Personal Injury -- Plaintiff Law
Maine Personal Injury Law
Whether your family has been in Bar Harbor for generations or you’re just unpacking for a long weekend in Portland, there’s a lot to love about Maine. The Pine Tree State is home to some of the best mountain hiking, sandy beaches, and craft beer on the planet. Oh yeah, and there’s lobster, too.
Still, accidents and injuries happen, and they can leave you with a lot of questions. Who was at fault? How do I get repaid for my medical bills or lost wages? Do I need to file a lawsuit? Every injury case is different, but here is some basic information about Maine personal injury law and additional resources to help answer your questions.
Personal Injury in Maine: First Steps
The first step after any serious accident is to make sure everyone is OK. You and anyone else injured in an accident should receive any necessary medical attention immediately. After that, you can begin documenting what happened.
Photographs of the scene and damage, interviews with witnesses, and even your own notes regarding what happened might be helpful later. You should also request any police reports or official summaries of the accident and maintain records of your medical treatment.
For example, if you slip and fall while shopping in Augusta, make sure to have any injuries checked out first. Also, take some pictures of where you fell, recording any dangerous conditions. If possible, photos should be taken at the scene, before remedial action has been taken to correct the cause of your fall.
The Maine Injury Claims Process
What happens next will depend on how you were hurt. For on-the-job injuries, you’ll need to follow state workers’ compensation guidelines after notifying your employer. If you’re rear-ended in Rumford, contact the other driver’s auto insurance company as well as your own personal auto insurance or the rental car agency. If your injuries occur on a hiking trail or at a public beach park, there could be special filing rules requiring you to provide notice to the appropriate government entity or municipality.
Almost all injury claims are settled without the need to file a lawsuit. Private insurance, workers’ compensation, or settlement offers from responsible parties will normally compensate you for your harm. Be aware that any settlement offer will usually require you to forgo your right to file a personal injury lawsuit later. So, you should always consult with an experienced Maine personal injury lawyer before agreeing to any injury settlement.
Injury claims that don’t settle and lead to litigation will usually progress through a pre-trial phase called “discovery. This is when all the parties will try to gather as much information about the incident as possible, using oral interviews, written requests for documents, and consultations with doctors and other experts. If what is learned during discovery doesn’t lead to a settlement, the case will move to trial, where courts will attempt to figure out who, if anyone, is at fault.
Determining Personal Injury Liability in Maine
Figuring out whether someone is responsible for accidents and injuries — and who — will also depend on the specifics of how, where, and why your injuries occurred. The vast majority of personal injury claims are based on negligence. But some claims have special rules and burdens of proof.
Maine Negligence Laws
Claiming someone was negligent seems like just saying someone wasn’t careful enough. But proving negligence in a personal injury case can be tricky. Negligence claims come down to four essential elements:
- Duty: That someone else owed you a duty of care
- Breach: That person breached that duty, either through their actions or, in some cases, failure to act
- Causation: That your injury would not have occurred but for that person’s breach, and that their breach directly caused your injury
- Damages: That your injuries or property damage were real, and the court can compensate you for them
Additionally, courts in Maine use a “modified comparative negligence” system, so each party’s negligence is an issue in most injury claims. For instance, if you were in a Portland bar when you slipped and fell, how much you had to drink could be a factor in reducing how much money you could recover.
Some states use juries to determine a percentage of damages. In Maine, the jury is instructed to reduce by a dollar and cent amount representing the plaintiff’s share of the fault instead of using a percentage. However, if you were equally at fault, that is, 50% or more at fault, you would not be able to recover damages.
Workers’ Compensation in Maine
Maine also has specific rules when it comes to workplace injuries. Under state law, you cannot receive compensation for the first week that you miss due to injury unless your disability lasts more than 14 days. You have 60 days to notify your employer of an injury on the job and two years to file a claim. And there are limits on both the amount of workers’ comp benefits you can receive and for how long.
Additionally, workers’ comp covers mental injuries in Maine, and state law protects your job whether you are a claimant or a witness, meaning your employer can’t fire you for filing a workers’ comp claim.
Maine Product Liability
There are also special liability rules for manufacturers, in regard to the safety of their products. Under the so-called “strict liability” legal theory, you don’t need to prove the manufacturer was negligent like in other cases. You only need to demonstrate that a product contained a defect in its design, manufacture, or labeling that made it unreasonably dangerous, and the defect caused your injuries.
Maine law also allows you to file a product liability lawsuit against the designers, manufacturers, and even retailers of defective products.
Compensation in Maine Personal Injury Claims
Damages are how courts compensate someone for personal injuries, and they can come in several different forms. Economic damages repay someone for their out-of-pocket expenses:
- Medical bills
- Repairs for property damage
- Lost wages
Non-economic damages address other consequences of injuries: pain and suffering, emotional distress, and loss of consortium. And in some special cases, courts may award punitive damages to punish bad actors and deter future bad behavior.
Some states limit or “cap” the amount someone can receive for their injuries. In some situations, Maine also has a damages cap. This provides that, in wrongful death cases, damages for the loss of comfort, society, and companionship of the deceased may not exceed $750,000, and punitive damages are capped at $250,000. Damages against a government entity are also capped at $400,000 generally.
How Long You Have to File a Personal Injury Lawsuit in Maine
Maine has laws that limit the amount of time after an injury occurs to file a lawsuit, known as “statutes of limitations,” and they are some of the longest in the country. In most cases, Maine gives you six years to file on a personal injury claim.
If you claim injuries from an intentional tort like assault, battery, false imprisonment, or defamation, the time limit is two years. For a claim against a ski area, the statute of limitations is also 2 years.
There may be less time to file a lawsuit for claims against a government agency or government employee. The time limit is 2 years for a claim against a government entity or its employees, but a notice of claim has to be filed within 180 days.
The clock starts ticking from the date of the accident or when the injury occurs. However, in limited cases, involving a medical malpractice claim where a foreign object has been left inside a patient, the time limit can be suspended, or “tolled,” until you could have reasonably discovered the harm.
Should You Hire a Lawyer?
If you don’t get a response to your requests for compensation, or if a settlement offer doesn’t fully compensate you for your losses, you might consider hiring a personal injury attorney.
Not all lawyers are expensive — most personal injury attorneys will offer free initial consultations to assess your claim, and some lawyers will take your case on a “contingency fee” basis, under which they only get paid if you do.
Speak with an experienced Personal Injury Attorney Today
Injuries cost money, including time away from work, medical bills, and other complications. Before taking legal action or trying to negotiate a settlement on your own, you should talk to an attorney about your case.
You can search LawInfo’s legal directory to find a local personal injury attorney to discuss the merits of your case. This one step can level the playing field, help you protect your rights, and put you in the best position for recovering the compensation that you deserve.