Every driver in the state needs a working knowledge of Maryland car accident laws. Accidents are a regular part of life. The high volume of traffic on Maryland’s roads and highways makes it more likely that you will eventually have an accident than not. No matter how serious the accident is or who is at fault, your responsibilities start as soon as a crash occurs. It’s also the time to start preparing for your personal injury claim in case you need to file one. What you do and say after the car wreck will help protect your rights and ensure you get the best possible outcome.
Obtaining the names of witnesses, taking photos of the crash, and taking note of any circumstances that may have led to the accident are some of the things you should do after the wreck. There are also some things you shouldn’t do. For instance, taking credit for the crash or saying that you’re okay. Even if it looks like you might be at least partially at fault, don’t say anything. The other driver and their insurance company might use your words against you.
The Matter of Insurance
Any time you’re in a car accident, at least one insurance company comes into play. In a perfect world, you would call your insurance company after an accident and they would pay for all of your damages. In the real world, there are a lot more “ifs, ands, or buts” that come into play. Even if the other driver is at fault, you should contact your insurance company about the accident. They probably have a time limit during which you must comply.
Just as Maryland car accident laws determine who pays after an accident and how much, the state’s insurance laws go toward determining the amount of coverage each driver carries.
– Laws of Fault and Contributory Negligence
Maryland is a “fault” car accident state, meaning that the driver who caused the accident is responsible for the damages. In a no-fault state, the driver files a claim with their own insurance company regardless of who caused the accident. If you have a car accident in a fault car accident state, determining who caused the wreck is important when you need to file an insurance claim. It also determines your rights to file a personal injury claim if it becomes necessary.
Maryland is also one of four states, along with Alabama, North Carolina, and Virginia, that have a contributory negligence doctrine. This law differs from the comparative negligence law most states follow today. In the latter, a driver who is partially at fault for a wreck can only collect a portion of their total damages. For example, a driver is 20% responsible for an accident that cost them $100,000 in damages. The most they can collect is 80%, or $80,000.
In a contributory negligent state like Maryland, a driver who contributes to the wreck to any degree cannot collect any damages. That’s one reason you should never take the blame for any portion of a car accident. It’s also why you shouldn’t deal with the insurance adjuster on your own. The claims adjuster knows that successfully blaming you to any degree will result in saving their company a lot of money.
– Insurance Coverage Laws
Every state has specific minimal insurance requirements that every driver must meet. When you purchase your insurance coverage, you might have gotten the minimum allowable under the law. Many drivers want to pay the least amount possible for their insurance premiums and still drive legally. Before you decide to purchase the minimum coverage, consider the potential outcome in a severe crash. If you are at fault, the minimum coverage might not come close to paying the damages.
The minimum coverage amounts in Maryland are:
- $30,000 for bodily injury or death of one person
- $60,000 for total bodily injury or death liability
- $15,000 for property damage per accident
All of these coverage amounts apply to injuries or damages caused by the owner or driver of the insured vehicle.
Purchasing additional types of coverage and increasing the limits will cost you a little more in premiums. It could also end up saving you from a lot of hassle and a lawsuit in the end.
Liability insurance pays for medical bills, property damage, and other costs to anyone who is injured or has their vehicle damaged in the wreck. Regardless of the total cost of these damages, the insurance only pays up to the amount of your coverage.
Maryland car accident laws relating to insurance coverage apply to you or someone you let drive your car. If you drive a rental car, the insurance coverage usually extends to cover you. If you get injuries or experience property damage, your own insurance policy doesn’t cover you. One exception is when you opt for collision coverage on a leased or financed vehicle to cover repairs or the cost of replacement after an accident.
– Laws Involving Hit and Runs
If the at-fault driver takes off after the wreck, you might never find out who the at-fault party is. Uninsured motorist coverage on your insurance policy can protect you if the at-fault driver isn’t insured or they run after the car wreck.
– Driving Without Insurance
Driving comes with a lot of responsibilities, including getting the legal amount of insurance coverage for your vehicle. Driving without it is not only irresponsible; it’s illegal. In Maryland, driving without insurance is a misdemeanor. If you’re caught, it adds 5 points onto your license leading to higher insurance premiums. You can also receive up to one year in jail. If you commit a second offense, expect to pay higher penalties.
Maryland imposes fines on uninsured drivers beginning with a $150 fine for the first 30 days and an additional $7 per day after that.
In addition, the state might impose additional administrative or criminal penalties. You might lose your license plates, vehicle registration privileges, and/or the ability to register vehicles in the future. You might not be permitted to renew a suspended registration until you clear all of the insurance violations. The state might seize your license plates once a suspension is in place.
These are Maryland laws that apply to drivers who aren’t insured. Maryland car accident laws for uninsured drivers are much harsher.
Your Options for Filing a Claim
Even minor accidents can result in property damage. Sometimes, it’s difficult to decide if there’s any need to report an accident at all. Maryland car accident laws are very specific about when an accident must be reported. Specifically…
– People in a car accident resulting in bodily injury or death must file an accident report with the Motor Vehicle Administration
– All drivers must file within 15 days unless
- Law enforcement investigated the accident and filed an accident report
- The driver is physically unable to file the report
Although you aren’t usually required to file a report for a minor accident, sometimes you should. If anyone has injuries or there are potential injuries, you should have the accident on file. If one of the drivers doesn’t have a valid driver’s license or they appear to be under the influence, call law enforcement.
Other reasons to call law enforcement after a minor accident include:
- You disagree with the other driver about the cause of the wreck
- The other driver flees the scene
- The other driver won’t provide any information
- One of the vehicles needs towing
If you’re on the fence about whether to call law enforcement, it’s better to err on the side of caution. Sometimes injuries don’t produce symptoms right away. Without an accident report, you might have problems proving how the wreck occurred and how it caused your injury.
Drivers often avoid reporting minor accidents because of the potential impact on their insurance costs. Like bodily injuries, sometimes property damage doesn’t get noticed immediately. If the other driver notices damage later on they might claim that you failed to stop or weren’t cooperative in providing information. Calling the police will establish a record of what happened and protect you from unsubstantiated claims later on. It also helps you recover damages if you have injuries or damage that doesn’t appear until later on.
Always call your car insurance company after an accident, even if you think the other driver was at-fault. Often, disagreements about who was at fault don’t arise until later. Don’t give the other driver an opportunity to use Maryland car accident laws against you.
If the other driver is at fault, your insurance company has the option to file a subrogation claim against the at-fault driver’s insurance company. This process allows them to recoup the money they paid to you.
Another option is to file a third-party claim directly with the at-fault driver’s insurance carrier. If the insurance company won’t pay or the limitations aren’t enough to cover your damages, you might be able to file a personal injury claim.
When to See a Personal Injury Attorney
No one is more familiar with Maryland car accident laws than an experienced personal injury attorney. Car accidents occur across the state every day, resulting in mild to debilitating illnesses.
A personal injury attorney is also familiar with the tactics insurance companies use to keep from paying. Thanks to Maryland’s contributory negligence law, their primary focus is on finding ways to blame you for the wreck, even to the smallest degree. That’s all it takes to keep them from paying out compensation for your insurance or personal injury claim.
Even if the insurance company is willing to pay, you can only collect up to the amount of the driver’s coverage. If your injuries and property damage are more than that, you have the right to seek the balance. An attorney can guide you on your options for recovering the full amount of money that you deserve.
Even minor injuries can cost a great deal in medical treatment and time off from work. More serious injuries might include extended treatment and a decline in the quality of your life. An attorney can help you get the full amount of compensation you need to live the best quality of life possible.
If you file a personal injury claim, your attorney can help you build your case. Every state has a statute of limitations that determines how long after the incident you have to file. In Maryland, the date is three years from the time of the accident. Failing to understand your rights can lead to missing the deadline and losing any right to collect compensation.
What to Expect During a Consultation with a Personal Injury Attorney
Maryland car accident laws are complex and often difficult to interpret. Any time you have questions about who is at fault for a crash or what your options are, you should talk with an attorney who understands your rights. They will consider the accident report, your medical bills, and other factors pertaining to your case.
Most personal injury cases get settled without going to court. It is in the best interests of both parties to avoid long, expensive trials. When negotiations fail to bring about a fair resolution, then the case usually goes to court. Even though the odds are against going to court, your attorney will prepare your case as though it will from the start. They will prepare all the documents and evidence to make an aggressive presentation to the court.
Don’t let Maryland car accident laws intimidate you or keep you from filing a lawsuit. If another driver caused your injuries, you have the legal right to pursue recovery from them. Just make sure you’re prepared if you end up being the at-fault driver in a wreck. Your insurance coverage is your first line of defense against a personal injury lawsuit.
If the other driver is at fault, you deserve compensation from their insurance company. Don’t try to handle your claim on your own. Contact Ingerman & Horwitz for an honest evaluation of your case. Speak with the experts who know Maryland car accident laws and how they apply to your case.