Did you know Maine has the nickname “Vacationland” on their license plates? The moniker is probably well-deserved when you consider the state boasts over 3,478 miles of coastland for travelers to enjoy. Not to mention 21,000 miles of public highways — more than any other state in New England. Which means if you’re driving there, you should also know something about Maine car accident laws.
Most people don’t realize that the rules of “what to do in case of collision” vary by state. As a result, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the car accident laws where you live. This Maine car accident law guide covers reporting an accident, determination of fault, and statute of limitations.
Read on to learn all you need to know about Maine car accident laws. Preparation is important, whether on vacation or in real life.
What to Do at the Scene of the Crash
In the unfortunate situation that a crash happens while driving in Maine, on-the-scene safety should be your first priority. Check for injuries and make sure you or any passengers are out of the way of additional harm. Call 911 immediately if anyone appears hurt.
If you’re the driver, Maine statute §29A-2252 not only requires you to stop the car, but also to render aid. Though the law only applies to the vehicle operator, obviously anyone without injuries may wish to assist.
Maine car accident law also states that the driver must provide information to the owner or other vehicle operator. This holds true in cases where there is property damage (§29A-2255), vehicle damage (§29A-2253), and injury or death (§29A-2252).
Information to collect and exchange
Even without laws, anyone in a crash should always try to get as much info at the scene as possible. It is good practice to get information from the other driver, but also witnesses and passengers. Try at the very least to obtain names, addresses, contact info (email/phone), car registration, driver’s license, and insurance policy number.
Also take photos of the vehicles, license plates, damage, surrounding area, traffic signs, and more. This may all be important when it comes to determining fault (we’ll get to that in a bit).
How to Report a Car Accident in Maine
According to Maine car accident law, you must immediately report an accident to a local law enforcement agency. It’s smart practice to notify the authorities about a collision no matter what the circumstances. But the legal requirements are in place for accidents where there is bodily injury, death, or property damage over $1,000.
Maine statute §29A-2251 says that the driver (or a person advocating for them) should report the accident right away. Phone call is probably the fastest method and any of the following are acceptable contact options:
- A state police officer.
- The nearest state police field office.
- The sheriff’s office, or a deputy sheriff, within the county in which the accident occurs.
- The police office, or an officer, in the municipality where the accident occurs.
Failure to report a car accident in Maine is a punishable offense. It could lead to six months jail time and a $1,000 fine. So, just make the call.
Maine Car Insurance Laws
Like many states, Maine has laws in place that require drivers to carry insurance if operating a motor vehicle (§29A-1601).
If law enforcement asks for proof of insurance and you cannot provide, the assumption will be you’re driving without. That carries a fine of $100-$500 plus possible suspension of your license and car registration. So, always make sure you have a copy in your car.
Per the State of Maine Bureau of Insurance, the current liability insurance minimums a driver must carry in Maine are:
- $50,000 for the bodily injury or death of one person per accident.
- $100,000 for the total bodily injury or death of all persons per accident.
- $25,000 for property damage per accident.
A combined single limit of $125,000 will also satisfy the requirement. However, keep in mind that these limits are the minimum. A serious injury or multiple lesser injuries may quickly exhaust these limits. And most cars today on the road are worth more than $25,000.
When setting up an insurance policy it’s important to consider if your assets are higher than these numbers. You want to make sure your insurance will cover your expenses in the case of an accident, especially if you are at-fault.
Uninsured and Underinsured Coverage
Maine car accident laws also require that your insurance policy includes uninsured (UM) or underinsured (UIM) motorist coverage.
The reason is that this protects you if the other driver in an accident has no insurance. This also applies if the other driver carries a policy that’s less than Maine’s minimum insurance requirements.
The UM/UIM minimums in Maine are the same as the personal liability limits above. However, note that Maine law requires your UM limit to equal your liability limit if it’s higher than the minimum. You may reject that higher UM limit in writing though if you’d rather carry just the minimum in this category.
Additional Insurance Coverage
In addition to the above insurance, Maine car accident law also mandates that drivers carry $2,000 of Medical Payments (MedPay).
This covers medical expenses for you and any passengers, even if you’re passengers in someone else’s vehicle that crashes.
Most lawyers and insurance agents will recommend that you get at least enough MedPay to cover your medical insurance copays. This will prevent out-of-pocket payments if you’re waiting for a settlement from another driver’s insurance.
Is Maine a No-Fault State?
No, Maine is an at-fault state, meaning whoever causes the accident will be financially responsible.
Maine car accident laws aside, that is further reason to carry a good auto insurance policy in this state. Especially since Maine follows a “modified comparative negligence” framework when assigning fault for an accident (§14-156).
Gathering the right evidence will be crucial to determining who is at-fault in a Maine car accident. Take pictures of everything, because accidents like sideswipes and rollover crashes require photos for experts to decide who caused the crash.
To determine fault, the court and insurance company will typically examine the police report as well for an objective viewpoint of the crash. This includes things such as photos, videos, or eyewitness reports.
Maine Comparative Negligence Laws
Modified comparative negligence means that to claim damages, you must be less than 50% at-fault for an accident. Anyone who is found to be more than 50% responsible for a collision will be ineligible for compensation.
Courts use this rule to allow injured parties who were partially at-fault to recover some compensation. This simultaneously protects drivers who were only partially at-fault from being held totally liable for all damages.
If one driver was 75% responsible for the accident with $25,000 in damages (the Maine insurance minimum), they get nothing. However, if the other driver was 25% responsible with $25,000 in damages, they may receive $18,750. Their percentage of responsibility minimizes what they may claim by that amount.
Types of Damages After a Car Accident in Maine
Economic and non-economic damages are available for most car accident situations in Maine:
Economic damages are quantifiable monetary damages a person experiences because of a car accident. These may include bills or losses such as:
- Medical treatment (immediate and ongoing)
- Property damage (vehicular and otherwise)
- Wage loss (time off work and missing employment opportunities)
- Assistive devices (like wheelchairs or prosthetics)
Non-economic damages are harder to prove since there is no quantitative value to measure. But these damages are no less important.
Examples of non-economic damages might be:
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of affection and companionship
- Mental anguish and PTSD
- Physical impairment or disability
- Loss of enjoyment of life
Since these are subjective to a degree, you will need to file a personal injury lawsuit to recover non-economic damages.
Maine Car Accident Statute of Limitations
Maine has an especially long deadline for how long a car-accident victim may wait to file suit for damages. Note that this is for court filings, not insurance claims (which usually must be on file within days or weeks).
The exception here is with a wrongful death suit where the claimants also wish to pursue punitive damages. There is a two-year statute of limitations for filing a case that has no limits on the potential award amount.
In general, Maine has no state-imposed limits on the compensation amount you can receive in personal injury or car accident cases.
LegalASAP Can Connect You with a Local Auto Accident Attorney
Maine car accident laws may have a long statute of limitations, but they’re sometimes short on clarity. That’s because the distribution of “fault” in a modified comparative negligence case can be imprecise.
You definitely want to make sure you have a qualified attorney in your proverbial “passenger” seat to help. Especially since it won’t cost you anything out-of-pocket until your case reaches settlement.
Kimberly Dawn Neumann
Kimberly Dawn Neumann is a multi-published NYC-based magazine and book writer whose work has appeared in a wide variety of publications ranging from Forbes to Cosmopolitan. She graduated summa cum laude from the University of Maryland, College of Journalism. For more, visit: www.KDNeumann.com, Instagram @dancerscribe, and Twitter @KimberlyNeumann