I Was Injured. Can I File A Lawsuit Against The Party That Caused My Injury?

In general, when a person is injured as a result of another person's negligence, the injured party may pursue a claim against the party or parties that caused the injuries. You are entitled to compensation for your injuries if it is found that a defendant was negligent and that such negligence was a cause of your injury. Any personal injury case depends on liability, damages, and whether or not you can collect from the negligent party or parties. Maryland is one of only a handful of states which recognizes the theory of contributory negligence. Under this theory, any negligence on the part of a claimant will bar his recovery completely. Another defense that bars recovery is assumption of risk. This means that if the injured party had knowledge of the risk of the danger and voluntarily exposed themselves to the risk, the injured party is barred from recovery.

Personal injury law attempts to cover all areas and types of injuries suffered by individuals. Some of the most common areas are automobile accidents, premise liability, medical malpractice, and product liability, among others. Whether or not you are entitled to compensation may depend on the type of accident that caused the injury.

AUTOMOBILE ACCIDENTS

In Maryland, the law provides for optional no­fault automobile liability insurance coverage, also referred to as Personal Injury Protection (PIP). If you choose not to waive PIP, your insurance carrier will provide coverage for medical expenses, lost wages, and essential services (such as domestic help) regardless of who was at fault for the accident. Benefits extend to the driver, family residents of the insured's household, those operating the vehicle with the insured's permission, passengers and pedestrians. The minimum coverage provided is $2500 and additional coverage can be purchased. Basically, PIP guarantees compensation for medical bills and lost wages before litigating liability.

Liability insurance coverage is mandatory in Maryland. The other driver's insurance company is the liability carrier and will pay you, as a victim of the other driver's negligence, for your out of pocket damages for bodily injury and property damage. The mandatory minimum liability coverage in Maryland is $20,000 per person and $40,000 per accident bodily injury liability, and $15,000 property damage liability. If you are in an automobile accident with an uninsured driver who is at fault or a driver who does not have enough insurance to cover your damages, the uninsured or underinsured motorist provisions of your own policy will apply. This coverage would also apply if you were hit by a "hit and run" driver.

Generally, people who operate motor vehicles must exercise reasonable care under the circumstances. Failure to use reasonable care is the basis for most lawsuits for damages caused by an automobile accident. In these cases, proof of fault is often contested and requires thorough investigation. A driver may also be liable for an accident caused by intentional or reckless conduct. A reckless driver is one who drives unsafely, with willful disregard for the probability that the driving may cause an accident. Liability claims are usually the subject of negotiation between your lawyer and the liability insurer for the negligent party. Lawsuits are generally filed when negotiations fail. If you file a lawsuit against a negligent driver, your attorney will need to prove that the other party was negligent and that the other party's negligence caused injuries that resulted in compensable damages. Be careful when dealing with the other party's insurance company because they may try to rush you into a settlement before you can adequately evaluate the extent of your damages.

PREMISES LIABILITY

If you were injured at someone else's home or a commercial establishment, the person or entity responsible for the premises may be found liable. This can cover a variety of situations including slip and falls, dog bites, assaults, among others. The person liable for your damages is the party in control of the property. That party is responsible for the care, maintenance and inspection of the property. For example, an owner may not be the responsible party if he or she has leased the property to another party who actually has control over the premises.

In general, it is the duty of an owner to exercise reasonable care in the maintenance of the premises and to warn a visitor of any dangerous conditions that are known, or should be known to him, if the conditions are not likely to be perceived by the visitor. Factors used to determine whether the owner exercised reasonable care in maintaining the property includes (a) the foreseeability of harm to others; (b) the magnitude of the risks of injury to others if the property is kept in its current condition; (c) the benefit to an individual or to society of maintaining the property in its current condition; and (d) the cost and inconvenience of providing adequate protection.

The owner or operator of the property must have notice of the defect or circumstances that caused your injury prior to the injury having occurred. The notice can either be actual notice or implied notice, meaning the owner knew or should have known of the dangerous condition given all of the surrounding facts and circumstances. When the owner actually created the dangerous condition, then notice is presumed. If a hazard cannot be eliminated, the owner has a duty to warn of the hazards he is aware of or should be aware of.

The duty of a possessor of land to the injured person may vary depending on the status of the person at the time of the injury. Business owners typically have the highest responsibility to those who are invited onto their premises. Homeowners also have a duty to their guests. The standard of care owed to an adult trespasser is less than that owed to a person who has permission to be on the property. An owner may be liable, however, if he maintains a condition that causes injury to a trespassing child.

PRODUCT LIABILITY

Product Liability deals with recoveries for personal injury or property damage resulting from the use of a product. A lawsuit can be brought against anyone participating in the chain of manufacture for that product, from the manufacturer, to the designer to the retail store. When a company designs and manufactures a product, they have a responsibility to ensure that anyone exercising reasonable care within the expected parameters of usage expected for the product will not be injured. An action can be based on negligence, breach of implied or express warranty, or strict liability.

Under a negligence theory, the claimant must prove the elements of duty, breach of duty, damages, and proximate cause. As for the breach of warranty theory, a warranty is like a promise. An implied warranty exists whether or not you have a written "warranty". An implied warranty of merchantability means that the product sold conforms to the ordinary standards of care and are comparable to similar goods sold under similar circumstances. An implied warranty of fitness for a particular purpose exists when the retailer, distributor, or manufacturer has reason to know the particular purpose for which the goods are required, and that the buyer is relying on the skill and judgment of the seller to select and furnish suitable goods. If the warranties of merchantability and fitness for a particular purpose are breached, or the promise is broken, then the manufacturer, distributor, and/or seller of the product are liable or responsible for the consequences.

Under the newest theory of strict liability, you do not have to prove the manufacturer or designer was negligent. You must show that the product was defective and unreasonably dangerous; the product was defective when it left the manufacturer; and the defect caused the injury. In general, a product is un

The information on this page is meant to provide a general overview of the law. The laws in your state and/or city may deviate significantly from those described here. If you have specific questions related to your situation you should speak with a local attorney.

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