If you were in a Maryland car accident, you may have many questions. For example, you may wonder, Is Maryland an at-fault state? Maryland is an at-fault state, meaning you can file a claim against a negligent driver if they cause a car crash. But because Maryland follows the contributory negligence rule, winning your case can be difficult without the proper legal help. Under the contributory fault rules, the victim may not be able to recover compensation if they share the blame for the accident or their injuries unless they can show that an exception applies. Because of this, it is critical for victims to develop a well-thought-out legal strategy to maximize their chances of winning their claims. In this guide, we explore what else you need to know about car accident cases in Maryland, such as how to determine fault, how long you have to file a claim, and who is at fault in a rear-end collision.
The Snyder Law Group has over 40 years of experience helping clients stand up for their rights in court and at the negotiation table. Our team understands the frustration of working with insurance companies and at-fault drivers after going through the trauma of a car wreck. Our Baltimore personal injury lawyers have decades of experience taking these cases to trial to help hold negligent drivers accountable for the burdens they impose on others.
What to Do After a Car Accident in Maryland
After being involved in a car accident, the first thing you must do is contact the police. The police officer will gather eyewitness information and compile a police report about the crash. You can use this document to help build your case.
When possible, you should also take pictures of the damage to all vehicles involved and any property damage. Your photographs should capture the context of the accident, such as where the cars are on the road or near an intersection. If you were in a truck accident, make sure to note the fleet number of the vehicle and ask the driver for their personal and business information. Make sure to get contact information and statements from other drivers and witnesses, too.
Report the car accident to the insurance company that covered the vehicle you were in during the crash. You should do this shortly after the accident. When talking to the insurance company, try not to say things they can take as an admission of fault. They may take your statements (such as “I did not see the other car coming.”) and use them against you later in the case to try to limit the compensation they pay out. If you have questions about meeting your reporting obligations or filing a claim with the insurance company, talk to an experienced car accident attorney who can help.
You should also seek medical attention to determine the extent of your injuries. Some accident-related conditions, such as a concussion or whiplash, may not appear right away. When talking with the doctor, make sure to tell them that you were in a car accident, so they can make an appropriate note in your file. Having a doctor examine you can help make sure you are aware of these injuries and get the rest and medical treatment you need to get better. Additionally, you can use these initial medical notes to support your claim for damages.
Is Maryland an At-Fault State?
Maryland is an at-fault state. Maryland’s laws empower accident victims to file lawsuits against negligent drivers. To have a claim, the victim typically must prove the elements of negligence, which are:
- Duty of care. The victim must show that the driver owed them a duty to act in a certain way under the circumstances. For example, drivers must follow traffic laws and make driving decisions with care.
- Breach of duty of care. The victim must establish that the driver’s actions deviated from what they should have done under the circumstances. For example, the victim might show evidence that the at-fault driver was speeding or intoxicated.
- Causation. The victim should prove that the driver’s actions caused the accident and the victim’s injuries. For example, the victim could present evidence that the driver was speeding and swerved into the oncoming lane of traffic, causing a collision with the victim’s vehicle.
- Damages. The victim must show that they incurred damages because of the accident. For example, they can present medical bills and requests for time off work for accident-related tasks.
The victim typically must prove all four elements to have a chance of winning their case. They can support their arguments by presenting legal research, evidence, and witness testimony in court or when negotiating with the insurance company.
How Is Fault Determined in a Maryland Car Accident?
Determining fault in a Maryland car accident involves looking at the available evidence in the context of the applicable laws (like the elements of negligence discussed above). In a lawsuit, the parties typically conduct discovery to gather important information about what happened before, during, and after the crash.
For example, the victim may hire an accident reconstructionist to look at the physical and photographic evidence of the crash. These specialists use their unique knowledge of car wrecks to reconstruct the chain of events that happened during the crash. This type of evidence is critical for victims to establish what happened and rebut arguments by the opposing party that another sequence of events occurred.
Other evidence that a victim can use to prove fault in a Maryland car accident case includes witness statements, police reports, medical records, and photographs of the accident scene. The parties typically present their legal arguments and supporting evidence at the trial stage of the lawsuit. At the end of the proceedings, the judge (if it is a bench trial) or jury (if it is a jury trial) decides who is at fault and whether the victim (the plaintiff) successfully proved their case. Because of what is at stake during this stage, it is imperative to have a strategy to advocate for your interests and present a compelling legal argument.
Who Is At Fault in a Rear-End Collision in Maryland?
Who is at fault in a rear-end collision depends on the circumstances. For example, if the rear driver was following the other vehicle too closely, the rear driver may be at fault if an accident happens. But if the front driver was backing out of a parking space and did not look in the mirrors before doing so, they may be at fault for the accident. The court reviews the evidence and the laws at play (such as Maryland’s right-of-way rules) to decide who is at fault.
What Makes Maryland’s Contributory Fault Law Different?
Maryland is one of the few states that strictly follows the contributory fault rule in negligence cases. Under this rule, victims may be unable to receive compensation if the court finds them partially to blame for the accident. Even if the plaintiff is only 1% or less to blame for the accident, the law may prohibit them from recovering damages.
Maryland courts have had several opportunities to change this law, but they have steadfastly reaffirmed their commitment to the sometimes harsh contributory fault rule. There are limited exceptions to this rule, which may be at play in your case. A personal injury attorney can analyze your case and work with you to decide the appropriate course of action to protect your best interests.
What Are Your Rights if You Are in a Car Accident in Maryland?
If you are in a car accident, you have the right to file an insurance claim and bring a lawsuit if the other party is at fault for your injuries. Depending on the strength of your claim and the overall circumstances, you may be entitled to damages, such as reimbursement for your medical expenses and compensation for your pain and suffering.
Further, you usually do not have to sign a settlement agreement if you do not agree to it. It is common practice for insurance companies to present quick-fix offers to injury victims. Despite what they may tell the victims, this offer typically is not the best offer they can make. The goal of these offers is often to get the victims to sign away their rights to sue and accept a lower offer than they might get if they went to court instead.
Before signing any legal documents, make sure you know what the document is and ask an experienced attorney to review it and make a recommendation. You have the final say in whether you accept the offer, but a lawyer may help you understand the true value of the claim and if signing the offer is in your best interest. They can also negotiate with the insurance company on your behalf, encouraging the insurance company to raise the settlement to account for the true extent of your injuries. If the insurance company refuses to give you a better offer, the lawyer can fight for your rights in court.
How Long Do I Have to File a Car Insurance Claim in Maryland?
Depending on your specific policy, there may not be a designated time frame for when you must file a claim with your car insurance company. Most policies tell the insured to contact the insurance company as soon as possible after an accident. But some may give a particular deadline (such as a month or a certain number of days). The most important thing is that you file a claim with your insurance company any time your vehicle is involved in an accident.
That said, Maryland law does impose a deadline on when victims can bring a lawsuit against the at-fault driver. Maryland refers to this deadline as a statute of limitations. Currently, the deadline to bring a personal injury lawsuit because of a car accident is three years. If you miss the deadline, the law may prevent you from bringing a case against the at-fault party. Exceptions may apply that give you additional or less time to file a lawsuit, so it is important to talk to an attorney before making a decision.
How Long Does It Take to Settle a Car Accident Case in Maryland?
There is no set time to settle a car accident case in Maryland. The time to resolve a dispute depends on a number of factors, such as:
- The complexity of the case,
- The number of participants,
- The extent of the plaintiff’s injuries,
- The ability of the parties to cooperate, and
- The applicable law.
What is more, some cases may require multiple rounds of discovery to fully uncover the necessary details. For example, if a trucking company is to blame for the accident, your attorney may request employment and business records from the company to investigate their past practices. The trucking company may have a history of negligently hiring workers, which you can use to support your claim.
The best practice is usually to be efficient without unnecessarily rushing the case. In many cases, it is in your best interest to diligently research all the facts and laws applicable to your situation. You or your attorney can perform this task, use the findings to support your claim, and argue for an increased settlement.
Contact The Snyder Law Group Today
The Snyder Law Group, LLC, proudly represents clients throughout Maryland and Washington, D.C. Our experienced Baltimore attorneys understand the frustration that comes from working with an insurance company, medical professional, or another party that refuses to accept liability for negligent or reckless behavior. You can take heart in knowing our talented and experienced lawyers are ready to work for you. We are experienced in handling personal injury claims resulting from serious car and truck accidents and have secured hundreds of millions in verdicts and settlements*. Please visit our website, www.410thefirm.com, or call us at 410-604-8467, for more information. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.