Our law firm helps Maryland car crash victims receive compensation in an accident where the other driver either has no insurance or not enough insurance coverage. We have a history of success bringing uninsured motorist claims against every major insurance company in Maryland. We fight hard to maximize your claim so you get every dollar possible.
Call us today at 800-553-8082 for a free case evaluation or fill out this brief form for a no-obligation online consultation to learn about your options and your chances for compensation.
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 individuals 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 that triggers uninsured motorist coverage. So this coverage is a 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 a new law that better protects victims in these cases.
- Get answers to the most typical 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, an 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 that are lower than the limits of the insured’s uninsured motorist coverage. Essentially this is coverage that covers your car 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.
The nuances of how UM coverage works are difficult for many personal injury victims to get their minds around because it is counter-intuitive. Many people believe there is a fund that pays all uninsured motorist claims. There is not.
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 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 if the negligent driver had the same insurance policy that you have. So the claim is 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 that 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 vehicle that provides, as most policies in Maryland do, the same coverage for uninsured motorist coverage. What happens?
You make a claim against both the at-fault driver and your 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).
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.
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 her uninsured motorist coverage exceeds the tortfeasor's liability coverage.
Another way to look at it is that the injury victim can recover from her insurance company what she would have received had at-fault driver been insured to the same extent as the victim. So the policies 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.
Update: On October 1, 2017, Maryland stacking law changed a bit. Maryland drivers now have optional enhanced UM Coverage. This new Maryland statute -- Md. Insurance Code Code § 19-509.1(c) -- requires that UM coverage that would permit stacking of coverage be offered to the insured 'when purchasing coverage. How much would the enhanced UM coverage be? Not surprisingly, given our uninsured motororst scheme in Maryland, the limits are the same as the liability coverage. Producers and Insurers should review the statute and the MIA website for more information regarding the requirements.
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 insurance coverage. Maryland courts have said that the injury victim's attorney may choose which coverage the attorney prefers. But 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
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.
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.
- 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 meritorious lawsuits?
- Are you covered? The answer might surprise you. Take a look at how Maryland law defines uninsured and an explanation of the law.
- Hit-and-run and phantom vehicle crashes: Are they covered? (Yes.)
- Do you need car insurance to bring a claim?
- News Article on Miller & Zois UM Trial in Baltimore (Miller & Zois verdict in a claim against USAA).
- Contact us online or call 1-800-553-8082
The attorneys at Miller & Zois have handled literally hundreds of uninsured motorist cases. Our firm has been instrumental in shaping Maryland uninsured motorist law in Maryland's appellate courts. We have addressed so many different uninsured motorist issues our firm's 14 year history. These are the most common questions victims frequently ask.
- When do I have an uninsured motorist claim?
- How is uninsured defined under Maryland law?
- Does Maryland law require drivers to have uninsured motorist coverage?
- What is enhanced underinsured motorist (EUIM) coverage?
- What damages can I recover from my insurance company?
- Can I just submit my claim to my insurance company and let them sort it out?
- Can I settle with the other at-fault driver and make an uninsured motorist claim?
- Do I have to give the insurance company a recorded statement or a medical exam to bring a claim?
- I have a workers' compensation case, too. Can I bring a UM claim?
- Do the insurance policies stack on top of each other?
- Do I need to be in my vehicle to be eligible for uninsured motorist benefits?
- What if the insurance company disagrees with me about how much my case is worth?
- Do I have to sue my insurance company?
- Can the insurance company make me arbitrate my case?
- Do you need a lawyer to bring an uninsured motorist claim?
There are two scenarios where you can bring an uninsured motorist claim. First, if the other driver has no insurance and you have suffered physical injury (or property damage). Second, if the other driver has inadequate insurance which means that you believe your claim is more than the at-fault driver's insurance limits.
The term uninsured has a broad meaning under Maryland law. It includes phantom vehicle or hit and run accidents if the defendant has sovereign immunity, insolvent insurance companies, or the at-fault insurance company disclaims coverage because of non-permissive use of the vehicle or because the driver disappeared. In most cases, you will be able to find uninsured motorist coverage in Maryland if there is not an insurance company to stand up for the at-fault driver for whatever that reason might be.
Maryland law requires that all motor vehicle insurance purchased in Maryland have the state minimum of $30,000 per person and $60,000 per accident in coverage for personal injury in damages. Typically, the policy mirrors your own liability coverage although we see in truck accident cases instances where the trucking company has $1 million in coverage and the driver only has the minimum $30,000/$60,000 policy.
Maryland auto insurance policies have traditionally not stacked. That means that your uninsured motorist coverage is the difference between your policy and the defendant's policy. So if you have the same amount as the defendant you did not have any coverage.
In 2018, Maryland passed a law that requires the insurance company to offer EUIM which is the stacking of the policies. With this coverage, the policies stack instead of overlapping.
You can recover the damages you would have recovered if the at-fault driver had as much insurance as you do. So your claim is for your:
- medical bills (even if they were paid by insurance or PIP),
- lost wages (even if you were paid by your employer already)
- pain and suffering damages
- any other losses you may have
No. You must first submit a claim to the at-fault driver's insurance. It is their obligation to pay all of your damages up to their driver's insurance limits. If the at-fault driver's insurance company tenders those limits and you still believe you are entitled to more money either for your injuries or your property damage, you then have an uninsured (we call it underinsured) motorist claim.
The answer is no and all of this gets a little tricky. First, if you settle for less than the insurance policy limits, by definition you have no uninsured or underinsured motorist claim.
But to take the policy limits from the insurance company, you have to follow some slightly complicated Maryland legal procedure. Under Maryland Insurance Code § 19-511, there are procedures that must be strictly followed before you settle a case that allows you to continue to pursue your underinsured motorist claim.
Plaintiffs' lawyers call this the “pay to play” statute. Under this law, after the at-fault offers the policy limits, the uninsured motorist carrier gets 60 days to "consent" to acceptance of the offer. If the carrier does not agree to the settlement, then it must pay the amount of the offer to their own insured/victim.
Raise your hand if that makes sense to you. If you not an accident attorney who regularly handles these cases, it seems crazy. Why would your insurance company choose to pay your claim against the at-fault driver? You don't need to understand the underlying rationale. But the short version is that it can eventually get that money back, and it also gives the insurance company some tactical advantages when defending the underinsured motorist claim.
What you do need to understand is you must comply with the letter of this statute, or you are not going to be able to bring an underinsured motorist claim after you settle your case with the at-fault driver.
The answer to this question is tricky? The best answer is "probably not" because this is one of those "Yes, the policy language says we do but it is not a requirement to bring the claim under Maryland law" type issues. We think a plaintiff would win if these issues were brought to the Maryland Court of Appeals. Should you take this chance? Unless there was some unbelievably compelling reason, the answer is no. But these are the kind of issues that are foolish to tackle without an attorney who knows where the minefields are.
This is exactly what 95% of our uninsured motorist cases are about: a disagreement over what the claim is worth. The insurance company almost always greatly undervalues serious injury cases before a lawsuit is filed.
In what is a bad law, the uninsured motorist carrier in Maryland gets a dollar-for-dollar set off of its liability by deducting all paid workers' compensation benefits. You can find this draconian law in Section 19-513(e) of the Maryland Insurance Law.
In back-to-back questions, we highlight two significant weaknesses of Maryland law. While Maryland law does allow stacking in certain cases when the insured has more than one insurance policy, it does not in the classic case we face 98% of the time. The best way to explain this is by example. If the at-fault driver has a $500,000 policy and you have a $1,000,000 policy, the most you can get from your uninsured motorist carrier is $500,000. So your maximum recovery is $1 million not $1.5 million. So the amount of coverage is calculated by subtracting the underlying policy. The law in many other states is different. We field calls from lawyers in other states who are representing Maryland drivers asking us to explain Maryland uninsured motorist law and they are stunned to hear that we can't stack the policies on top of each other. But the law in this area is very well settled.
While there are some exceptions, the answer is no. So if you are driving your friend's car and that vehicle has less uninsured motorist coverage than you have, you can tap into your insurance. The law is designed to provide protection when you are smart enough to get more insurance coverage than the other driver.
You can get a judgment against the at-fault driver and then get the uninsured motorist carrier to pick up the difference even if the UM carrier is not a defendant at trial. But they have to be aware of the lawsuit and they can make the choice to intervene in the case.
Without question, insurance companies would much prefer to arbitrate their personal injury cases in Maryland. Arbitrations are generally favorable to insurance companies. It is just a fact.
In Maryland and 22 other states, insurance companies are prohibited from imposing arbitration. There is a statute - § 19-509 of the Maryland Insurance Code - that forbids insurance companies from inserting binding arbitration clauses in insurance contracts with their own insureds. In other words, Maryland public policy rewrites these contracts.
This is a good rule. Maryland's court system is a good one. It has well-established rules of evidence and procedural safeguards that plaintiffs are not going to get in arbitration, even with a fair and reasonable arbitrator because, by definition, the arbitration is a shortcut procedure to justice.
Does this mean arbitration is not an ineffective tool for plaintiffs in personal injury cases? No. Our law firm arbitrates (and mediates) many personal injury car accident cases with insurance companies because it is often an effective means of resolving the dispute. But we do so on our terms without bowing to the insurance companies and their handpicked arbitrators.
In some instances,severe injury or wrongful death claims, there are a few hurdles you have to climb with care because the law governing these cases is somewhat involved.
Our law firm is very familiar with the issues you face in these claims. If you want to discuss your accident case with an experienced Maryland trial attorney, call 800-553-8082 or get a free on-line consultation.