Maryland car accident law is a complex field that covers multiple aspects of automobile accidents, insurance, liability, and compensation for victims. In this comprehensive guide, we will discuss how accident claims are valued for settlement, uninsured motorist law, contributory negligence, Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance, and the minimum car insurance requirements in Maryland. We will also look at the average payout in Maryland car accident cases and summarize some recent settlements and verdicts.
Determining Settlement Amounts in Maryland
Before we dig into the law, victims what to talk about how their claims are valued for settlement because they want to know what their car accident claim is worth. This process involves evaluating the extent of the injuries, property damage, and other losses suffered by the victims. Several key factors are considered when valuing a claim, including:
- Medical expenses: The cost of medical treatment, rehabilitation, and any ongoing care required due to the accident.
- Lost wages: The amount of income lost as a result of being unable to work due to injuries sustained in the accident.
- Pain and suffering: Compensation for the physical pain, emotional distress, and reduced quality of life experienced by the victim.
- Property damage: The cost of repairing or replacing damaged vehicles or other property.
- Future losses: Any expected future medical expenses, lost wages, or diminished earning capacity caused by the accident.
Insurance adjusters and attorneys often use various methods to calculate the value of these damages. For instance, they might apply a multiplier to the total economic damages (medical expenses and lost wages) to account for pain and suffering. Additionally, Maryland follows the “collateral source rule,” which prohibits the reduction of damages based on payments received from other sources (e.g., health insurance).
Maryland Uninsured Motorist Law
Maryland’s uninsured motorist (UM) law requires insurance companies to offer UM coverage as part of every automobile liability insurance policy. This coverage protects drivers and passengers if they are injured in an accident caused by an uninsured or underinsured motorist or a hit-and-run driver.
The minimum UM coverage limits in Maryland are:
- $30,000 for bodily injury per person
- $60,000 for bodily injury per accident
- $15,000 for property damage
If the at-fault driver does not have sufficient insurance coverage to cover the damages, UM coverage will cover the difference, up to the policy limits. It is essential to note that UM claims are subject to the same deadlines and procedural requirements as other auto accident claims, including the three-year statute of limitations for filing a personal injury lawsuit.
Maryland is one of the few states that follow the contributory negligence rule, which can significantly impact car accident claims. Under this rule, a victim who is found to be even partially at fault for an accident is barred from recovering any damages from other parties involved.
For example, if a driver is found to be 10% at fault for a car accident, they would be unable to recover any compensation from the other driver, even if the other driver was 90% at fault. This harsh rule often results in victims receiving no compensation, even if their role in the accident was minimal.
Personal Injury Protection (PIP) Insurance
PIP insurance is a no-fault insurance coverage that provides compensation for medical expenses and lost wages, regardless of who is at fault for the accident. Maryland law requires insurance companies to offer PIP coverage with every auto insurance policy, but drivers can choose to waive this coverage in writing.
The minimum PIP coverage limits in Maryland are:
$2,500 per person for medical expenses and lost wages
It is important to note that PIP coverage does not compensate for pain and suffering, and it is subject to specific deadlines for filing a claim (usually within one year of the accident).
Minimum Car Insurance Requirements in Maryland
Maryland law requires all drivers to carry a minimum amount of auto insurance coverage to operate a vehicle legally. The minimum car insurance requirements in Maryland are:
- Bodily Injury Liability: $30,000 per person and $60,000 per accident. This coverage pays for the medical expenses, lost wages, and other damages sustained by the other driver, passengers, or pedestrians involved in an accident caused by the policyholder.
- Property Damage Liability: $15,000 per accident. This coverage pays for damage to the other driver’s vehicle or any other property damaged in an accident caused by the policyholder.
- Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Bodily Injury: $30,000 per person and $60,000 per accident. This coverage protects the policyholder and their passengers if they are injured in an accident caused by a driver without insurance or with insufficient insurance coverage. Uninsured Motorist Property Damage: $15,000 per accident. This coverage pays for damage to the policyholder’s vehicle or other property if the at-fault driver does not have insurance or has insufficient coverage.
These are the minimum coverage limits required by Maryland law. Drivers can choose to purchase higher coverage limits or additional coverage options, such as collision and comprehensive coverage, to better protect themselves financially in the event of an accident. Should you have more coverage? You should.
Statute of Limitation for a Car Accident in Maryland
If you are seriously injured in a car accident, the only way to get full and fair compensation from the insurance companies is usually to file a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault driver. If you are considering an auto accident lawsuit, you need to be aware of the Maryland statute of limitations for personal injury claims. Maryland’s statute of limitations for auto accident lawsuits is 3-years. This means that if you don’t file a lawsuit within 3-years of the date of the car accident, your case will be time-barred.
There is one major exception to this rules that applies if the injured plaintiff is a minor at the time of the accident. For minors (anyone under age 18) the Maryland 3-year statute of limitation does not begin to run until they turn 18. So if you were under 18 when the accident happened, you will have until your 21st birthday to file a lawsuit.
Proving Negligence in Maryland Car Accidents
Car accident lawsuits in Maryland are almost always based on negligence claims, which means that the other driver did something wrong. This could be because the negligent driver ran a red light, didn’t pay attention, rear-ended a stopped car, or made an unsafe lane change.
To establish that the other driver was negligent and, therefore, at-fault for the accident, the plaintiff must convince the jury (or judge) that they failed to act with the level of care that a reasonable driver in similar circumstances would have used. In many cases, the other driver’s violation of a traffic law can be used as evidence of negligence (e.g., running a red light, failing, to yield, etc.). For a judge to decide that the violation of the law is ample proof of negligence, he must find that the law was designed to prevent the type of harm that occurred.
Defenses in Maryland Car Accident Cases
There are basically 2 primary defenses plaintiffs can expect to face in Maryland car accident lawsuits: (1) contributory negligence, and (2) disputed damages/injuries.
Maryland is one of only a small handful of jurisdictions that continues to follow the traditional doctrine of contributory negligence as a defense in negligence cases. Under the rule of contributory negligence, if a plaintiff’s own negligence contributes in any way to causing the accident they are supposed to be barred from recovering any damages at all. Contributory negligence is asserted as an affirmative defense in almost every auto accident case in Maryland.
Here is an example of how contributory negligence theoretically works as a defense in Maryland auto accident lawsuits. Let’s say Jack and Jill are involved in an auto accident and the circumstances of the accident make it somewhat unclear which one was at fault. Jack sues Jill and the case goes to trial. The jury is asked to assign a fault percentage to each party. The jury finds that Jill was 90% at-fault and Jack was 10% at-fault for the accident. Under Maryland’s contributory negligence rule, this means that Jack is completely barred from recovering damages from Jill. He gets nothing.
Despite the apparent harshness of the contributory negligence defense, it rarely works in the mechanical fashion described above. In most auto accident cases, liability or fault is placed entirely on one driver or the other, without any apportionment.
The other primary defense strategy plaintiffs can expect to face in auto accident cases is a dispute about the extent or severity of their injuries and whether they are actually related to an auto accident or a pre-existing condition. This type of defense is very common, especially in cases involving soft tissue back and neck injuries.
The insurance company for the other driver will claim that the plaintiff is exaggerating their injuries, or that their injuries were pre-existing or from old age rather than something caused in the accident. The insurance company will also dispute the validity of medical treatment and medical expenses claimed by the plaintiff based on the same general principles.
Collateral Source Rule
In Maryland auto accident cases, plaintiffs can get compensation for medical expenses even when those expenses have already been covered by insurance. This is known as the collateral source rule. The collateral source rule is based on the idea that negligent drivers should be held responsible for the full value of the harm they cause, regardless of whether the plaintiff has insurance or another source of recovery. Here are some examples:
- Jack is injured in an auto accident caused by Jill. Jack undergoes $15,000 worth of treatment in the form of physical therapy, doctor’s visits, a hospital trip, etc. Jack has good health insurance, so almost all of that $15,000 was covered by his insurance. Jack only had to come out-of-pocket for his co-pays, which total just $120. Jill is still liable for the full $15,000 in medical expenses, even though Jack’s insurance covered them. If Jack gets a settlement, however, he may have to pay back a portion of those medical expenses to the insurance company (click here for more on medical liens).
- Jack has PIP insurance, which pays all of his medical bills. Jill is still liable to pay for those damages, she does not get to benefit from Jack’s payment of insurance premiums.
- Jack missed 2 weeks of work due to the accident, but he had sufficient sick time or vacation time to ensure that he did not lose any wages while injured from that accident. Jill can still be held liable for lost wages because Jack lost his use of those sick and vacation days.
Average Value of Maryland Car Accident Cases
The average value of a Maryland auto accident injury case varies depending on the severity level of the plaintiff’s injuries. For relatively minor injuries (Level I), such as soft tissue sprains, whiplash, etc., the average settlement value of an auto accident case is around $15,000 to $25,000. For moderate severity (Level II) injuries, such as bone fractures, herniated discs, etc., the average value increases to $50,000 to $110,000. For the most serious injuries (Level III), including death, brain injuries and other permanent injuries, the average value can be $175,000 to $300,000.
Maryland Car Accident Verdicts and Settlements
Below are verdicts and reported settlements from recent Maryland auto accident injury lawsuits.
$30,000 Verdict (Baltimore County 2024): The plaintiff was driving south on York Road when her vehicle was allegedly rear-ended by the defendant. The plaintiff alleged that she suffered various injuries (which were not described in the verdict summary). Liability was admitted and the case went to trial on damages only.
$350,451 Verdict (Baltimore City 2023): A woman was struck from behind by a police officer as she was preparing to merge onto Charles Street. The officer, on a non-emergency mission to serve a warrant in Baltimore City, had been on duty throughout the previous night, with the incident occurring around 10:30 a.m. Due to the impact, the woman sustained significant injuries, resulting in pain and medical expenses. Following a car accident lawsuit, a Baltimore County jury awarded the injured driver more than $350,000 due to the officer’s negligence.
$60,000 Verdict (Baltimore City 2023): The plaintiff claimed to suffer abdominal strain, cervical and lumbar sprain/strain, and bilateral shoulder strains after the vehicle she was driving westbound, turning left at an intersection pursuant to a green arrow, collided with an eastbound vehicle operated by the defendant. Jury in Baltimore City awarded $60,000.
$22,000 Settlement (Baltimore City 2023): The plaintiff claimed to suffer a lumbar back strain, with sciatica, as well as a right knee contusion, and a head injury with post-traumatic headaches after the cab in which she was a passenger was in an accident. She brought suit against the cab driver.
$200,000 Verdict (Baltimore County 2023): The plaintiff reportedly suffered injuries to her shoulder, neck, head, wrist, chest, and limbs when she was struck by an uninsured driver who made a left turn in front of her vehicle. She filed suit against her insurance company, State Farm, after it refused to cover her damages under her UIM coverage. Case went to trial in Baltimore County.
$112,500 Verdict (Baltimore City 2023): The plaintiff was in a parking lot loading groceries into the back of his vehicle when the defendant backed his vehicle out of a parking spot across the lane from the plaintiff. The defendant’s vehicle struck the plaintiff’s shopping cart, which then struck the plaintiff and pinned him to his vehicle causing injuries to his back, left knee, and left elbow.
$55,925 Verdict (Baltimore City 2022): The plaintiff sustained a right wrist fracture, resulting in permanent loss of function and pain, when his vehicle was T-boned at an intersection by a vehicle driven by an uninsured driver. He filed suit against his insurance company, State Farm, for UIM coverage.
$5,405 Verdict (Baltimore County 2022): The plaintiff claimed to suffer mental anguish, depression and other mental health problems and physical injuries after her northbound vehicle, stopped for heavy traffic ahead, was rear-ended by the defendant. The small verdict in this case is probably a reflection of the jury’s negative view of the plaintiff and her claims.
$20,000 Verdict (Baltimore City 2022): The plaintiff, a 59-year-old woman, was walking on the sidewalk when the defendant backed into her. She suffered comparatively minor injuries for a pedestrian accident (sprained shoulder and hip, plus contusions and abrasions). The award included $8,300 for medical expenses and the rest for pain and suffering.
$20,000 Verdict (Baltimore City 2022): The 20-year-old female plaintiff said she was driving south when a vehicle operated by the defendant, under the influence of alcohol, struck her vehicle. The plaintiff allegedly suffered injuries that included cervical, thoracic and lumbar muscle spasms and sprain/strains, rhomboid spasms and inflammation of the superior occipital nerve.
Contact Our Maryland Accident Lawyers
We fight to get fair compensation for the victims of car accidents, truck accidents, and motorcycle accidents. Call 1-800-553-8082 to speak to a Maryland accident lawyer experienced in handling auto accident claims.