Update: This law was passed.
Today, I will be testifying before the Maryland General Assembly’s House Environmental Matters Committee in favor of HB125. This bill will require the MVA to establish regulations requiring self-insureds to provide the name, address, self-insurance certificate number, and claims information for the self-insurer at the scene of accidents. A hearing before a committee is one of the first steps in a bill becoming a law. Remember the Schoolhouse Rocks? Even though this is a state bill instead of a federal one, check out “I’m Just a Bill” for a basic description of the process:
Most vehicles on the road are covered by standard insurance policies issued by insurance companies everyone has heard of — State Farm, Allstate, Nationwide, Progressive, etc. Maryland law currently requires drivers involved in an accident to give the other party his name, address, vehicle registration number, and insurance information. This is usually enough for the party who was not at fault to make a claim and have the vehicle damage repaired and any injuries addressed. If there is a police report, this information is included.
Where the system breaks down is in the case of a self-insured entity. Maryland law permits motorists to be self-insured if they meet certain requirements. Often, these are private buses, fleet vehicles for large corporations, or taxicabs. When a driver or owner of a vehicle is self-insured, it can be difficult to obtain the information needed to make a claim. The police report will just say “Self” in the block for insurance. Even an MVA check leads back to the owner’s address. Then you have to try and get the information on how to make a claim directly from the driver or owner. Often, they “forget” to respond to your letters or calls. A cynical man might argue that this is because they have no interest in you being able to make a claim because as a self-insured, it is their money that gets paid out.
HB 125 is a good thing not only for lawyers handling car and truck accident cases but for all consumers. It will let the average motorist who is in a fender-bender have the information they need to get the damage to their car fixed and paid for. For those of us in the legal field, it will let us make claims more quickly and easily, and hopefully, make it more likely that claims will be resolved without filing a lawsuit. I have had cases where I have had to file a lawsuit simply because I was completely unable to find claims information. If it passes, HB 125 will streamline the process for everyone involved.