Maryland Motor Vehicle Accident Laws and Safety Requirements

Although Maryland’s roads are safer than the roads of most states, around 500 people are killed in traffic accidents every year and several thousand are injured. If you believe that you have a motor vehicle accident claim in Maryland, your claim will be governed by the following legal principles:

Statute of Limitations: You have until the third anniversary of your accident to file a lawsuit for personal injury or property damage. If you are filing a wrongful death lawsuit, the three-year period starts on the date of the victim’s death.

When the Victim is Partly at Fault: Maryland is a “pure contributory negligence” state – if you were at fault for the accident even in the slightest degree, you will be denied any recovery at all. This is one of the harshest anti-plaintiff laws in the United States.

Fault/No Fault Rule: Maryland is not a “no fault” auto insurance state – you can freely file a claim (with a court or with the other driver’s auto liability insurance carrier) if you believe that the other driver was at fault.

Minimum Insurance Coverage: Maryland drivers are required to carry automobile liability insurance with minimum coverage limits of $20,000 per person, $40,000 per accident and $15,000 for property damage.

Uninsured/Underinsured Drivers Coverage: Maryland requires its drivers to purchase insurance that covers accidents in case the at-fault driver is uninsured or underinsured, with minimum coverage limits of $30,000 per person, $50,000 per accident and $15,000 in property damage.

Types of Damages Available: Full compensatory damages are available. Compensation for pain and suffering is limited to $830,000, and punitive damages may not be “excessive”.

Product Liability for Defective Vehicles: No-fault product liability is available. The “consumer expectations test” is used to determine if a product is defective. The “risk-benefit test” doesn’t apply to design defect claims unless the product malfunctions.

Motorcycle Helmet Laws: All riders are required to wear helmets on Maryland roads.

Seat Belt Laws: All occupants 16 or older must fasten seat belts. The offense is secondary for occupants in rear seats (the officer must stop you for another infraction before citing you for failure to wear a seat belt). The maximum fine for a first offense is $83.

Dram Shop Law: Maryland has no dram shop law, meaning that vendors or social hosts who serve alcohol to minors or obviously intoxicated adults may face no liability to third parties injured by the people they serve.

DUI/DWI Penalties (first offense): Maryland law includes two distinct “drinking and driving” offenses – Driving While Intoxicated (DWI), for which the minimum BAC is 0.04%, and Driving Under the Influence (DUI), for which the minimum BAC is 0.08%. A first offense conviction for DWI can result in up to 2 months in jail, a fine of up to $500 and a minimum six month driver’s license suspension. A first offense conviction for DUI can result in up to one year in prison, a fine of up to $1,000, and a driver’s license suspension of at least six months

Distracted Driving (texting while driving, etc.): Maryland completely bans texting while driving and the use of hand-held devices while driving. All cell phone use is prohibited for drivers under 18.