How Long Do I Have to File a Lawsuit After a Car Accident?

As per Maryland Code, Courts and Judicial Proceedings § 5–101, you have three years to file a lawsuit after a car accident. In general, the three-year filing period begins the day your accident occurred. However, in some cases, the “discovery rule” may apply if you sustained accident-related injuries that were not immediately identified or diagnosed. In such cases, your three-year filing window will start the day or date that your injuries were identified. If you file a claim within three years, you meet the statutory deadline to have your claim formally considered by the insurer of the at-fault party responsible for your accident.

Understanding Car Accident Rules in Maryland

Maryland is an at-fault state. If you were involved in an accident, you have the right to seek compensation for your losses and damages from the at-fault party responsible for the accident. However, Maryland is one of only four states that has a contributory negligence law in which being found even 1% negligent for an accident can bar you as a claimant or plaintiff from any compensation in your case. If you were not at fault for your accident, you can file a claim for compensation with the at-fault party’s insurer. There is no mandatory personal injury protection or PIP coverage in Maryland. PIP is used in some states to cover those involved in vehicle accidents–not just victims but at-fault parties as well–up to certain limits. Instead, as per the Maryland Insurance Administration, Maryland drivers are required to carry insurance coverage in the following amounts:
  • $30,000 bodily injury liability for one person per accident
  • $60,000 bodily injury liability for two or more people per accident
  • $15,000 property damage liability per accident
  • Uninsured motorist coverage of equal values
If you are involved in an accident and suffered bodily injuries and/or vehicle or property damage, you can seek compensation from the at-fault driver up to the amounts listed above. However, if the at-fault driver purchased higher coverage limits from his or her insurer, you may be able to recover more in damages if the accident you were involved in caused you to suffer losses over the amounts listed above. The same applies to other forms of insurance that you may wish to purchase for yourself, such as uninsured motorist coverage, collision liability, or comprehensive coverage. For example, if you are involved in an accident with an uninsured motorist or are struck in a hit-and-run accident and the perpetrator flees the scene, you can use your uninsured motorist coverage–up to whatever limit you have on your policy–to cover yourself for qualifying losses and damages.

Filing a Claim

In most cases, you have three years to file a lawsuit after a car accident, but the key aspects of any successful car accident or personal injury claim are:
  • Establishing that the at-fault party’s actions were the cause of the accident in which you were involved
  • Proving that you suffered quantifiable damages–property damage, vehicle damage, lost income, physical injury, or mental/emotional pain and suffering–in the accident
You must be able to connect the actions of the at-fault party to your accident and quantify your damages so that you can submit a letter of intent to sue or a claim letter to the at-fault party’s insurer within the statutes of limitations. To do this, you can gather evidence of your losses and damages, such as:
  • Vehicle repair estimates from a reputable workshop
  • Medical treatment invoices
  • Doctor testimony on the severity of your injuries
  • Salary or wage slips to prove lost income
  • A pain-and-suffering multiplier to quantify your non-economic/intangible losses
You must submit your evidence and a claim letter to the at-fault party’s insurer within three years of suffering an accident. However, keep in mind that insurance companies often have very specific rules of their own for classifying injuries and determining the admissibility of different types of evidence in car accident cases. For example, if you suffer an accident but do not undergo any medical treatment for two weeks–perhaps because you suffered an injury such as whiplash that sometimes does not manifest right after an accident–an insurer may argue that your injuries were not serious enough to warrant treatment. On this basis, you may be denied a claim and would have to file an appeal. Therefore, you should undergo a thorough physical after an accident and consider speaking to an attorney to understand your rights and obligations.

Contact Us Today

Contact the Law Offices of Adam M. Smallow at (410) 877-6021 for assistance with car accident and personal injury claims in Maryland. You have three years to file a lawsuit after a car accident, but you should not delay because you may lose evidence or face other obstacles in seeking compensation after a long delay. Contact us today to learn more and to file a compensation claim if your case warrants one.