An accident has occurred through no fault of yours. Your car is insured as required by law but your car is also damaged and worse yet, you sustained various injuries – back pains, headaches or even fractures. You request insurance information from the at-fault driver only to discover to your chagrin that the driver is uninsured. Does this mean that you cannot recover anything? Actually, you can recover damages for out of pocket expenses and even pain and suffering. 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. This coverage in Maryland typically extends to family members who live with you and anyone who is injured in your vehicle.
2 Types of Claims: Uninsured motorist coverage is mandatory in Maryland. The statutory scheme designed to protect the drivers on its roads from drivers who lack insurance through an Uninsured Motorist Coverage. It applies to 2 types of claims:
(A) Uninsured – where the at-fault driver has no liability insurance: Uninsured motorist situations are relatively straight-forward. The at-fault motorist lacks liability insurance so the only financial recourse for the injured person is the uninsured motorist coverage under his/her own auto policy. The injured insured must then establish (via the claims process or a lawsuit if necessary) the liability of the uninsured driver along with the amount of damages.
(B) Underinsured – where the at-fault driver is otherwise underinsured due to liability insurance limits that are not sufficient to meet the amount of damages sought by the injured party. The duty to provide underinsured motorist coverage arises in underinsured situations when the damages of the injured insured exceed the at-fault driver’s liability policy limits, and the uninsured motorist coverage available to the injured insured exceeds the at-fault driver’s policy limits.
‘Stacking’ vs. ‘Gap’ theories: Unlike other states, generally Maryland does not stack (or add up) two insurance policies together. Example if the at-fault driver’s policy limit is 30K and your uninsured motorist policy limit is 100K, some states will allow you to stack both policies and collect up to 130K but in Maryland, all you get is a total of 100K because the theory is your uninsured motorist policy only fills the gap to the extent that the at-fault drivers fail to meet up to your uninsured motorist policy limit.
Applicability to passengers: The question is whose uninsured motorist insurance policy should be used? The vehicles or the passengers? Maryland courts have generally said that the injury victim’s attorney may choose which coverage the attorney prefers but this is not fully settled therefore this is a bit of a grey area in Maryland.
Minimum policy limits: Maryland law requires that you purchase uninsured/underinsured motorist bodily injury liability insurance that covers at least $30,000 in damages per person injured, with a cap of $60,000 per accident. However, you may choose to purchase coverage in amounts larger than this statutory minimum.
Payment of deductible: A smaller deductible amount of $250 is typically applicable when activating your uninsured motorist policy as opposed to the higher $500 for your liability policy.
The statute of Limitation: An insurance company’s failure to settle an uninsured motorist coverage claim is treated as a breach of contract. As such, the 3-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.
We are experienced in handling uninsured motorist issues that may arise in your claim. If you want to discuss your potential claim with an experienced Maryland accident lawyer, call 301-453-7177 for a free consultation.