevent you from recovering any damages.

In a comparative negligence state, your damages will be reduced to $48,750 (25% of $65,000). You would also receive the same amount of damages in a modified comparative negligence state. But if you are more than 50% at fault you would recover nothing.

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As you can see by the example, the contributory negligence rule can be harsher than the laws of other states. In other words, there is little room for error. Hiring an experienced Maryland car accident lawyer can help you to prove your case.

Minimum Car Insurance Coverage Amounts in Maryland

If you own a vehicle in Maryland you must buy liability insurance coverage. Your insurance policy must include the minimum amounts of coverage. These amounts are:

  • $15,000 for property damage per accident caused by the owner/driver of the insured vehicle.
  • $30,000 for bodily injury or the death of one person caused by the owner/driver of the vehicle.
  • $60,000 for total bodily injury or death liability caused by the owner/operator of the vehicle.

Liability coverage protects the vehicle owner and/or driver from personal liability. Since Maryland is a fault-based state, the at-fault driver is responsible for damages. If the damages exceed the limits, you are responsible for the difference. For this reason, many drivers choose to carry coverage for more than listed above.

Liability coverage pays medical bills, lost wages, property damages, and other expenses. This is for other drivers, pedestrians, cyclists, and other injured parties. It does not cover your injuries or damages. You can buy other types of insurance to reimburse you.

For example, collision coverage pays for the costs to repair or replace your vehicle. Collision coverage is optional in Maryland. Uninsured motorist (UM) coverage is another option. It protects you and your passengers if the other driver does not have adequate insurance. UM coverage can also reimburse you if you are the victim of a hit and run.

Driving Without Car Insurance in Maryland

Vehicle owners must buy car insurance in Maryland. If you drive without insurance, you can receive a fine and other penalties. Penalties can include:

  • An uninsured motorist penalty fee applies based on the amount of time without coverage. The fine is $150 for the first 30 days. After that, a $7 fee for each day applies.
  • Loss of license plates and vehicle registration.
  • Restoration fee of $25 for the vehicle’s registration.
  • A prohibition from registering other vehicles until you resolve violations.
  • Prohibition from renewing a suspended registration until you resolve violations.

Anyone that provides false evidence of insurance faces even harsher penalties. These include a fine of up to $1,000 and one year in jail.

Driving without insurance can also have serious financial consequences. The at-fault driver will be on the hook for other parties’ damages.

Reporting Requirements for Car Accidents in Maryland

Maryland auto accident laws impose some car accident reporting requirements. The relevant statute is Maryland Code Section 20-107. Under the statute, drivers involved in a car accident must report the accident if the accident results in injury or death to any person.

The driver of each vehicle must report the accident within 15 days. This involves filing a written statement with the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA). The statement must include:

  • The name and address of your insurance company
  • Your car insurance policy number
  • The name and address of your local insurance agent

Each driver must also provide evidence of liability insurance. The MVA may request supplemental reports. This is usually done when the original report is missing information.

If you fail to file a report the MVA may suspend or revoke your license and registration. A suspension may apply to any vehicle involved in the accident. This applies to the vehicle’s owner even if he was not driving.

Drivers are not required to file a report with the MVA if a police officer filed a report. The officer will file the report with the Department of State Police.

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Recovering Damages in a Maryland Car Accident Case

Since Maryland is a fault-based state, the person or party at-fault for the accident will have to pay the damages. There are three different categories of damages that can be compensated in the state of Maryland.

Non-Economic Damages

This is for intangible suffering that you can’t necessarily see. Pain and suffering and emotional and mental stress are two things that you may be able to claim. Because they are intangible, they can be hard to prove. There is also a limit to how much you can claim. You should discuss how much non-economic damages you can reasonably claim with your car accident attorney.

Economic Damages

Conversely, economic damages are physical and much easier to prove. This includes repayment of medical expenses for any injuries, lost wages from missing work, the cost of repairing your vehicle and more. These damages are easily shown via receipts and paystubs. Unlike non-economic damages, there is not a cap to the amount you can claim on economic damages in the state of Maryland.

Punitive Damages

This category of damages is less common. Punitive damages are different in that they are meant to punish the at-fault person or party. A person who recklessly drove drunk and caused a car accident might be subject to punitive damages that they must pay to you. There is no limit to the amount of punitive damages that can be charged, though it is determined by a judge.

How to Recover Damages

If you wish to recover damages in Maryland, you have a few options. Start out by contacting your insurance company and tell them about the accident. Answer their questions directly, don’t offer up too much information. With this info, your insurance company will reach out to the other driver’s insurance company. The adjusters on both sides will work together to determine fault and liability.

The at-fault driver’s insurance will typically make a settlement offer. It is common for this initial offer to be low, especially in cases that are more complex. The goal for the insurance company is to settle quickly and without paying out too much money. If you feel like you are not being taken seriously or being offered too little, you can send the the insurance company a formal demand letter. A demand letter lays out the details of the accident, lists your damages, and requests a specific amount to settle your case. Get the help of a Maryland car accident attorney to make sure that you are getting a fair settlement.

If the claims process does not end in a suitable settlement, you have the right to file a lawsuit. Often times, in car accident lawsuits, the other driver and/or the insurance company are the defendants. There may even be other entities involved if there were special circumstances. Lawsuits can be long and complicated so don’t go into the process without the help of a personal injury lawyer.

Is a Lawsuit an Option?

Lawsuits can be messy. Insurance companies know this. But if the insurance company you are up against will not give you a fair settlement, you have the right to file a suit against them. When you take the at-fault driver or their insurance company to trial, the judge or jury will decide whether or not you get a car accident payout. Many insurance companies don’t want to risk having to pay even higher amounts after being found liable in court. Because of this, many companies will offer a fair settlement under this pressure.

However, keep in mind the statute of limitations. In Maryland, you have three years from the date of the accident to file a lawsuit. Once this window is closed, you cannot file a lawsuit to recover damages. If you are nearing the end of your time limit, you can file can continue to press the insurance company to settle, later withdrawing the lawsuit.

If you do end up going to court, you and your legal team will have to prove the other driver’s negligence. You will have to show that the actions of the other driver caused the accident, resulting in your injuries and damages. However, in Maryland, the other driver must be completely at fault in order for you to receive a settlement through the courts. This is due to the contributory negligence standard.

Maryland Car Accident Settlement Taxes

Under federal and state law some portions of a car accident settlement may be taxable. Damages that you receive for a physical injury or sickness are generally not taxable. There is an exception if you claimed medical expense deductions on your taxes. If you are reimbursed in a personal injury settlement, that amount is taxable.

Property damages are also not generally taxable. But if you receive more than the adjusted basis in the property, the excess is income. Other types of damages are taxable. For example, compensation for emotional injuries is taxable. Moreover, punitive damages are taxable at both the federal and state level.

Overall, tax laws are complex. It is important that you understand the tax implications of your insurance settlement. Consult with an experienced Maryland car accident lawyer or accountant.

Maryland Car Accident Settlement Calculator

If you are trying to receive compensation after a Maryland car accident, you can use our Injury Settlement Calculator. The free tool will help you to get an idea of how big your payout may be.

Get Help with Maryland Auto Accident Laws

If you or someone you love has been in an accident in Maryland, you’re not alone. Lawsuit Info Center offers risk free consultations. We can discuss your case and help you get in contact with a local lawyer. Protect your rights by having a lawyer by your side. Call today or reach out online.

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