Is it Possible to File a Personal Injury Suit Against a State of Maryland Government Agency, Department or Employee?
Yes, you can file a personal injury lawsuit against a government entity or Maryland state employee, but there are a number of things you will need to understand. Under the tort laws of the State of Maryland’s the victim of an injury accident has the right to sue the state itself or an employee who works for the State of Maryland, but the process is not as easy as that of suing a private individual.
Maryland’s “Tort Claims Acts” grant permission to a plaintiff to file a lawsuit against a government entity. However, it is important to recognize that tort claims acts often require the plaintiff in a personal injury lawsuit to observe an additional, and different, timeframe than that of other personal injury suits. For example, a victim of a personal injury accident caused by a government agency or employee must file a letter with that government entity within one year of the personal injury accident. Furthermore, the tort acts also require a plaintiff to notify specific people regarding his or her injury(s) as well as their intended plan to sue.
When filing a lawsuit against the State of Maryland or one of its employees, not only must you follow all of the normal rules for lawsuits against private individuals or business entities, but also those rules laid out in the Maryland Tort Claims Act. In cases involving personal injury due to an auto accident on a Maryland beltway, interstate or rural highway, the Tort Claims Act lists the steps to be followed when filing a suit against the State of Maryland. These steps can be found in Sections 12-101 through 12-110 of the Maryland Code, State Government.
The following is a general summary, however it is a good idea to consult with a qualified personal injury attorney to be certain you are following all of the rules and legal requirements when suing a government entity.Step One
Mail, fax or otherwise deliver a letter to the Maryland State Treasurer stating why you believe the State of Maryland or one of its employees acted negligently and why the State or that employee should be held responsible for your injury. This kind of letter is termed a “claim letter.” If mailed to the Treasurer’s Office, it must be post marked within one year after the date that the plaintiff’s injuries were received.
The claim letter must include the following information:
- Name and address of each person involved in the automobile accident
- A Statement of how, when and where the injury(s) occurred
- Description(s) of the injury(s)
- A demand for specific damages, such as the amount of money being sought
- If you have retained a Maryland personal injury attorney, you must include his or her name, address and telephone number
- Include your contact information
- Sign and date the letter
Should you accidentally miss the one-year cutoff for sending the claim letter to the treasurer’s office, you may still file your lawsuit. However, the State of Maryland has the right to include in its defense that the claim letter was not sent in a timely fashion. This will not necessarily ruin your chances to have the court hear your case, since the judge may find reason to excuse your failure to comply with the deadline; however it is never a good idea to ignore that one-year claim letter deadline as the court can just as easily deny your personal injury lawsuit on that single technicality.Step Two
Once the claim letter is filed with the treasurer, the State of Maryland will most certainly investigate your claim in the same way that any insurance carrier would. It is important to note that it may take quite a while for the State to make its investigation.
Please note that the three-year time limit for filing a Maryland personal injury lawsuit against a private individual also applies to those suits against the State of Maryland or other government entity. Therefore, if the state’s investigation is taking so much time that it threatens to exceed the three-year deadline for filing a lawsuit with the court, you should file your personal injury claim regardless of whether or not the state has finished its investigation.
You should always remember that the three-year statute of limitations for personal injury lawsuits in Maryland starts on the date of the injury accident, not the date you submitted your claim letter; and the clock continues to count down regardless of whether the State’s investigation is completed or not.
Always keep that overriding three-year deadline in mind and make certain that you file your lawsuit within that timeframe or your claim against the State will be denied and you will not receive damages for your injuries regardless of the facts of the case.Step Three
Once your lawsuit has been filed with the court, the plaintiff must serve the State with your complaint, plus any summons and all other documentation required by the Maryland Rules of Civil Procedure.Step Four
If you do prevail in your lawsuit against the State of Maryland, be aware that there is a statutory limit on the amount of damages the State may be required to pay to you. Under the rules set forth in the Maryland Tort Claims Act, the State cannot be held liable to any one individual for more than $400,000 for injuries arising from a single incident.
At Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC, our personal injury lawyers are here to help you navigate the legal process involved with Maryland injury claims. Even if you aren’t sure that a lawsuit is the best course for your situation, our skilled attorneys can provide you with a free, no-obligation initial consultation so that you can make a better and more informed decision based on your rights under the law.