You can generally sue a person or entity if you suffered an injury due to that party’s negligence. The same is true with respect to the state of Maryland: if you were hurt because of the state’s negligent behavior, you can file a lawsuit. However, the rules are different for suits against the government versus a private party. And failing to follow these rules could invalidate your claim altogether. If a government office or agency was negligent and caused you harm, speak to the Maryland personal injury lawyers of Koonz McKenney Johnson & DePaolis LLP.
Understanding the Maryland Tort Claims Act
Negligence lawsuits concerning the state are governed by the Maryland Tort Claims Act. This law spells out the procedures for seeking damages from a negligent office or agency of the state. It also places a damages cap on each incident of $400,000.
The first thing to do after suffering injury by the state is to send a claim letter to the state treasurer. This letter must be sent within one year of the injury, and has to include:
- Names and addresses of each individual involved
- Statement of where, how, and when you were injured
- Description of your injuries
- A demand for monetary damages (usually an estimate)
- The name, address, and telephone number of your attorney
- Your signature and contact information
The most difficult part of the letter is the damages estimate. If your injuries were serious, you may not yet know how much your damages will end up being. You should speak with a knowledgeable Maryland personal injury attorney to make sure you provide a reasonable estimate for your damages.
The state will investigate the details surrounding the incident, which may take some time. It’s important to remember, however, that Maryland has a three-year statute of limitations. That means if you don’t file a lawsuit within three years of your injury – even if you’ve already sent the claim letter – you won’t be able to recover damages. If you’re getting close to that deadline and haven’t heard from the state, you will have to file your lawsuit to preserve your rights.
After you file your lawsuit, it must be properly served on the state according to Maryland rules of civil procedure. That includes the summons, complaint, and any other documents related to the case. The claim letter is separate entirely from this requirement.
The rules are largely the same for suing the Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) for injuries involving public transportation. You are required to send a claim letter to the MTA with the same information within one year of the injury. You are also required to properly serve your lawsuit on the MTA, and be mindful of the statute of limitations. However, unlike claims against the state generally, there is no damages cap except for non-economic damages like pain and suffering.
Suing the government is no easy task. If you miss the claim letter deadline, the defendant will likely move to dismiss your lawsuit. And there’s a good chance the court will grant it. Plus, if there’s any other avenue the state or MTA can use against you, expect them to take it. That means anything that makes it appear you were to blame for the accident will likely be brought up. And the government will question the extent and validity of your damages, and may even bring in an expert witness to contest them.
The government has attorneys ready to defend it. That’s why you need a dedicated Maryland personal injury attorney on your side. Reach out to Koonz McKenney Johnson & DePaolis LLP today and let us fight for you.