A statute of limitations in Maryland is a law that sets a time limit for the filing of lawsuits and other legal actions. Such laws have been in place for centuries, even in ancient Greece and during the Roman Empire. Their purpose was, and is, to make sure that defendants aren’t prosecuted or penalized unfairly.
If criminals or civil defendants could be held responsible indefinitely for their wrongdoing, evidence relevant to their cases might be lost, and witnesses might die, disappear, or lose their memories of the incidents they saw. The result could be an unfair trial.
There are some crimes like murder or sexual offenses that, because of their seriousness, have no statute of limitations in some states. Civil matters that involve personal injury law or personal property damage, however, are always subject to a statute of limitations. That being said, the statute of limitations in Maryland is three years, meaning you have three years to settle an insurance claim or file a lawsuit for any personal injury, including:
- Car/truck/motorcycle/pedestrian accident
- Paratransit accident
- Medical malpractice
- Slip and fall
- Dog bite
- Product liability
- Wrongful death
When the Statute of Limitations in Maryland Begins
The three-year time limit set by the state of Maryland for personal injury claims/lawsuits generally begins the day your injury occurs. In some cases, however, an injury or illness might develop over time. For example, if the drinking water in your area is contaminated, it might take months for you to develop symptoms of illness from drinking that water. In such a case, the statute of limitations begins when you first discover or should reasonably have discovered your injury/illness.
If you miss the statute of limitations deadline by even one day, your claim or lawsuit is likely to be dismissed, preventing you from ever recovering compensation for your damages. While three years might seem like a long time, the wheels of justice often turn slowly. It’s best not to wait to contact an attorney who will be sure you adhere to all deadlines and other procedural requirements in your case.
Your first step in most personal injury cases is to file a claim for your damages against an insurance company (yours or someone else’s). Insurance companies often drag out settlement negotiations for as long as they can to delay or avoid paying claims. You must have a signed settlement agreement from the insurance company or file a suit before the three-year statute runs out.
If you’re in negotiations with an insurance company and the deadline is drawing near, your attorney will probably file a lawsuit, which will “toll” or pause the statute. Then you may continue negotiations, and the company is more likely to settle with you to avoid the expense of going to trial.
Exceptions and Extensions for the Statute of Limitations in Maryland
There are other circumstances that dictate the statute of limitations in Maryland. The clock stops running temporarily if:
- You’re a minor when your injury occurs.
- You’re mentally incompetent to pursue your claim.
- You’re in the process of filing bankruptcy.
- You’re incarcerated.
- You’re injured by a hit-and-run driver who can’t be located.
- The defendant in your case has disappeared and can’t be found.
- You can show that it took more than three years for you to discover your injury/illness.
In some medical malpractice cases, for example, it might take longer than three years for symptoms of your injury to surface. In this case, an experienced personal injury attorney can present your medical evidence and request an extension on the statute of limitations.
Claims Against Government Agencies or Employees
If your claim is against a government employee or agency, including a government-run school or hospital, your time limit could be different from the standard three years. Claims against the federal government, for example, have a two-year statute of limitations. Claims against Maryland state agencies are even more complicated:
- The Maryland Tort Claims Act (MTCA) requires you to file a claim with the state treasurer within one year after any personal injury caused by a state agency or employee.
- If the treasurer denies the claim or you receive no response after six months, you may then file a lawsuit within three years from the date of the injury.
When You Suffer a Personal Injury in Maryland
An experienced personal injury attorney can help you observe the statute of limitations in Maryland and meet all other deadlines and requirements. Please contact us online, start a chat, or call us to schedule your free consultation. We accept cases on a contingency-fee basis