In Maryland, when you contact an attorney about an accident or injury one of the questions you will likely have is: will I have to file a lawsuit? Because every case is unique, whether or not you will need to file a lawsuit will depend on the facts and circumstances of your case, the willingness of the the parties to reach a settlement agreement, and various other factors.
Initial Negotiations in Maryland
Some cases can be resolved through negotiation without the need to involve the court system. This is advantageous to litigants because the parties are fully in control of the settlement process and there is no delay due to the clogged court system.
Typically in Maryland, a personal injury attorney will wait until the client has recovered from his or her injuries or is as recovered as much as she can be from the accident (termed maximum medical improvement, or MMI). After maximum medical improvement is reached, then the case will begin to move forward into the negotiation process. The reason that an attorney will wait until a client has fully recovered, or reached maximum medical improvement, is so that the measure of damages stemming from the accident is accurate and properly accounts for the extent of damages incurred.
In Maryland, the first step after the negotiation process has begun is to send a demand letter to the party or parties at fault. A demand letter is a letter in “which one party explains its legal position in a dispute and requests that the recipient take some action (such as paying money owed), or else risk being sued.” Black's Law Dictionary 495 (9th Ed. 2009). It is how the party at fault responds to the demand letter that determines what the next step in the process will be. For example, the party at fault might agree that they are liable for the injuries incurred and the parties will then begin discussions on how much to settle the case for. Or the party at fault might dispute their liability and the case will likely move to court. Or the parties might agree who is at fault but dispute how much should be paid in damages. In any case, if the parties are unable to reach a settlement agreement the case will likely move to court and a lawsuit will be filed at that point.
Other Considerations in Maryland
There are certain circumstances where a lawsuit may need to be filed right away or soon after the accident. In Maryland, one such circumstance is if the statute of limitations may run before the client has reached maximum medical improvement. A statute of limitations is "[a] law that bars claims after a specified period; specifically, a statute establishing a time limit for suing in a civil case, based on the date when the claim accrued (as when the injury occurred or was discovered.)" Black's Law Dictionary 1546 (9th ed. 2009). Essentially, an attorney will file a case in court to preserve the client's right to sue. The parties will still enter into the negotiation process and attempt to come to an agreement much the same way those who had not yet filed a case would, but the parties would be doing this prior to trial instead of a prior to a lawsuit being filed.
If you or a loved one has been injured or in an accident, or if you have any questions, please feel free contact Gilman & Bedigian today.