You always hated the intersection of U.S. 40 and Ridge Road; too confusing, too crowded and way too many crazy drivers. Today one particularly crazy driver forgot to check his blind spot and merged right into your Ford. Both your cars can drive away, but the extensive body damage is going to run a hefty bill. What if the situation was reversed your momentary lapse in judgment leads to an accident? You need straight answers on your legal rights and obligations in order to know what to do after a car accident in Baltimore, and FindLaw delivers with this guide to Baltimore car accidents.
First things first, pull your car over to an area where it won't obstruct traffic and check to see if anyone needs emergency medical attention. Best to call the police if anyone received even a minor injury. Before leaving the scene, you are required by law to exchange car insurance information, driver license numbers and license plate numbers with all involved parties.
However, don't get too chatty. Attorneys generally recommend against making voluntary statements that could harm your case down the road, and you'd be wise to heed this advice. Specifically, avoid admitting fault for the accident or apologizing. These statements would be admitted to court if the other driver tries to pin the blame on you.
Follow up by calling your insurance company as soon as possible. If anyone in the accident has been injured and a police officer was not present, you need to file a report to the MVA within 15 days, even if you're not at fault. You don't need to file a report if the only damage is property damage, regardless of the dollar amount.
The most important step in preserving your legal rights it to collect and preserve evidence. You should keep regular notes beginning with a detailed description of the accident with a detailed diagram. Take photos of damage to the vehicles, the scene of the accident and your visible injuries. Then make entries whenever you have a doctor's appointments, miss work or symptoms worsen.
This is a lot of information to remember after a near-death experience, so store this helpful checklist of steps to take after an accident in your glove box, just in case.
Maryland law requires that all motor vehicles registered in Maryland be insured and carry coverage of:
- $30,000 for bodily injury per person;
- $60,000 for bodily injury for two or more people, and;
- $15,000 for property damage.
Like most states, Maryland has a "fault" system for determining liability and insurance coverage after an accident. This means that the driver who caused the accident must pay for any personal injury or property damage that resulted from the accident. More likely, however, the real party of interest will be the at-fault driver's insurance company. They will pay damages up to the maximum coverage, and any excess must be collected from the driver himself.
In Maryland, you have three years from the date of the car accident to file a lawsuit for injury to person or property. The statutes of limitation prevent plaintiffs from dragging defendants into court for ancient cases, after all evidence has disappeared and memories faded. You'd be wise to start your lawsuit sooner rather than later, as this time limit is strictly enforced.
Filing a Lawsuit
Your choice in venues in Baltimore boils down to District Court vs. Circuit Court. The District Court handles civil lawsuit worth up to $30,000, but if you file in District you give up the right to a jury trial. The District Court also runs small claims court for cases worth $5,000 or less. The District Court is located at 5800 Wabash Avenue. If you are asking for more than $30,000 in damages or one of the parties demands a jury trial, the proper venue is the Baltimore Circuit Court. The Circuit Court is located at 100 N. Calvert Street.
Accident law is more complicated that you'd think, so think about scheduling a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney today. A lawyer can gather the relevant evidence, prepare paperwork for filing a lawsuit and negotiate with the insurance company to reach a fair settlement. Best part- personal injury lawyers almost universally work on a contingency fee basis, which means that instead of paying them up front they take a percentage of your ultimate recovery.
Causes of Action
The most likely cause of action after an auto accident alleges that the at-fault driver acted negligence. Negligence governs accidentally caused injuries, which is why it is so common after car accidents. To succeed, the plaintiff must show that the other party was not exercising a reasonable level of care under the circumstances, and that this lack of caution caused the accident.
For serious accidents involving a fatality, the deceased individual's family members may be able to sue for wrongful death. This type of lawsuit aims to recover lost wages, lost companionship and funeral expenses.
Alternatively, you could try suing the vehicle manufacturer themselves in a products liability lawsuit. To succeed, you must point out a design or manufacturing defect that caused the accident. Proving a defect usually requires the analysis of an automotive expert, and the case can get quite technical.
Maryland is one of four states that cling to the historic (and some would say outdated) contributory negligence doctrine. Under this harsh doctrine the plaintiff loses all recovery if the defendant can show that the plaintiff was party at fault for the accident. Even if the plaintiff's fault is minor, no recovery at all. In contrast, most states use the comparative negligence standard, where recovery is merely reduced in proportion to the plaintiff's degree of fault. However, note that Baltimore Courts have held that failing to wear a seatbelt is not contributory negligence and does not bar lawsuit.
Get a Case Review with a Local Attorney
It can be helpful to seek professional assistance quickly so that you can have help figuring out what to do after a car accident in Baltimore. A lawyer can help you determine the right process for the selection of venue, parties to sue, and causes of action. Contact a local attorney for a consultation at your earliest opportunity.