Is It Worth Suing after a Car Accident?May 7, 2022
If you were involved in a car accident that was not your fault, it may be worth suing the other driver. Even if you were offered an insurance payout, it may not be enough to cover all your expenses including medical bills and lost income after a serious collision. This discussion explores when it makes sense to sue, the key elements of every car accident claim, and how much compensation is possible for car accident victims in Maryland.
How Much Can I Sue for after a Car Accident in Maryland?
In Maryland, personal injury victims have the right to sue the at-fault party to recover economic and non-economic damages.
There is no set amount of money that every accident victim receives. Compensation depends on several factors, including the extent of suffering the victim endured after an accident and will continue to endure in the future.
In theory, the plaintiff can sue for any amount they choose. However, they typically receive three times the cost of medical expenses, lost wages, and other losses. A plaintiff with catastrophic injuries such as amputation or paralysis is likely to receive more compensation for disfigurement, loss of quality of life, and emotional and physical suffering.
It should be noted that Maryland has a limit on how much plaintiffs can recover for non-economic damages after a car accident. For injuries occurring in 2021, the maximum they can recover is $845,000. If the victim died of their car accident injuries, their survivors could potentially collect an additional 125 percent on top of that amount.
Possible Damages for Maryland Car Accident Lawsuits
If you are considering suing the driver who caused your car accident, it will be helpful to understand the types of damages that are possible in personal injury cases.
Economic damages. Economic damages are tangible losses the victim has incurred or is likely to incur in the future because of an accident. These damages are easy to calculate because they are documented in concrete dollars and cents. They are also easier to prove in court because they are listed in medical bills and other records.
Economic damages include:
- Hospital bills
- Medication costs
- Copays for office visits
- Current and future lost wages because of injury
- Property damage including auto repair bills
Non-economic damages. These damages consist of compensation for harm a victim experienced from another party’s reckless action. These damages are more subjective and not as simple to quantify as economic damages, but they are just as important.
- Emotional distress
- Loss of consortium or loss of companionship
Although economic damages are intended to restore the victim to their original condition, non-economic damages are compensation for the victim’s pain and suffering from a vehicle crash or other type of accident.
The Four Elements of a Successful Maryland Car Accident Claim
Before you sue another driver in Maryland, you and your lawyer will review the details of your case. You must prove the following four elements for your claim to be successful:
Duty of care. At the very heart of your case is a duty of care. That means a person or entity had a duty, or responsibility, to act in a way that protected the safety of themselves and those around them. In the context of a car accident lawsuit, the other driver, or defendant, had a duty to drive safely in accordance with local traffic laws.
Breach of care. The defendant breached that duty of care or drove recklessly in a way that caused others harm. That breach can be anything from speeding or tailgating to driving while texting or driving drunk.
Causation. Causation is the link between the defendant’s breach of duty of care and the plaintiff’s damage or injury.
Take the example of a drunk driver who runs a stop sign and crashes into a vehicle traveling through the intersection, seriously injuring the other driver. The defendant made the decision to drink and drive. The decision to drink and drive directly led to the accident and the other person’s injuries. That is causation.
Damages. Damages are the economic and non-economic losses described above. If the defendant was drinking and driving but somehow managed to get home safely, without harming anyone or anything, they cannot be held liable in a personal injury claim.
Although the drunk driver’s actions were undeniably dangerous and illegal, they do not constitute grounds for a personal injury lawsuit because there were no damages. No one was injured, and no vehicles were damaged. Damages must exist for a car accident lawsuit to proceed.
What Is Contributory Negligence?
In addition to these four elements, the person filing the lawsuit, the plaintiff, must be fault-free to recover any compensation for their losses. Maryland is one of few states in the nation that apply a principle called contributory negligence in personal injury cases.
In these states, if the plaintiff is shown to be even one percent at fault for the accident, they are barred from collection any compensation at all. In some cases, fault is obvious. However, if there is a dispute over who caused the crash, it may depend on a judge or jury to determine who was at fault and to what extent.
Dealing with Insurance Companies after a Car Accident
Although you do have the right to sue for damages related to a car accident, it is not always necessary if no one was hurt. If the other driver had car insurance and their insurer reimbursed you for your vehicle repairs, it usually makes sense to get your vehicle repaired and move on.
When to Consider Legal Action against Another Driver
Unfortunately, many car accidents are not resolved quite so easily. You should consider taking legal action after an accident if:
- The other driver does not have car insurance.
- Your insurance claim was denied.
- The insurance company offered you a low settlement.
- The insurance company refuses to negotiate.
Remember that insurance companies are in business to make a profit. They benefit by paying out as little as possible for car accident claims. Always discuss an insurance settlement proposal with an experienced car accident lawyer before signing on the dotted line to ensure you receive fair compensation for your losses. They will negotiate with the insurance company for a higher settlement or assist you in taking legal action to recover additional compensation.
Can I Sue Anyone Else for a Car Accident?
This discussion has examined suing a negligent driver for causing an accident. Although this is the most common scenario, there are other scenarios in which a plaintiff might sue another person. For instance, the plaintiff might sue the vehicle’s owner if they knowingly allowed the driver to operate the vehicle while inebriated. Or they may sue the driver’s employer if the crash happened while the driver was working.
This depends on the circumstances of the accident and the guidelines in the jurisdiction where the accident occurred. Your lawyer will guide you in this regard after reviewing the details of your case.
How Long Do I Have to File a Car Accident Lawsuit in Maryland?
According to Maryland Courts & Judicial Proceedings Code section 5-101, civil lawsuits for personal injury should be filed within three years from the date of the injury. If the injured person passes away as a result of car accident injuries, their survivors have three years from the date of their passing to sue.
I Have Decided to Sue; What Is the First Step?
If you have already received medical attention for your injuries, your next step should be to schedule a consultation with a skilled car accident lawyer.
In contributory negligence states such as Maryland, personal injury lawsuits are especially challenging. But with the right legal expertise and critical evidence to support the claim, injured victims can have their day in court, and win the compensation they deserve for a life-changing injury.
Baltimore Accident Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Help Clients Recover from Life-Changing Injuries
If you were injured by a reckless driver in Maryland, reach out to the Baltimore accident lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton. We have a track record of success achieving positive outcomes for complex personal injury claims across the state of Maryland. Put our skills, knowledge, and experience to work for you. Call us today at 800-547-4LAW (4529) or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.
We have offices in Baltimore, Glen Burnie, and Prince George’s County, where we represent clients throughout Maryland, including those in Anne Arundel County, Carroll County, Harford County, Howard County, Montgomery County, Prince George’s County, Queen Anne’s County, Maryland’s Western Counties, Southern Maryland and the Eastern Shore, as well as the communities of Catonsville, Essex, Halethorpe, Middle River, Rosedale, Gwynn Oak, Brooklandville, Dundalk, Pikesville, Parkville, Nottingham, Windsor Mill, Lutherville, Timonium, Sparrows Point, Ridgewood, and Elkridge.