Maryland law requires all drivers to carry a certain amount of underinsured motorist coverage. This page is about how to deal with the situation when your damages in a Maryland car accident exceed the policy limits of the driver. Underinsured motorist coverage can lead to a higher settlement or verdict in situations where the at-fault driver does not have sufficient insurance coverage to cover the damages incurred.
The underlying premise of uninsured motorist insurance coverage in Maryland, as in most states, is to put the car accident victim in the same position they would find themselves in had the at-fault driver had liability coverage equal to the coverage of the accident victim.
We are oversimplifying a bit because you can have UM coverage in some instances that are less than your liability coverage. But, in most cases in Maryland, your liability coverage mirrors your uninsured motorist coverage.
So in a pure uninsured motorist case where the other driver either cannot be identified (hit-and-run or phantom vehicle are the most prominent examples) or has no insurance, your insurance company essentially steps into the shoes of the defendant, assuming the at-fault driver’s liability for the accident and also his damages.
Why Is My Own Insurance Company Helping the Person That Hit Me?
This is a simple concept, but for Maryland accident victims, it is conceptually difficult to get your mind around. Why is my insurance company defending the guy who hurt me? Why is my own insurance company now essentially my adversary?
As crazy as it seems and as aggravating as it might feel to have your insurance company turn against you, it is a good thing for you because while the insurance company is essentially defending the bad guy, they are also paying the money that bad guy would have paid you if he had insurance. Uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage leaves the money available to you for compensation of your car accident claim when an accident is caused by a driver who either has no insurance or does not have enough insurance coverage to pay for your medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
How long does it take to settle an underinsured motorist claim? You have to go through some procedural steps in many states that slow down the process. But if you do not follow the appropriate steps, you risk losing out on your right to bring an underinsured motorist claim.
How Does Underinsured Motorist Coverage Work?
In 1981, the Maryland legislature expanded uninsured motorist coverage to include the scenario where the at-fault driver had liability coverage less than the amount of uninsured motorist insurance the insured/victim possessed.
So, in underinsured cases in Maryland, the at-fault driver has insufficient liability insurance to cover the accident victim’s loss, the victim’s insurance can bridge the gap between the at-fault driver’s coverage and the victim. Let’s use an example to illustrate: you have an underinsured insurance policy with $500,000 in coverage and a claim worth $400,000. But the at-fault driver has only $100,000 in insurance coverage. In this situation, the insurance company for the driver at fault for the accident would pay their entire policy limit of $100,000 and your insurance company would pay the other $300,000 to make your claim “whole.”
In most underinsured scenarios in Maryland, this law is clear, and the math plays out as simply as the example above would illustrate although additional complexities can arise when policies involve a single combined limit and more than one victim in the accident.
What Does Underinsured Motorist Cover?
Underinsured motorist coverage covers any damages you could have recovered from the defendant if the defendant had insurance. Your insurance company is stepping into the defendant’s shoes and paying what the defendant would have been obligated to pay, up to the limits of your insurance policy.
How Does Stacking Work in Underinsurance Claims?
Regrettably, like most states, Maryland law does not permit the stacking of insurance coverage. Individual recovery of uninsured motorist benefits is limited to the per person limit of the applicable uninsured motorist policies. Using the scenario above, the total available insurance coverage is $500,000, not $600,000. This is true even if the claim is worth more than the $500,000 uninsured policy, the total recovery from your insurance is limited to $400,000.
So the minimum coverage requirement is Maryland is $30,000 for bodily injury per person, $60,000 for bodily injury per accident, and $15,000 for property damage. If this is your coverage, this will not help you if are bringing and underinsured motorist claim against a driver with the exact same coverage limits. The only way to get a higher settlement amount or jury payout is if your coverage exceeds the defendant’s insurance coverage. In these cases, your insurance policy serves a cap on damages for the amount of money insurance will pay, assuming there is no other insurance coverage available.
What Is the Statute of Limitations for Uninsured Motorist Claims in Maryland?
An insurance company’s failure to pay the money that is “fair” for the settlement of an uninsured motorist claim is a breach of contract with their insured. Accordingly, the three-year statute of limitations governing breach of contract actions in Maryland is applicable. But any smart Maryland car accident lawyer – absent a compelling reason – artificially assumes the general statute of limitations applies.
Do You Need a Maryland Accident Lawyer for Your Underinsured Motorist Claim?
Our Maryland personal injury firm has handled hundreds of uninsured traffic collision claims and has dealt with various complicated legal issues that arise in these cases. Our underinsured motorist lawyers handle only serious injury claims. One of our lawyers is a professor of insurance law who remains particularly current on these issues. Our entire team of advocates are extremely are well-versed in Maryland uninsured motorist law.
Our goal is clear and simple: to maximize the amount of money you recover in your case. If you want to discuss your potential case, call 800-553-8082 or get a free uninsured motorist internet consultation.