Maryland Car Accident and Personal Injury Laws



If you've been injured in a car accident in the State of Maryland, you may have questions about how the laws will affect your property damage and/or personal injury claim. In this article, we'll review the laws most commonly associated with car accidents. To read the entirety of each law, click the link to the specific State of Maryland statutes in each section.

Here are the Maryland car accident and traffic laws we'll cover:

Pedestrian Laws

Pedestrians and Crosswalks

The driver of a vehicle must stop and yield the right of way to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within a crosswalk when the pedestrian has reached the halfway point of the crosswalk, or when the pedestrian is approaching so closely from the opposite half of the crosswalk as to be in danger.
Transportation Article, Section 21-502

Restrictions on Pedestrians Crossing Roadways

No pedestrian must enter any marked or unmarked crosswalk when traffic is so close that it might constitute an immediate hazard.
Transportation Article, Section 21-502

Pedestrian Control Signals

A pedestrian is subject to all traffic control signals.
Transportation Article, Section 21-501

Crossing at Other Than Crosswalks

Pedestrians intending to cross a roadway at any point other than within a marked crosswalk or within an unmarked crosswalk at an intersection must yield the right-of-way to all vehicles on the roadway.

Pedestrians must use only the marked crosswalk to cross between two adjacent intersections that have traffic-control signals in operation.

Pedestrians can cross an intersection diagonally only when it is authorized by traffic-control devices.

Transportation Article, Section 21-503

Pedestrians on Roadway

Where sidewalks are provided, it is unlawful for any pedestrian to walk along and upon adjacent roadway. Where sidewalks are not provided, pedestrians are permitted to walk only on or along the left side of the roadway or on it's shoulder facing traffic from the opposite direction.
Transportation Article, Section 21-506

Pedestrians' Right of Way on Sidewalks

The driver of a vehicle emerging from or entering an alley, building, private road, or driveway shall yield the right of way to any pedestrian approaching on any sidewalk extending across the alley, building entrance, road, or driveway.
Transportation Article, Section 21-502

Drivers to Exercise Due Care

The driver of a vehicle must exercise due care to avoid colliding with any pedestrian upon any roadway and must give warning by sounding the driver's horn when necessary and shall exercise proper precaution upon observing any child or any obviously confused or incapacitated person.
Transportation Article, Section 21-504

Pedestrians Under the Influence of Alcohol or Controlled Substance

The driver of a vehicle must exercise due care to avoid colliding with any pedestrian upon any roadway who is obviously confused or incapacitated.
Transportation Article, Section 21-504

Driving Laws

Obedience to Traffic Control Devices

A driver must obey any traffic control devices applicable to the driver, unless directed by a traffic or police officer. The traffic control device must be visible enough to be seen by an ordinarily observant person.
Transportation Article, Section 21-202

Driving on Right Side of Roadway

Drivers must drive in the right lane of roadways with the following exceptions:

  • When passing another driver in the same direction
  • When there is an obstruction in the right lane
  • Where the roadway is divided into three (3) or more lanes
  • Upon a roadway restricted to one way traffic
  • Upon a roadway that is marked or signposted to indicate a contrary rule
Transportation Article, Section 21-301

Passing On the Left

Driver proceeding in the same direction must pass to the left at at a safe distance and shall remain in the passing lane until it is safe to return to the right lane.

Drivers being passed must not increase the speed of their vehicle until their vehicle is completely passed by the overtaking car.
Transportation Article, Section 21-303

Limitations on Overtaking on the Left

Drivers may drive to the left side of the center of the roadway in overtaking and passing another vehicle only if the left side is clearly visible and the overtaking vehicle can return to its lane without coming within two hundred (200) feet of oncoming traffic.

Also, the driver must not drive on the left side of the roadway if any of the following are true:

  • The driver's view of an ongoing vehicle is obstructed by the grade or curve of the roadway
  • Their vehicle is crossing or approaching within one hundred (100) feet of any intersection or railroad grade crossing
  • The driver's view is obstructed while approaching within 100 feet of any bridge, viaduct, or tunnel
Transportation Article, Section 21-305

Passing On the Right

Drivers may pass on the right under the following conditions:

  • When the driver about to be passed is about to make a left turn. However, the driver attempting to pass on the right must not do so without driving off the pavement of main-traveled portion of the roadway.
  • When the roadway has two (2) or more lanes of traffic moving in the same direction
  • On a one-way street where the roadway is free from obstructions and wide enough for two or more lines of moving vehicles.
Transportation Article, Section 21-304

Following Too Closely

A driver must not follow another driver more closely than is "reasonable and prudent", having due regard for the speed of other drivers and traffic conditions along the roadway.

A driver who is towing another vehicle must leave sufficient space ahead of their vehicle to allow an overtaking vehicle to enter and occupy this space without danger.
Transportation Article, Section 21-310

Drivers and Mobile Electronic Devices

Drivers must not drive while using an electronic device to write, send or read a text message. The two exceptions to this law are (1) the use of a global positioning system (GPS), and (2) a text message to contact 911.
Transportation Article, Section 21-1124

A minor holding a learner's permit or provisional license is prohibited from using wireless communication devices while driving, except for the sole purpose of calling 911.
Transportation Article, Section 21-1124

Drivers and Intersections

When two (2) drivers approach an intersection at approximately the same time the driver on the left must yield to the driver in the right.
Transportation Article, Section 21-401

Drivers Intending to Turn Left at Intersections

A driver who intends to turn left at an intersection, or into an alley, private road or driveway must yield the right of way to drivers approaching from the opposite direction.
Transportation Article, Section 21-402

Drivers Entering or Crossing a Roadway

A driver about to enter or cross a roadway from any place other than another roadway must yield the right of way to all other drivers on the roadway to be crossed.
Transportation Article, Section 21-403

Bicycling Laws

Bicyclists must obey the same traffic laws as drivers of cars, and are subject to the same penalties as are drivers for violating traffic laws.
Transportation Article, Section 21-1202

Motorcycling Laws

Motorcycles

Motorcyclists must obey the same traffic laws as drivers of cars, and are subject to the same penalties as are drivers for violating traffic laws.
Transportation Article, Section 21-1301

Motorcyclists and Lanes of Traffic

Motorcyclists are entitled to the full use of a traffic lane and drivers must not take any action to deprive a motorcyclist of his or her right to use a full lane on a roadway.

A motorcyclist must not pass another driver in the same lane. Motorcyclists must not ride more than two (2) abreast in a single lane.
Transportation Article, Section 21-1303

"Lane Splitting"

Motorcyclists must not pass another driver in the same lane. Commonly known as "lane splitting," motorcyclists sometimes attempt to pass other drivers when traffic is slowed, or bumper to bumper.

To move forward through traffic motorcyclists sometimes drive between cars. Doing so is not only illegal, but quite dangerous.
Transportation Article, Section 21-1303

Helmet Law

All motorcyclists must wear helmets while riding on roadways. If the motorcycle is not equipped with a windshield, then motorcyclists must also wear protective eyewear while riding on roadways.
Transportation Article, Section 21-1306

Motorcycles and Headlights

Every motorcycle must be equipped with at least one (1) and not more than two (2) headlights. Every headlight on a motorcycle must be located at a height of not more than fifty-four (54) inches nor less than twenty-four (24) inches.

If persons and vehicles on the highway are not clearly visible at a distance of one thousand (1,000) feet ahead, because of insufficient light or bad weather, then a motorcycle must turn on its headlights.
Transportation Article, Section 22-203

Driving Offenses and Accident Requirements

Reckless Driving

A driver who drives in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property is guilty of reckless driving, and can be fined and imprisoned.
Transportation Article, Section 21-901.1

Alcohol and Minors

A driver under the age of twenty one (21) must not drive upon any roadway after drinking any measurable amount of alcohol.
Transportation Article, Section 16-113

Driver's Duty to Give Information and Render Aid

A driver involved in an accident resulting in injury or death to any person, including other drivers, passengers, and/ or passersby must give their name, address and the registration number of the car they are driving and must upon request, exhibit their driver's license and information relating to financial responsibility (insurance) to any person injured in the accident, or to the driver, passengers, and/or police officers investigating the accident.

Moreover the driver must render to any person injured in the accident reasonable assistance, including making of arrangements to transfer the injured person to a physician, surgeon, or hospital for medical or surgical treatment if it is apparent medical treatment is required.

The driver must also immediately report the accident to the nearest office of an authorized police authority and provide their name, address, registration number and insurance information.
Transportation Article, Section 20-104

Accidents Involving Death, Personal Injury, or Substantial Bodily Injury

A driver involved in an accident resulting in injury or death of any person must immediately stop and remain at the scene of the accident until the driver has fulfilled the requirements of Section 20-104, including providing their information, rendering aid, and reporting the accident to the police.
Transportation Article, Section 20-102
Transportation Article, Section 20-104

Accidents Involving Only Damage to Another Car or Property

A driver involved in an accident resulting only in damage to property or another car which is driven or attended by any person must immediately stop at the scene of the accident or as close to it as possible and must remain at the scene of the accident until the driver has fulfilled the requirements of Section 20-104.
Transportation Article, Section 20-103
Transportation Article, Section 20-104

Accidents Involving Damage to Unattended Car or Unattended Property

A driver who collides with a parked car or who collides with other property which is unattended must immediately stop at the scene of the accident or as close to it as possible and must attempt to locate and notify the driver or owner of the damaged car or damaged property.

Once located the driver who caused the accident must give their name, address, their insurance information, the registration number of the car being driven, and the name and address of the owner of the vehicle.

If the driver or owner of the damaged car or property cannot be located, the driver who caused the accident must attach a written note to the damaged property in a conspicuous place giving their name, address, their insurance information, the registration number of the car being driven, and the name and address of the owner of the vehicle.
Transportation Article, Section 20-105

Driver's Duty to Notify Police Department

A driver involved in an accident resulting in any of the following must call the police:

  • Someone has been injured
  • A vehicle cannot be safely moved
  • A driver appears to be intoxicated
  • A driver does not have a license
  • A driver tries to leave the scene without providing the proper information
  • Public property has been damaged

The police will not routinely investigate collisions that result only in property damage, so there is no need to contact them or file a report.

The driver of each vehicle involved in an accident that results in bodily injury to or death of any person shall, within 15 days after the accident, report the matter in writing to the Administration.

Also, the driver must include in the report evidence of liability insurance or other security. A written accident report is not required if the accident has been investigated by a police officer and a report by the police officer has been filed with the Department of State Police, or the person is physically incapable of making the report.
Transportation Article, 20-107
Maryland's Motor Vehicle Administration
Maryland's Motor Vehicle Collision Policy

Accident Reports Filed By Police Departments

The Maryland Transportation Authority Police are responsible for collecting and distributing motor vehicle accident reports. A report will be available seven (7) days after the incident date.
Maryland Transportation Authority

Accident Report Forms

The Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration must prepare and, on request, supply to police departments, sheriffs, and other appropriate agencies or individuals, forms for the written accident reports required by Section 20-107. The forms shall require sufficiently detailed information to disclose the cause of the reported accident, the conditions then existing, and the persons and vehicles involved.
Transportation Article, 20-113

Open Alcohol Container Law

An occupant of a vehicle must not be in possession of an opened container of an alcoholic beverage or consume a controlled substance while the car is traveling on Maryland roadways. The opened container can be located in a locked glove compartment, the trunk of the car, or in the area behind the rearmost upright seat of the car that is not normally occupied by a person.

Passengers in the living quarters of a recreational vehicle or passengers of a hired vehicle, such as a bus, limousine, or taxicab, can consume and possess an opened container.
Criminal Law, Section 10-125
Transportation Article, Section 21-903

Driving Under Influence of Alcohol or Controlled Substance

A driver must not drive after drinking an alcoholic beverage or consuming an intoxicant in an amount which renders the driver incapable of driving safely along roadways.
Transportation Article, Section 21-902
Criminal Law, Section 5-101

Ignition Interlock Device

A driver who is guilty of driving while under the influence of an intoxicant and who has within the past five (5) years had a prior offense as set out in Section 21-902 (below) must have installed at his or her own expenses an ignition interlock device. The ignition interlock device will serve to restore the driver's driving privileges during the pendency of the driver's probation.

If an ignition device is installed, it must be installed in every car owned or operated by the driver.

An ignition interlock is a device which measures any amount of alcohol contained in a driver's body. Before starting the car the driver must blow into a tube emanating from the ignition interlock device. If the device then detects a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) higher than is permitted by law the car will not start and the violation will be reported to the prosecutor, the probation officer, and/or the judge. At that point the driver may be subject to loss of driving privileges, immediate arrest and incarceration up to the maximum term provided by law.
Transportation Article, Section 16-404.1
Transportation Article, Section 21-902

Liability Laws

Financial Responsibility Car Insurance Minimum Limits

In the State of Maryland, each motor vehicle must be covered by an insurance policy that includes liability coverage of the following amounts for all damages resulting from an accident:

  • $30,000 per person
  • $60,000 for two (2) or more people
  • $15,000 for property damage
Insurance Article, 19-504
Insurance Article, 19-505

Maryland Insurance Information

You can find more information in the State of Maryland Auto Insurance Guide.

Comparative Negligence (51% Rule)

In Maryland, the victim in a car accident can sue the negligent driver for compensation. The victim's liability in causing the accident, their comparative negligence, affects the amount of compensation the victim receives.

If the victim contributed less than 51% of the negligence that caused the accident, then their compensation is reduced by the amount they contributed to the accident. If the victim contributed 51% or more of the negligence that caused the accident, then the victim is barred from receiving any compensation.
Maryland Department of Legislative Services

Example of Comparative Negligence (51% Rule)

One morning, Jackson was driving north on his way to work. At an intersection, he pulled into the left turn lane. At the same time, Melanie approached the intersection from the opposite direction. Suddenly, Jackson turned left into Melanie's lane and their cars collided.

Melanie sustained serious brain injuries and damage to her car, totalling in $100,000 dollars worth of damages.

After their investigation, the police determined that Jackson had failed to yield according to traffic laws. A pedestrian witness told police he saw Melanie texting at the time Jackson's car crashed into Melanie's. As a result, the police issued Melanie a citation for using a mobile device while driving.

Melanie sued Jackson for $100,000 and claimed he was 100% at fault for the accident because he did not yield to her right-of-way. At trial, the jury found Jackson liable for failing to yield the right-of-way. However, the jury also found Melissa liable for using a mobile device while driving and partially responsible for the accident.

The verdict stated Jackson's negligence equaled 70% of the accident, and Melanie's equaled 30%. The jury awarded Melanie only $70,000 dollars.

In the event the jury had found Jackson's negligence equaled 49% of the accident, and Melanie's equaled 51%, the jury would be barred by law from awarding Melanie any compensation for the damages.
Comparative Negligence: Maryland Department of Legislative Services
Right of Way: Transportation Article, Section 21-402
Drivers and Mobile Electronic Devices: Transportation Article, Section 21-1124

Maryland's No Fault Car Insurance

In Maryland, the law gives car owners the option of purchasing no-fault car insurance. No-fault insurance allows a person, who is injured in a car accident or whose property is damaged, to file a claim with their own car insurance company.

No-fault insurance allows a person to avoid pursuing a negligent driver for compensation for damages. No-fault insurance does not compensate for pain and suffering, and the amount of personal injury protection (PIP) insurance purchased by the injured party determines their coverage.
Insurance Article, Section 19-505

Statute of Limitations

Maryland has a two (2) year statute of limitations for property damage and personal injury claims. This means if a driver, passenger, or passerby is injured or sustains property damage at the hands of a negligent driver, the victim must either settle their claim within two (2) years, or file a lawsuit.

If the victim fails to settle their claim or file a lawsuit within the two (2) year period the victim is barred from pursuing the negligent driver in court.
Courts and Judicial Proceedings Article, Section 5-101

Small Claims Courts

In Maryland, victims of car accidents can choose to sue the negligent driver in small claims court. Maryland's the jurisdiction of a small claims court regarding personal injury and property damage is limited to a maximum of $5,000, exclusive of filing fees and court costs.

For information about how to submit a claim in small claims court, visit the Attorney General of Maryland's website.

Maryland Government Tort Claims - Sovereign Immunity

In Maryland, it is possible to submit a claim against a governmental agency or its employees for personal injury or property damage as a result of negligence on the part of the governmental agency or its employees. The claim must refer to an lawful action on the part of the governmental agency or employee performed in the scope of their duties.

If the injury or property damage occurred as a result of an unlawful action, then the claimant can sue only the person(s) who caused injury or property damage individually. The governmental agency would not be liable.
State Government Article, Section 12-201

Example

If Melissa, an engineer with the Baltimore Planning Department, ran a red light on her way to a worksite and caused an accident, then the City of Baltimore would be liable for the property damage and personal injuries caused her.

If Melissa stopped for a few drinks and became intoxicated before heading to a worksite and causing an accident, then the City of Baltimore can claim sovereign immunity. Melissa performed an unlawful act and was not acting in the scope of her duties when she became intoxicated on her way to the worksite.

To seek compensation for damages, injured parties would have to sue Melissa personally. The determination of whether or not Melissa was acting within the scope of her duties would have to be decided during a trial.

Maryland does not place a cap on the maximum amount of damages that can be claimed against a government agency or its employees.

A government tort claim must be filed against the governmental agency responsible for the car accident within three (5) years after the accident.

State Government Article, Section 12-106
NCSL

Sources

State Government of Maryland

Maryland Department of Transportation

Maryland State Highway Administration

Maryland's Motor Vehicle Collision Policy

General Assembly of Maryland

Maryland Transportation Authority

Governors Highway Safety Association

National Conference on State Legislature

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