Maine Personal Injury Laws and Statutes of Limitations

The basics of Maine personal injury laws—how long you have to file a lawsuit, limits on damages, Maine’s auto insurance system, and more.

By , Attorney · University of Missouri–Kansas City School of Law

If you've been injured in Maine—maybe by a careless doctor, in a fall, or in a car accident—you might be thinking about filing a personal injury (PI) insurance claim or a lawsuit. Chances are, though, that you don't know much about the laws and rules that will control your case. We'll walk you through the basics of Maine's personal injury laws.

Maine's Statutes of Limitations for Personal Injury Lawsuits

Maine, like all states, has time limits called "statutes of limitations" on filing lawsuits in court. We start with Maine's six-year general rule. Then we'll turn to some special rules and exceptions that might apply in particular situations.

General Rule: Six Years from the Date of Your Injury

As a general rule, "[a]ll civil actions shall be commenced within 6 years after the cause of action accrues… ." (Me. Rev. Stat. tit. 14, § 752 (2023).) Typically, a personal injury claim accrues on the date you're injured, though there are exceptions. So, as a general rule, you've got six years from the date you're injured in Maine to file a PI lawsuit in court.

Defamation: Two Years

If someone defames you—makes a false factual statement that harms your reputation—you have two years from the date you were defamed to sue. (Me. Rev. Stat. tit. 14, § 753 (2023).)

Ski Area Operators: Two Years

When the defendant (the person or business you're suing) is "a ski area owner or operator or a tramway owner or operator or its employees" you must file your lawsuit within two years, usually from the date you were injured. (Me. Rev. Stat. tit. 14, § 752-B (2023).)

Medical Malpractice: Three Years

As a general rule, you've got three years from the date of the malpractice to file a medical malpractice case. Special rules apply when minors or other unusual circumstances are involved. (Me. Rev. Stat. tit. 24, § 2902 (2024).)

(Learn more about Maine's medical malpractice laws.)

Legal Malpractice: Two Years

Been injured by legal malpractice? You must file a lawsuit within two years from the date of the malpractice. (Me. Rev. Stat. tit. 14, § 753-B (2023).)

Suits Against the Government

When your claim is against the government, you must sue within two years after the claim accrues. There's an exception for minors, who have two years after their 18th birthday to file suit. (Me. Rev. Stat. tit. 14, § 8110 (2023).)

Claims against the government also are subject to a special notice requirement. Under Me. Rev. Stat. tit. 14, § 8107.1 (2023), "[w]ithin 365 days after any claim…accrues," you must send the government written notice of your claim. The notice must be sent to the persons and offices described in Me. Rev. Stat. tit. 14, § 8107.3 (2023).

Filing this notice isn't the same thing as filing a lawsuit in court. You must provide notice of your claim before you file a lawsuit. (See Me. Rev. Stat. tit. 14, § 8107.4 (2023).)

Injured Person Is Legally Disabled

The applicable statute of limitations is "tolled," meaning temporarily stopped, during the period that an injured person is legally disabled. When a person is legally disabled, they're generally unable to file a lawsuit on their own. For purposes of this rule, a person is legally disabled if, when the claim accrues, the person is:

  • a minor
  • mentally ill
  • imprisoned, or
  • outside the United States.

(Me. Rev. Stat. tit. 14, § 853 (2023).) The statute of limitations clock starts running when the disability ends.

Cases Involving Fraud

If your personal injury is caused by fraud, or if the person who's responsible for your injury fraudulently conceals your injury from you, a special deadline applies. You have six years from the date you discover your claim to file a lawsuit in court. (Me. Rev. Stat. tit. 14, § 859 (2023).)

Defendant Out of State

When the defendant is outside of Maine, the statute of limitations clock stops running. It starts (or resumes) when the defendant returns to the state. (Me. Rev. Stat. tit. 14, § 866 (2023).)

Maine's Auto Insurance System

Like most states, Maine has adopted what's known as a "fault-based" motor vehicle insurance system. Here's what that means.

Maine's Fault-Based Insurance System

Say you're involved in a car wreck in Maine, and you suffer personal injuries. The wreck was the other driver's fault. Under Maine law, you can file an insurance claim or a PI lawsuit against the other driver to collect compensation (what the law calls "damages") for your losses.

If your claim or lawsuit is successful, you can collect both economic and noneconomic damages. Economic damages cover things like your medical bills, lost wages, and other out-of-pocket expenses. Noneconomic damages compensate you for injuries like pain and suffering, emotional distress, loss of enjoyment of life, and more.

Maine's Financial Responsibility Law

Maine, like pretty much every other state, has a financial responsibility law. The idea behind this law is simple: Anyone who negligently (carelessly) drives a motor vehicle and causes injuries or property damage must be able to pay for at least some of the losses they cause. (See Me. Rev. Stat. tit. 14, § 1601.1 (2023).) Most drivers comply with Maine's financial responsibility law by buying an insurance policy that satisfies the state's minimum coverage requirements.

(Learn more about Maine's auto insurance requirements.)

What If You're Partly to Blame for an Accident?

In a typical PI case, you must prove that the defendant was negligent in order to collect damages. Quite often, the defendant will claim that you, too, were negligent and that your negligence should reduce the damages you can recover. This legal defense, called "comparative negligence," is available in Maine. Let's find out how it works.

Maine's Modified Comparative Negligence Rule

Maine has adopted a "modified" comparative negligence rule. If your negligence is partly the cause of an accident, you can still recover some of your damages. Your share of the blame simply reduces the amount you can recover—but only to a point. If your share of the total negligence is 50% or more, you're barred from recovering any damages. (Me. Rev. Stat. tit. 14, § 156 (2023).)

Maine Comparative Negligence Example

You're at an intersection waiting for traffic to clear so you can turn left. The last oncoming car has its right-turn signal on. Thinking that car is turning right, you begin to make your left turn. Suddenly and without warning, the oncoming car speeds into the intersection and hits your car. Both you and the other driver suffer injuries.

After a trial, the jury finds your total damages are $100,000. The jury also finds that you're 40% to blame for the collision. The other driver's total damages, says the jury, are $200,000. But the jury assigns the other driver 60% of the blame. How much in damages can each of you collect?

Because the jury assigned 40% of the total negligence to you, you can collect 60% of your damages: $100,000 x 60% = $60,000. The other driver's insurer will write you a check for that amount.

The story doesn't end so well for the other driver. The jury assigned them 60% of the total blame for the wreck. Because they were more than 50% at fault, they collect zero damages under Maine's modified comparative negligence rule.

Where and How to File a Maine Personal Injury Lawsuit

Your personal injury case is a kind of civil lawsuit. Where and how you file it is controlled by Maine law and by court rules called the Maine Rules of Civil Procedure. These rules can be complicated and difficult to understand and apply. If you aren't familiar with them—and chances are you're not—you should give serious thought to hiring an experienced PI lawyer to handle your case.

Where to File Your Lawsuit

As a rule, you file your PI lawsuit in the entry-level state trial court that has the legal authority to hear all kinds of cases. In Maine, that's called the superior court. Maine superior courts are the only courts that can hold jury trials.

You must select the superior court in the proper county. Me. Rev. Stat. tit. 14, § 501 (2023) tells you that the correct "venue" for your case is in the county where any plaintiff (the party bringing the lawsuit) or any defendant lives. When the plaintiff doesn't live in Maine, the case should be filed in the county where any defendant lives.

How to File Your Lawsuit

You start a Maine personal injury lawsuit by:

  • filing a complaint in court, or
  • serving the defendant with a summons (an order directing the defendant to appear in court and defend the case), the complaint, and a notice regarding electronic service.

(Me. R. Civ. Proc. 3 (2023).)

Your complaint should describe, in separately numbered paragraphs:

  • the parties who are involved in the case
  • when, where, and how the accident or incident that caused your injuries happened
  • your injuries
  • what the defendant did wrong to cause your injuries, and
  • the relief (usually money damages) you want the court to award you.

The caption of the complaint must include the information required by Me. R. Civ. Proc. 10(a) (2023). In most PI cases, you shouldn't ask the court to award you a specific amount of damages. Instead, you ask for "such damages as are reasonable." (Me. Rev. Stat. tit. 14, § 52 (2023).)

You must serve the complaint, summons, and notice regarding electronic service as described in Me. R. Civ. Proc. 4(c-g) (2023). A defendant who isn't properly served can ask the court to dismiss them from the lawsuit.

Note that special rules apply if you're bringing a medical malpractice claim. (See Me. Rev. Stat. tit. 24, § 2853 (2024).)

Are Damages Limited in Maine PI Cases?

Many states put limits, or "caps," on damages in personal injury cases. Noneconomic damages—for injuries like emotional distress and pain and suffering—are favorite targets. In some states, the caps are across the board, in all PI cases. Other states have enacted limits that apply only to certain cases, like medical malpractice suits.

Maine doesn't cap damages in PI cases generally, but it does cap damages in:

  • wrongful death cases, and
  • cases against the government and government employees.

Wrongful Death Caps

Noneconomic damages in wrongful death cases are capped at $1,000,000. That cap is adjusted for inflation for deaths occurring in 2024 and beyond. You'll find Maine's wrongful death damages cap statute at Me. Rev. Stat. tit. 18-C, § 2-807.2 (2023).

Wrongful death punitive damages (damages intended to punish a wrongdoer for egregious misconduct) are capped at $500,000.

(Learn more about Maine wrongful death cases.)

Government and Government Employee Cases

In any case against the government (state or local) or its employees, total damages—both economic and noneconomic—are capped at $400,000. (Me. Rev. Stat. tit. 14, § 8105.1 (2023).) If the government has insurance coverage greater than this amount, though, the damages limit is the amount of insurance coverage. (Me. Rev. Stat. tit. 14, § 8116 (2023).)

Get Help With Your Maine Personal Injury Case

We've covered the basics concerning Maine's personal injury law, but truth be told, we've only scratched the surface. If you have a Maine personal injury case, there's much more you need to know. The best place to get the help you need is with an experienced Maine personal injury lawyer. This is someone who can tell you if you have a viable claim and if so, guide you through the process to get the best result possible.

If you're ready to move forward, here's how to find an attorney near you.

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