How To File A Personal Injury Lawsuit In Maryland
Our experienced attorneys explain the legal process
If you have been injured in a personal injury accident in Maryland caused by someone else, you are legally entitled to receive financial compensation, in most cases. However, actually getting the money you deserve can often be very difficult, especially if the at-fault party refuses to pay your injury claim.
Fortunately, you often have another option – filing a personal injury lawsuit seeking damages, the legal term for financial compensation. But how does the process work? What do you need to do? What deadlines apply to personal injury lawsuits in Maryland?
Our experienced Maryland personal injury attorneys at Goldberg Finnegan in Silver Spring can help you make sense of everything. That’s because we have years of experience successfully guiding personal injury lawsuits through the state’s legal system.
What is a personal injury lawsuit?
If you have been injured due to someone else’s negligent behavior, you have the right to file a personal injury lawsuit. These types of legal cases are civil cases rather than criminal cases. Even if there is a criminal case involving your injury accident, you will need to file a separate lawsuit seeking damages.
In order to file a personal injury lawsuit, the person taking legal action (the plaintiff) must prove that the at-fault party (the defendant) caused the injury due to negligence. In addition, the plaintiff must provide evidence that they experienced a financial loss as a result of their accident.
Who can file a personal injury lawsuit in Maryland?
Anyone who sustained a financial loss as a result of an injury due to negligence can file a personal injury lawsuit in Maryland. Again, the key to these legal cases is demonstrating the injury occurred due to someone else’s negligent behavior.
In addition, surviving immediate family members can file a wrongful death lawsuit in response to a fatal personal injury accident. Immediate family members are normally defined as the deceased’s spouse, children, or parents.
Who can I file a personal injury lawsuit against?
In most cases, Maryland has a fault-based insurance system. This means the at-fault party must pay injury victims for their injury-related expenses. As a result, if you are filing a lawsuit seeking compensation for your injury, you will likely take legal action against the at-fault party that’s responsible for paying you. This often includes:
- Property owner where your injury took place, especially in premises liability cases, including slip and fall accidents.
- The dog’s owners, especially in dog bite attack cases.
- The company that made the dangerous product that caused your injury, especially in product liability
- The insurance company for the at-fault party.
How much time do I have to file a lawsuit?
In Maryland, you have three (3) years from the date of your personal injury accident to file a lawsuit against the at-fault party. This deadline is known as the statute of limitations as outlined in Maryland Code Section 5-109.
Three years might seem like a long time. However, the longer you wait, the harder it often becomes to find evidence in support of your case. Security camera footage might be destroyed. Other evidence could be lost. Witnesses who saw what happened might forget or move away.
This is why the best approach is to take legal action right away. Otherwise, you could miss out on your one opportunity for justice.
Which courts handle personal injury lawsuits In Maryland?
Often, you have a choice between two types of courts to file your personal injury lawsuit – Maryland District Court and Maryland Circuit Court.
Maryland District Courts generally handle legal cases that involve less than $30,000 in financial losses. Maryland has 34 district courts located in 12 districts statewide. Each district court generally handles cases based on which county the injury accident took place in Maryland. Locally, these courts include the 4th District Court (Calvert, Charles, and St. Mary's counties), 5th District Court (Prince George’s County), 6th District Court (Montgomery County) and the 10th District Court (Carroll and Howard counties).
The other option is to file your personal injury lawsuit in a Maryland Circuit Court. There are eight judicial courts statewide. Locally, these courts include the 5th Judicial Circuit Court (Anne Arundel, Carroll, and Howard counties), 6th Judicial Circuit Court (Frederick and Montgomery counties) and the 7th Judicial Circuit Court (Calvert, Charles, Prince George’s, and St. Mary's counties).
How does the personal injury lawsuit process work in Maryland?
Each case is different. But in general, if you decide to file a personal injury lawsuit in Maryland, you will likely need to take the following steps:
- Gather evidence – In order to build a successful lawsuit, you need evidence proving negligence and that you sustained a financial loss.
- Send demand letter – This is a letter sent by you, the plaintiff, to the defendant outlining your potential legal case. At this point, the plaintiff has not filed a lawsuit. Rather, the plaintiff is simply explaining their complaint to the defendant, requesting a specific amount of money to resolve the legal matter, and giving the defendant a deadline to pay that amount of money.
- Send complaint letter – If the defendant does not comply with your requests as outlined in your demand letter, the next step is to send a complaint letter to the court that has jurisdiction over the case. The complaint letter lays the groundwork for the lawsuit. In the letter, you as the plaintiff explain to the presiding judge the details of your case and how much money you believe you should be paid to address your financial loss. Once the court receives your complaint letter, the defendant has 21 days to respond.
Common responses to a complaint letter
In general, there are four common responses by a defendant to a complaint letter:
- No response – The defendant ignores your complaint letter. In this scenario, you can ask the judge handling your lawsuit to issue a default judgment in your favor.
- Motion for more definitive statement – This step simply means the defendant wants more information from you, the plaintiff, about the reasons for the lawsuit.
- Motion to dismiss – The defendant asks the judge to dismiss your case. Reasons why sometimes include lack of evidence or questions about whether the court has jurisdiction over the case.
- Counterclaim – Another common response is for the defendant to file a lawsuit in response to your lawsuit, in which they claim you are the at-fault party, and they are the plaintiff. This response is known as filing a counterclaim or counter lawsuit.
So, what happens next? In general, there are two common responses – either the lawsuit is settled out of court (often for an undisclosed amount of money) before the case goes to trial or the case goes to trial.
If your personal injury lawsuit goes to trial
So, what can you expect if your lawsuit becomes a court case in Maryland? These are often the steps that occur:
- Trial date set by judge.
- Jury selection process takes place if there’s a jury in the case.
- Opening statements presented by lawyers from the plaintiff and the defendant.
- Evidence presented at trial. Depending on the circumstances of your case, such evidence can include inspection reports, medical records, security camera footage, or expert testimony.
- Closing arguments presented by lawyers for both sides.
- Judge or jury issues a verdict, either in favor of you or the defendant.
- If a judge or jury rules in your favor, they will often award damages (financial compensation) for a specific amount of money that must be paid by the defendant. Damages can include economic damages, non-economic damages, and punitive damages.
- If you or the defendant disagree with the ruling, you have the right to appeal the decision by the judge or jury to an Appellate Court of Maryland in Annapolis.
Maryland personal injury lawsuits can be complicated. We can help
Don’t underestimate the complexity of your personal injury lawsuit. It’s also important to understand that you often only have one chance to take legal action to obtain a lifetime’s worth of compensation for your injury and financial loss. That’s why it’s critical that you give your legal case the best opportunity for success.
That’s why we want to help. Our Maryland personal injury lawyers have extensive courtroom experience and have successfully guided many lawsuits through the state’s legal system. When you have our legal team on your side, you can be sure we will do everything we can to help you win your case.
Put your trust in a Silver Spring law firm that puts your needs first. Contact us and schedule your free case evaluation. Our office is conveniently located on Colesville Road in Silver Spring a block from the Montgomery County District Court.