Maine Motor Vehicle Accident Laws and Safety Requirements

In terms of traffic accident fatalities, 2015 was the safest year in Maine since 1944. Nevertheless, fatalities easily exceed 100 per year for the state, and injuries are far more common (including about 150 injuries per year from collisions with moose). If the accident was someone else’s fault, injured plaintiffs and heirs of the deceased have a legal remedy under Maine law.

Statute of Limitations: In Maine, you have six years from the date of a car accident to file a lawsuit for personal injury or property damage. This is one of the longest statute of limitations periods in the nation. If you are filing a wrongful death lawsuit, however, you have only two years from the date of the victim’s death to file a lawsuit.

When the Victim is Partly at Fault: In many cases, fault for a traffic accident can be apportioned between two or more parties. If a court determines that the plaintiff filing the lawsuit was partially at fault for the accident, it will apportion fault on percentage basis (insurance companies do this as well). If a Maine court determines that the plaintiff was at least 50 percent at fault, his lawsuit will be dismissed. If the court determines that the plaintiff’s fault was less than 50 percent, an amount proportionate to the plaintiff’s percentage of fault will be deducted from his damages.

Fault/No Fault Rule: Maine is not a “no-fault” auto insurance state – if you believe that the other driver was at fault, you may directly file a lawsuit or file a claim against his liability insurance company.

Minimum Insurance Coverage: Maine drivers must maintain auto liability insurance with some of the highest coverage limits in the United States — $50,000 per injured victim, $100,000 per accident and $26,000 for property damage.

Uninsured/Underinsured Drivers Coverage: Unlike most states, Maine requires its drivers to purchase insurance that covers both uninsured drivers and underinsured drivers, with coverage limits of at least $50,000 per injured victim and $100,000 per accident.

Types of Damages Available: Maine offer full compensatory damages, including compensation for pain and suffering. Although punitive damages require clear and convincing evidence of outrageous behavior on the part of the defendant, there is no statutory cap.

Product Liability for Defective Vehicles: Strict (no-fault) liability, negligence and breach of warranty claims are available.

Suing the Government over Defective Roadways (Sovereign Immunity): Lawsuits against the Maine state government or one of its subdivisions are limited to $400,000 per case, and no punitive damages are allowed. You may recover no more than $10,000 from a Maine state employee acting within his scope of duties.

Motorcycle Helmet Laws: Riders under 18 must wear helmets at all times.

Seat Belt Laws: All occupants 18 or older must wear seat belts. The maximum fine for a first offense is $50.

Dram Shop Law: When a licensed alcohol vendor provides alcohol to a minor under 21 or to an obviously intoxicated adult, who then proceeds to injure a third party due to his intoxication, the third party can hold the vendor liable for his injuries. A social host faces corresponding liability for serving minors, but only limited liability for serving intoxicated adults.

DUI/DWI Penalties (first offense): In Maine, a first-offense OUI (Operating Under the Influence) results in 30 days in jail, a $500 fine and a driver’s license suspension of 90 days.

Distracted Driving (texting while driving, etc.): Texting while driving is illegal in Maine for all drivers. Drivers on Learner or Intermediate licenses may not use cell phones while driving, regardless of whether or not they are hand-held.