Serious Injury Team

August 11, 2017

Personal Injury Claims Against The State of Maryland

You can sue the State of Maryland or a State employee for an injury that you sustained because the State or its employee was negligent. However, it’s not as easy as suing an individual. To file a lawsuit against the State of Maryland for an injury, you must follow all of the normal rules for lawsuits, plus those contained in the Maryland Tort Claims Act. 

A “Tort Claims Act” grants permission for a Government entity to be sued. Tort claims acts often require a person to act more quickly than in a normal personal injury claim, often within one year after the occurrence of your injury, and they require you to notify specific people about your injury and your plan to sue. The rules may also limit the amount you can recover in your lawsuit.

Filing a Lawsuit Against the State of Maryland or its Employees 

The Maryland Tort Claims Act sets for the steps you must follow when filing a suit against the State of Maryland, the Maryland Transit Administration or one of their employees to recover for any injury at Sections 12-101 through 12-110 of the Maryland Code, State Government.

Steps you must take when suing the State or its employees

1. Mail, deliver, or fax a letter to the Maryland State Treasurer stating why you believe that the State or its employee did something wrong and why you believe that the State is responsible for your injury. This type of letter is called a “claim letter” and must be sent and post marked to the Treasurer’s Office within one year after the date that your injury occurred. 

Your claim letter must include (See: Maryland Code, State Government, Section 12-107):

  1. The name and address of each of the people involved;
  2. A statement of how, where, and when the injury occurred;
  3. A description of the injury;
  4. A demand for specific damages, such as a particular amount of money;
  5. If you are represented by an attorney, the attorney’s name, address, and telephone number; and
  6. Your signature and contact information

2. If you miss the one-year deadline for sending the claim letter to the Treasurer’s Office, you may still elect to file a lawsuit. However, the State will have a defense to the suit that the claim letter was not sent in a timely manner. The Court can find reasons to excuse your omission, but you should not count on it. (See: Maryland Code State Government, Section 12-106) 

3. Once you file the claim letter with the Treasurer, the State will likely investigate your claim in the same manner that an insurance company’s adjuster would. The State’s investigation may take some time. 

NOTE:
Most claims for negligence, regardless of whom they are against, have a three-year statute of limitations. The 3 year limitations period starts on the date of the injury, and it continues to run even though you have filed the Claim Letter. Therefore, if you are getting close to the 3-year anniversary of your injury, do not wait for the State to respond to the claim letter. File your lawsuit, or your claim against the State will be barred, and you will recover nothing for your injury.

4. Once the lawsuit is filed, you must serve the complaint, the summons, and all other documents required by the Maryland Rules of Civil Procedure. 

5. Should you win your lawsuit against the State, there is a limit on the amount that the State may be required to pay to you. Under the MTCA, the State cannot be held liable to any one person for more than $400,000 for injuries arising from a single incident. (See: Maryland Code, State Government, Section 12-104 and Code of Maryland Regulations (COMAR) 25.02.01 through 25.02.07)

Steps you must take when suing the Maryland Transit Administration or its employees under the MTATCA

A different set of rules applies to suits against the Maryland Transit Administration (MTA – they operate the light rail and buses). These rules are called the MTA Tort Claims Act (“MTATCA”). (See: Section 7-702 of the Maryland Code)

1. Just as when filing against the State, you must mail, deliver, or fax a “claim letter” to the MTA stating why you believe that the MTA or its employee did something wrong and why you believe that the MTA is responsible for your injury. You must send your claim letter to the MTA within one year after the date that your injury occurred. 

The claim letter should include the following information (See: Maryland Code, Transportation, Section 7-702):

  1. The name and address of each of the people involved;
  2. A statement of how, where and when the injury occurred;
  3. A description of the injury;
  4. A demand for specific damages, such as a particular amount of money;
  5. If you are represented by an attorney, the attorney’s name, address, and telephone number; and
  6. Your signature and contact information

2. If you miss the one-year deadline for sending the claim letter to the MTA, you may still elect to file a lawsuit.  However, the State will have a defense to the suit that the claim letter was not sent in a timely manner. The Court can find reasons to excuse your omission, but you should not count on it. (See: Maryland Code, Transportation, Section 7-702(g))

3. Once your letter has been received by the MTA, it will likely investigate your claim. This investigation may take several months to complete. 

NOTE:
Most claims for negligence, regardless of whom they are against, have a three-year statute of limitations. The 3 year limitations period starts on the date of the injury, and it continues to run even though you have filed the Claim Letter. Therefore, if you are getting close to the 3-year anniversary of your injury, do not wait for the MTA to respond to the claim letter. File your lawsuit, or your claim against the MTA will be barred, and you will recover nothing for your injury.

4. Just as with a normal personal injury lawsuit, once you file suit under the MTATCA, you must still serve the complaint, the summons, and all other documents required by the Maryland Rules.

5. Should you win your lawsuit against the MTA, unlike the State or a local government, there is no limit on the amount that the MTA may be required to pay you under the MTACTA. However, in Maryland, there is still a cap on the total amount of non-economic damages that can be awarded. (See: Maryland Code, Courts and Judicial Proceedings, Section 11-108)

Suing a State Employee Personally
You are allowed to sue a State employee personally, although such suits are rare. State employees can be sued personally for actions that they take that are outside of their work for the State. They can also be sued personally even for actions that take place as part of their state work, if they acted with “malice” or “gross negligence”. Malice and gross negligence have specific legal definitions and are difficult to prove. If one of these exceptions applies, and you sue and obtain a judgment against a State employee, the State is not responsible to pay you. Raather, you will have to collect from the employee personally. (See: Maryland Code, Courts and Judicial Proceedings, Section 5-522)

 

Suing a County or Local Government or Employee
You can sue an employee of a city, county or other local government if the employee injures you. The applicable rules can be found in the Local Government Tort Claims Act (LGTCA) and at Section 5-301 and following the Maryland Code, Courts and Judicial Proceedings.

If the employee’s actions took place within the scope of the employee’s employment with the local government, the local government will usually defend the employee and may pay damages or a settlement on the employee’s behalf. However, if the employee acted with “malice” or “gross negligence,” then the local government may not be responsible to pay for the damages. In that event, the employee will be responsible as an individual.

Steps You Must Take to Sue a City, County or Local Government 

Under the LGTCA
1. Deliver a “claim letter”, either in person or by certified mail, to the local government, stating why you believe the government or its employee did something wrong, how it injured you, and why the government is responsible. You must send the claim letter to the offices listed below within one year after the date that your injury occurred. Your claim letter should include the following information:

  1. The name and address of each of the people involved;
  2. A statement of how, where and when the injury occurred;
  3. A description of the injury that you sustained;
  4. A demand for specific damages, a particular amount of money;
  5. If you are represented by an attorney, the attorney’s name, address and telephone number; and
  6. Your signature and contact information.

2. Where your injury occurred will determine the government entity to which you must send your claim letter:

  1. Baltimore City – to the City Solicitor;
  2. Howard County / Montgomery County – to the County Executive;
  3. Anne Arundel County / Baltimore County / Harford County / Prince George’s County – to the County Solicitor or County Attorney;
  4. Other counties that are not mentioned above – the County Commissioners or County Council of the local government; and
  5. Other local governments that are not mentioned above – to the corporate authorities of the local government.

3. If you miss the one-year deadline for sending the claim letter to the local government, you are still allowed to file a lawsuit. However, the local government will have a defense to the suit that the claim letter was not sent in a timely manner. The Court can find reasons to excuse your omission, but you should not count on it. (See: Maryland Code, Courts and Judicial Proceedings, Section 5-304)

4. Once the claim letter has been received by the local government, it will likely investigate your claim. This investigation could take many months. 

NOTE: Most claims for negligence, regardless of whom they are against, have a three-year statute of limitations. The 3 year limitations period starts on the date of the injury, and it continues to run even though you have filed the Claim Letter. Therefore, if you are getting close to the 3-year anniversary of your injury, do not wait for the local government to respond to the claim letter. File your lawsuit, or your claim against the local government will be barred, and you will recover nothing for your injury.

5. Once your lawsuit is filed, you must still serve the complaint, the summons, and all other documents required by the Maryland Rules.

6. Should you win your lawsuit, there is a limit on the amount that you can require the local government to pay. Under the LGTCA, the local government cannot be liable to any one person for more than $400,000 or to more than one person for more than $800,000 for injuries arising from a single incident. (See: Maryland Code, Courts and Judicial Proceedings, Section §5-303)

If you believe that you may have a claim against the State of Maryland, the Maryland Transit Authority or a local government entity, it is always best to consult with a personal injury attorney shortly after the incident occurred. The attorney will be able to review your claim, inform you of all of your options, and recommend which course of action is most appropriate for your claim.