Maryland's uninsured motorist coverage gives insurance coverage for harm that is done to the "insured" when they are injured by the negligence of an uninsured motor vehicle. If you define "insured" using common understandings of the term, you miss out on a lot of victims who are able to bring claims under the Maryland car insurance statutory scheme. In this law, the word "insured' is construed very broadly.
The purpose of this page is to give Maryland accident attorneys and victims a better understanding of who is entitled to recovery in cases where the victim is hurt by a driver who is
- does not have enough coverage to satisfy the victim's losses, i.e. underinsured,
- fled the scene of the accident, or is otherwise unknown
- What is required to bring an uninsured motorist claim in Maryland?
- What does the word “insured” really mean?
- What is the minimum required uninsured motorist coverage in Maryland?
- Can I bring an uninsured motorist claim without bringing a claim against the at-fault driver?
- Does uninsured motorist insurance cover hit and run and road rage incidents?
- Important Uninsured Motorist Cases
- Hire a Lawyer
- More Information
State of Maryland law mandates uninsured motorist coverage for damages that:
- the insured is entitled to recover from the owner or operator of an uninsured motor vehicle because of bodily injuries sustained in a motor vehicle accident arising out of the ownership, maintenance, or use of the uninsured motor vehicle, or
- a surviving relative of the insured…entitled to recover from the owner or operator of an uninsured motor vehicle because the insured died as the result of a motor vehicle accident arising out of the ownership, maintenance, or use of the uninsured motor vehicle.
What does this mean? It can be distilled down to this:
- The victim must be an insured, a broad term that does not require you to be the policyholder or, sometimes, even knows who the actual insured is.
- The person must be entitled to recover damages for bodily injuries caused by the at-fault driver. There is also coverage for the victims who are wrongful death or survival action beneficiaries. In this case, the plaintiffs must be the relatives of the deceased who would have been entitled to uninsured motorist coverage.
- The injury or death must be the result of the "ownership, maintenance, or use of the uninsured motor vehicle." Sometimes, what constitutes this is difficult to say for certain, and the Maryland courts have addressed this issue on multiple occasions.
- The victim cannot be excluded by a warranty in the insurance contract or any other reason.
An insured can mean any of these:
- Policyholders and any family members You and your family are covered unless someone is excluded for some reason.
- Any other person occupying your covered auto Maryland law has not fully flushed out the legal meaning of occupied, but it is not an issue in 99% of cases. It generally means anyone in or driving an insured vehicle with permission. It strikes people as odd that they are a "covered insured" in a vehicle they do not own. Maryland law tries to liberally construe who is covered in these kinds of cases because the law bends towards finding coverage.
- Any person entitled to recover for “bodily injury” that was sustained by a person described above This allows people who did not suffer bodily injuries to bring their derivative claims. Examples of this would be wrongful death beneficiaries, parents making claims for the medical bills of their minor children, and spouses making loss of consortium claims.
All in all, the law is written expansively in order to cover as many people as possible.
“Maryland law is written such that as many people as possible are able to claim uninsured motorist benefits, protecting Maryland drivers in the event of an accident.”
In Maryland, drivers must carry car insurance that covers both the medical expenses acquired from bodily injuries and property damage costs. It is, of course, a good idea to carry as large of a policy as possible. No matter what, there is a minimum amount of coverage that policies must meet. The minimum policy limits for uninsured motorist protection are exactly the same as the minimum general liability insurance requirements:
- $60,000 for bodily injury per accident and $30,000 for bodily injury per person
- $15,000 for property damage per accident
In Maryland, a victim who has been injured in a car accident may directly sue their insurance company without suing the at-fault motorist. See Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co. v. Webb, 291 Md. 721, 736 (1981).
Why would I sue my insurance company when somebody else caused the damage? Though the idea seems counterintuitive, this is simply how Maryland insurance law works. When you pay your insurance premiums every month, you are paying for coverage in the event that someone hurts you who has no insurance or has inadequate insurance to cover your loss.
“Maryland law allows drivers to directly sue their own insurance company for benefits.”
Filing directly against the provider of uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage when no action has been filed against the at-fault driver is a type of breach of contract action. Typically, though, our Maryland personal injury lawyers simultaneously bring a negligence claim against the at-fault driver and a breach of contract against the client's insurance company. In the case of under insurance, the injured victim's insurance company pays only for damages in excess of the negligent driver's insurance policy limits.
In 1997, the Maryland high court decided Harris v. Nationwide. That case was about a criminal who drove through a parking lot and grabbed the plaintiff's purse, dragging her for about 15 feet before speeding away. The robber was never found, and the plaintiff made an injury claim under her own policy with Nationwide. Nationwide argued that it was not responsible because (1) the intentional theft was not an “accident,” and (2) the plaintiff's injuries did not arise out of the “ownership, maintenance or use of an uninsured motor vehicle.” Because Nationwide refused to pay, Plaintiff Harris filed a lawsuit against them for breach of contract, and she won the case.
As for the first point, whether she was involved in an “accident,” the plaintiff argued that “accident,” defined in the statutes, means “any occurrence involving a motor vehicle, other than an occurrence caused intentionally by or at the direction of the insured, from which damage to any property or injury to any person results.” Under that analysis, as long as Ms. Harris did not intentionally injure herself, the incident qualified as an accident. That reading of the law makes sense—Maryland wants innocent people who are injured in traffic collisions to be compensated.
“Intentional torts, when someone intentionally harms you, as well as hit and run crashes often fall under the uninsured motorist statute.”
The second issue is whether the injuries arose out of the “ownership, maintenance or use of an uninsured motor vehicle.” Prior court cases looked at similar circumstances and decided that if the accident bears a direct or substantial relation to the use or operation of the car, it is covered. Examining Ms. Harris’s situation, the Court decided that her injuries were directly related to the use of an uninsured motor vehicle. Not all intentional injuries are related. The Court also examined a prior case where, after a fender bender, one driver got out of his car and attacked the other driver. That was held to be too far removed from the use of a motor vehicle to allow coverage.
In general, though, this ruling established a good rule for Maryland citizens. We can continue to protect ourselves with uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. Even where we are harmed intentionally by a driver using a car, we are covered by our own policy. We recommend that you get as much UM/UIM insurance as you can. There are a lot of uninsured drivers out there, and even more drivers with policies that are only worth $30,000. With a small increase in premiums, you can get significantly higher coverage. High uninsured motorist coverage is good protection for you and your family.
There is a very specific statutory scheme to govern uninsured motorist cases in Maryland. Still, there are a lot of gray areas open to interpretation. Maryland appellate courts have had many opportunities to interpret our uninsured motorist laws to give attorneys guidance on how to use the statute. Below is a list of key Maryland uninsured motorist cases:
- Buckley v. Brethren Mutual Insurance Company, 437 Md. 332, 86 A.3d 665 (2013): A release executed by the victim did not prejudice her uninsured motorist claim against her own insurance company. Miller & Zois handled this case. You can read more about it here.
- Mundey v. Erie Insurance, 396 Md. 656, 914 A.2d 1167 (2007) Plaintiff left his parents’ home in Lusby and moved to Waldorf. Almost a year later, he was injured in a car crash. He tried to get coverage under his parents' policy with Erie. The court rejected his claim that his parents' uninsured motorist coverage would apply because he intended to return home at some point in the future.
- Bushey v. Northern Assurance., 362 Md. 626, 766 A.2d 598 (2001): In a Charles County wrongful death case involving the tragic deaths of two high school sisters, the Court found the vehicle's $1,000,000 UM policy should cover family members of a named insured as an unincorporated entity.
- Gorham v. Guidant Mutual Insurance, 80 F. Supp.2d 540, 546 (D.Md. 2000): Federal court opinion that found that “in process of getting in a van" is tantamount to "occupying" the vehicle for the purpose of UM coverage.
- Forbes v. Harleysville Mutual Insurance., 322 Md. 689, 589 A.2d 944 (1991): In this Anne Arundel County fatal car accident case, the court adopted the "totality of the circumstances" to determine residency in Maryland uninsured motorist cases. The court also found Maryland uninsured motorist statute applies to wrongful death claims
- Schuler v. Erie Insurance Exchange, 81 Md. App. 499, 568 A.2d 873 (1990). In this Montgomery County pedestrian collision case, the court shot down a victim's effort to get UM coverage from his wife's commercial policy as opposed to his own coverage with MAIF. The court found in dicta that a permissive user pedestrian should be covered even if they are not in the vehicle at the time of the collision. You can read more about this case here.
At our law firm, Miller & Zois, our auto accident lawyers are highly experienced in handling uninsured driver cases. If you or a loved one were injured in a car accident, call us today at 800-553-8082 or fill out a brief online form for a free consultation of your claim.More Information About Uninsured Motorist Insurance
- First set of interrogatories
- Second set of interrogatories
- Complaint to GEICO
- Circuit court complaint
- District court complaint
- Representation letter