Your Baltimore Personal Injury Case: The Basics
Your 9 year old was doing a school report on jellyfish and needed to log some observation time. You hadn't been to the National Aquarium in awhile, so the whole family headed over to make a day of it. Unfortunately, just as you were getting through the front doors, you tripped on a floor mat. You tried to block the fall with your arm, but now you couldn't move at all. As your husband called 911, you couldn't stop thinking about the medical bills and time you would have to take off from work. Were you responsible for all that? After all, the mat hadn't been secured to the floor. Could you have a personal injury claim?
Here is some basic information to help guide you through a personal injury case in Baltimore. For a general overview, you may wish to start by reviewing the FindLaw section on Accident & Injury Law. Then return here for information specific to the Land of Pleasant Living.
The most important thing to do after any personal injury is to make sure that any emergency medical needs are taken care of. However, if possible, before you leave the scene it is recommended that you (or someone acting on your behalf) collect information and evidence about the accident. This can include things like taking pictures, getting the contact information of any witnesses, and jotting down notes about what happened.
Filing A Lawsuit
It is possible that you may resolve the matter with insurance companies without the involvement of any attorneys. However, if you run into problems with your insurer and wish to file a complaint you may do so through the Maryland Insurance Administration.
If you decide to file a lawsuit, you will likely do so in the Baltimore County Circuit Court or possibly the Baltimore County District Court. Keep in mind that there are deadlines within which you must file your suit. These are called Statutes of Limitations and in Baltimore and the rest of Maryland, you generally have 3 years to bring a personal injury action.
Most personal injury cases are based on one party alleging that the other acted negligently. To act negligently is essentially to act carelessly and for that carelessness to cause or contribute to the accident.
But what if both parties acted negligently? Unfortunately, Maryland is one of only a few states that still follow the doctrine of contributory negligence. Under this legal theory, even if you are only 1% responsible for the accident, you are barred from recovery.
What Damages Are Available?
Depending on the circumstances of the accident and the extent of your injuries, there are a variety of types of "damages" (monetary compensation) you may be able to recover. Typically you will seek recovery of those losses that can be categorized as "economic" like medical bills and lost wages as well as those that are categorized as "non-economic" like pain and suffering.
Non-economic damages are not unlimited in Baltimore and the rest of Maryland. Instead, there is a maximum cap on the recoverable dollar amount that varies depending on your date of injury. This same cap also applies to wrongful death claims. Non-economic damages for medical malpractice claims are also capped, and also vary based on date of injury, but the cap is slightly different than that above.
What About Accidents That Happen At Work?
If you sustain an accidental personal injury while working, your claim may be handled by the separate workers' compensation system. You should report your injury to your employer right away. For additional information on the Maryland workers' compensation system and associated benefits, check out these Frequently Asked Questions from the Maryland Workers' Compensation Commission.
Do You Need An Attorney?
Depending on the extent of your injuries, it is generally recommended that you at least consult with an attorney. A skilled lawyer can deal with the administrative aspects of your case and work to get you the maximum recovery you are due, while you focus on getting better. Most personal injury lawyers will offer a free initial consultation and if you decide to work together will do so on a "contingency fee" basis where their fees are paid out of your recovery. For more information on how an attorney can help you, as well as sample forms and agreements, check out the FindLaw section on Using A Personal Injury Lawyer.
Next Steps: Search for a Local Attorney
Contact a qualified attorney.