Uninsured or Underinsured Motorist
Coverage in Maryland
In spite of laws in most states mandating car insurance, there are still a significant number of uninsured people driving motor vehicles in Maryland. The Insurance Research Council's most recent estimate, from 2009, is that 13.8 percent of all United States drivers have no insurance at all.
We do a lot better in Maryland. Our MVA has gotten a great deal better at monitoring uninsured cars. Some estimate the rate in Maryland to be as low as 2%.
But that does not mean insurance coverage of the at-fault driver is not a big issue. First, people who are willing to risk not having insurance are also the same people who are willing to take risks in their automobiles, leading to more personal injury auto accident. So it is fair to say that as many as 15% of our law firm's vehicle accident cases are uninsured motorist claims. Second, even people with insurance often do not carry enough insurance to satisfy a claim.
Two Kinds of Claims: Uninsured and Underinsured
In Maryland, a uninsured/underinsured motorist car accident insurance claim is available in two situations: (1) Uninsured motorist: the negligent driver has no auto insurance coverage, and (2) Underinsured motorist: where the negligent driver has insufficient liability insurance limits [learn more about what this means here].
In other words, the driver who was at-fault for the auto accident has policy limits are lower than the limits of the insured’s uninsured motorist coverage. Essentially uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage is insurance coverage that covers your auto accident just as your liability insurance provides compensation for the people that you might injure through careless driving. This coverage in Maryland typically extends to family members who live with you and anyone who is injured in your vehicle.
How Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Coverage Works
The nuances of how uninsured motorist coverage works is difficult for many personal injury victims to get their minds around because it is counter intuitive. The nutshell is this: if the at-fault driver either does not have insurance or has low levels of coverage, your own insurance company will step in and basically take the place of the insurance company for the at-fault driver. This includes, importantly, paying any settlement or judgment but also defending the case against your personal injury claim.
Why does your insurance company pay you for your personal injuries when the at-fault driver is uninsured or underinsured? Your insurance company must pay on your personal injury claim because they have a contractual obligation to you to pay out the damages you would have recovered had the negligent driver had the same insurance policy that you have. So the claim is actually a breach of contract claim against your insurance company for the failure to pay what you and your lawyers believe is the fair value of your case.
Example of Uninsured Motorist Claim in Maryland
Here's an example: you get into a car accident with another driver. You have $50,000 in medical bills. The at-fault driver has a GEICO policy with only $30,000 per person, per accident coverage. Obviously, the value of this claim will likely exceed the policy limits of the GEICO policy. You have an Allstate liability policy with $500,000 per accident, per occurrence coverage on your own vehicle that provides, as most polices in Maryland do, the same coverage for uninsured motorist coverage. What happens?
You make a claim against both the at-fault driver and your own insurance company. Let's say the case does not settle, and it goes to a jury who awards you $400,000. GEICO would pay you $30,000 and Allstate would pay you the remaining $370,000. If the jury awarded you more than $500,000, you would still only collect $500,000 (assuming there was not a bad faith claim against GEICO).
What Compensation Can I Get for My Uninsured Motorist Claim?
The one question most frequently asked is will my uninsured motorist auto insurance policy cover my pain and suffering as well as my lost wages and medical expenses. The answer is yes. The purpose of the coverage is to put the victim in the same position as if the uninsured motorist who negligently caused the auto accident had car insurance sufficient to pay the damages incurred by the victim, including pain and suffering damages that the victim incurred as a result of their personal injuries from the accident.
Whose Uninsured Motorist Coverage Policy Applies for Passengers?
In some car crash cases in Maryland where the passenger is injured, there are two uninsured motorist coverage policies available to the personal injury plaintiff:(1) the coverage on the vehicle in the auto accident, and (2) the injury victim's own insurance coverage. Although the Maryland courts have said that the injury victim attorney may chose which coverage the attorney prefers, it is likely that a court directly addressing this issue would rule that under section 19-513 of the Maryland Insurance Code, primary coverage rests with the vehicle and the accident victim's personal insurance would serve
What is the Statute of Limitations for Uninsured
An insurance company's failure to settle an uninsured motorist coverage claim is treated as a breach of contract. As such, the three-year statute of limitations governing breach of contract actions in Maryland is applicable. Accordingly, an injury victim seeking uninsured motorist coverage benefits in Maryland must bring a claim within three years of the date the personal injury victim knew or should have known that he/she had a claim against the insurance company.
Do You Need a Lawyer for Your Uninsured or Underinsured Motorist Claim?
Our law firm is uniquely suited to deal with uninsured motorist issues that may arise in your claim. One of our lawyers is a professor of insurance law who remains particularly current on Maryland uninsured motorist related issues and our entire team of attorneys are well versed in Maryland uninsured motorist law. If you want to discuss your potential Maryland uninsured motorist claim with an experience Maryland accident lawyer, call 800-553-8082 or get a free uninsured motorist internet consultation.
Sample Uninsured Motorist Court Documents
- Uninsured Interrogatories (sample interrogatories)
- Sample Uninsured Motorist Circuit Court Complaint
Maryland Uninsured Motorist Law
- Video Discussing Uninsured Motorist Claims in Maryland
- Maryland Uninsured Motorist Statute (the Maryland statute that trumps the policy language)