Maryland Car Accidents: Liability, PIP & Statutes of Limitation
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Liability for car accidents in Maryland is based on negligence and contributory negligence – terms that are often misunderstood by many non-lawyers. To clear up the confusion, we asked Doug Stevens, a Maryland attorney who has practiced law for 30 years and whose firm focuses on personal injury and car accident matters in Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia, to explain these concepts as well as provide information about PIP and applicable statutes of limitation in Maryland.
Maryland is a negligence and contributory negligence state, according to Stevens. He told us that means that there is no comparative negligence. Comparative negligence arises when both parties failed to act reasonably. An example would be when one driver is speeding on a foggy night and the other is driving without his headlights. In that situation, both parties were negligent and the responsibility to the other person is reduced by one's own degree of negligence. By contrast, contributory negligence generally prevents a party from recovering for damages if he or she contributed in any way to the injury. In Maryland, the contributory negligence of the claimant must be a proximate cause of the accident – which means that it was the substantial cause of the accident.
Personal Injury Protection (PIP)
Maryland has a program known as Personal Injury Protection, called “PIP” for short. Most states either have something they call Med Pay or Personal Injury Protection. But what is it? Stevens explained:
For many years, there was an automatic provision in Maryland that if your car was licensed in the state of Maryland, you had up to $2,500 worth of Personal Injury Protection benefits which paid for all of your medical bills and 80 percent of your lost wages up to the $2,500 limit.
The insurance industry successfully fought that and made it optional. So now, we have a very strange amalgam, what we call ‘waiveable PIP.’ Now, before you can make a PIP claim, if you’re a Maryland resident you have to prove that you didn’t waive PIP on your own policy. But the scariest thing we face on the subject of PIP is that under D.C. law you only have a 60 day window within which to make a PIP claim.
MD Statutes of Limitation
We asked Stevens what statutes of limitation apply to Maryland car accidents. He told us that it could be anywhere from one year to five years. He explained:
In Maryland, you have one year to make your Personal Injury Protection application, although State Farm has recently waived the requirement of filing a written PIP application. (We file them anyway partly because we’re old creatures of habit and, since the statute says you have to apply within a year, we want to make sure that it’s clear we did apply within a year.) You have three years to file your lawsuit for personal injury or death. A malpractice claim can be brought either the earlier date of five years from when the negligence was committed or within three years from when the negligence was discovered.
Stevens warned that there are many other notice deadlines that can apply and also stressed the importance of knowing where to file your case. He advises anyone who has been injured in a car accident to contact an experienced attorney to discuss their situation and evaluate their options.