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 is that 13.8 percent of all United States drivers have no insurance at all. This is why uninsured motorist coverage is so important.
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, which means the at-fault driver does not have enough coverage which triggers uninsured motorist coverage. So this coverage is need even for defendants with insurance because they often do not carry enough insurance to satisfy a serious injury or wrongful death claim.
Our law firm has been instrumental not only in bringing uninsured motorist claims on behalf of our client but in helping to shape that law that protects victims from being taken advantage of by insurance companies. One of our attorneys won the prestigious Trial Lawyer of the Year award from the Maryland Association for Justice because of his work in a case that went to Maryland highest court and created new law that better protects victims in these case.
- Get answers to the most common uninsured motorist legal questions. We dig deep into Maryland law to help you better understand this maze
- Can I bring a claim if I was uninsured?
- Better understand the value of your UM claim
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 this is 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 UM 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 which is the minimum in Maryland. 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.Does Maryland Allow Stacking of Policies?
Some states, like neighboring Pennsylvania, allow the uninsured motorist policy to stack on top of the underlying at-fault driver's policy. So if the at-fault carrier had, for example, $100,000 in coverage and the victim had $300,000 in coverage, the total coverage would be $400,000. Maryland law adopts the “gap” theory of underinsured motorist coverage. Under this law, the victim is only uninsured when the her uninsured motorist coverage exceeds the tortfeasor's liability coverage.
Another way to look at it is that the injury victim is able to recover from her own insurance company what she would have received had at-fault driver been insured to the same extent as the victim. So the polices in Maryland do not stack on top of each other. In the example above, there is $200,000 in remaining uninsured motorist coverage in Maryland, not $300,000 as it would be in stacking jurisdiction.
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 serveWhat is the Statute of Limitations for Uninsured Motorist Claims?
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 as is our entire team of attorneys. If you want to discuss your potential claim with an experienced Maryland accident lawyer, call 800-553-8082 or get a free uninsured motorist internet consultation.Sample Uninsured Motorist Court DocumentsMaryland Uninsured Motorist Law
- Video that explains exactly how uninsured motorist coverage works in Maryland
- Maryland uninsured motorist statute: Section 19-509 which is the primary law that governs Maryland law. This section rewrites many insurance contracts so there are some provisions of your insurance policy that might not be enforceable against you
- Single vehicle crashes: What types of these cases lead to viable lawsuits?
- Hit-and-run and phantom vehicle crashes: Are they covered? (Yes.)
- Do you need car insurance to bring a claim?