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Can I sue a Maryland or D.C. government entity in a car accident or personal injury case?

Maryland personal injury lawyer

A Rockville, Maryland attorney explains how state and local government agencies can be liable for car accidents and personal injury

Just like anyone else, employees of government agencies at all levels can cause injury to members of the public while in the course of doing their jobs. From a car accident, a slip and fall on government owned or controlled property, excessive force by police or government officers, to medical malpractice at a veterans' hospital, government employees can cause injury and mayhem to others, and their agency may be held responsible.

Up until recently, governments and their employees had either total, or some level (qualified or limited) of immunity from suit if they committed a negligent act resulting in an injury to a person. This concept dated back to the King and Queen of England and other royalty, who could not be sued for wrongs committed. However, as time has passed, this immunity has largely been abolished in total or to some degree at all levels of government in the United States, and the ways of our once British rulers have vanished. One generally does not sue the employee directly, but the federal agency he/she was working for at the time of the accident (See The Boyle Rule; contractors working for the government do not get protection.)

Under what are known State or Local Tort Claims Act (s), you have the right to sue a government agency and/or its employees, whose employee's negligence or recklessness resulted in an injury. These types of personal injury claims are more difficult to pursue, can be highly complex, and in general, the amount of damages one can recover is generally capped by law.

When pursuing a personal injury claim against the federal, state or local government, make sure you know the specific rules that apply, particularly as to the time in which you must provide notification of the government entity responsible for your injury and what information must be given. There are different deadlines and rules for each county, state, etcetera, and one who does not comply with all the terms including time, may lose their claim.

Suits against the state of Maryland for car accidents and personal injury

In Maryland, The Maryland Tort Claims Act (MTCA) allows you to sue a state agency if the agency, or one of its employees, caused your injury. See, Maryland Code, State Government Article, §§ 12-101, et. seq. Under the Maryland Act an injured party or their representative must provide notice to the State within 6 months of the incident, and provide specific information, including:

  • (a) Form. -- A claim under this subtitle shall:
    • (1) contain a concise statement of facts that sets forth the nature of the claim, including the date and place of the alleged tort;
    • (2) demand specific damages;
    • (3) state the name and address of each party;
    • (4) state the name, address, and telephone number of counsel for the claimant, if any; and
    • (5) be signed by the claimant, or the legal representative or counsel for the claimant.
  • (d) Final denials. -- A claim under this subtitle is denied finally:
    • (1) if, by certified mail, return receipt requested, under a postmark of the United States Postal Service, the Treasurer or designee sends the claimant, or the legal representative or counsel for the claimant written notice of denial; or
    • (2) if the Treasurer or designee fails to give notice of a final decision within 6 months after the filing of the claim.

Damages Capped:

You must be aware that a state agency is not required to pay more than $400,000 in damages from one incident under the MTCA.

Suing a Local Government e.g. such as Montgomery County; Section 5-301 of the Courts and Judicial Proceedings Article

Under the Local Government Tort Claims Act ("LGTCA") for Maryland, you can sue an employee of a county, city, or other local government agency for negligence. In order for the municipal agency to pay for the damages caused by an employee, the employee must have caused injury while within the scope of his or her employment.

A local government agency will not pay for the damages if your injury was caused by gross negligence or intentional behavior by the employee.

Timing and Notice:

You must mail, deliver, or fax a claim letter to the appropriate agency highlighting the negligent or reckless actions that led to your injury as a requirement to bringing a lawsuit.

§ 5-304. Notice of claim: Form and contents of notice:

  • (b)(1) Except as provided in subsections (a) and (d) of this section, an action for unliquidated damages may not be brought against a local government or its employees unless the notice of the claim required by this section is given within 1 year after the injury.
  • (2) The notice shall be in writing and shall state the time, place, and cause of the injury.

Notice given in person or by certified mail

  • (c)(1) The notice required under this section shall be given in person or by certified mail, return receipt requested, bearing a postmark from the United States Postal Service, by the claimant or the representative of the claimant.
  • (2) Except as otherwise provided, if the defendant local government is a county, the notice required under this section shall be given to the county commissioners or county council of the defendant local government.
  • (3) If the defendant local government is:
    • (i) Baltimore City, the notice shall be given to the City Solicitor;
    • (ii) Howard County or Montgomery County, the notice shall be given to the County Executive and/or the Head of the Agency involved; and
    • (iii) Anne Arundel County, Baltimore County, Frederick County, Harford County, or Prince George's County, the notice shall be given to the county solicitor or county attorney.
  • (4) For any other local government, the notice shall be given to the corporate authorities of the defendant local government.

Unlike the State, notice must be given within 1 year after injury, unless:

  • (e) This section does not apply if, within 1 year after the injury, the defendant local government has actual or constructive notice of:
    • (1) The claimant's injury; or
    • (2) The defect or circumstances giving rise to the claimant's injury.

Failure to give notice:

  • (d) Notwithstanding the other provisions of this section, unless the defendant can affirmatively show that its defense has been prejudiced by lack of required notice, upon motion and for good cause shown the court may entertain the suit even though the required notice was not given.

Damages capped:

Under LGTCA, a local or county agency cannot be held liable to any one person for more than $400,000, or in total for more than $800,000 for all injuries arising from a single incident.

How can a Rockville personal injury lawyer help me pursue a claim?

Pursuing a personal injury claim against a government agency can be very difficult. Before pursuing a personal injury claim against a state or local agency, it's critical that you first consult with a Maryland attorney at the Law Offices of Stuart L. Plotnick, LLC.

Our attorneys have a vast amount of knowledge of the Maryland legal system and experience handling cases like yours. To find out how we can help you, fill out our online contact form or call our Rockville office at (301) 251-1286.

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