Due to Maryland’s small size and healthy economy, many people who work in Maryland live outside the state and commute into Maryland on a daily basis. As a natural result, some Maryland car accidents will involve out-of-state motorists. While this may not necessarily present a problem for an accident victim, there are several potential issues that should be considered to avoid a problem down the road.
A recent opinion from a Georgia court illustrates the potential problems that an accident victim who is injured in an accident caused by an out-of-state motorist may face when seeking compensation for their injuries.
The Facts of the Case
The plaintiff was a Georgia resident who was attending school in California. Her car was registered and insured in Georgia. One day while driving in California, the plaintiff was involved in a car accident with another motorist. The plaintiff filed a personal injury case against the other motorist.
The plaintiff settled the case against the other motorist and executed a general release of liability as a part of the settlement agreement. The release essentially stated that the plaintiff released the motorist from all liability. However, the settlement with the other motorist failed to fully compensate the plaintiff for her injuries, so she filed an underinsured motorist claim through her own insurance company.
Since the insurance company was based in Georgia, the plaintiff sought a declaratory judgment from a Georgia court, stating that the claim should be approved. However, the insurance company disputed the plaintiff’s claim, arguing that since she executed a general release of liability, she no longer was entitled to pursue an underinsured motorist claim under Georgia law. Indeed, Georgia law requires accident victims to execute limited releases of liability to preserve their right to pursue an underinsured motorist claim.
The plaintiff argued that California law should apply, rather than Georgia law, since the accident occurred in California. In California, there was a more favorable law that allowed for the plaintiff to submit her claim against the insurance company to arbitration, where she potentially could be successful.
The Georgia court, however, determined that Georgia law should apply to the dispute. The court explained that when it comes to determining which state’s law applies, substantive legal issues are viewed under the law of the state where the accident occurred, while procedural legal issues are viewed under the law of the state where the case was filed. Since the plaintiff’s request for a declaratory judgment was filed in a Georgia court, and since the determination of what an accident victim must do to proceed with an underinsured motorist claim against an insurance company was previously determined to be a procedural issue, the court held that Georgia law applied. As a result, the plaintiff’s case was dismissed.
Importantly, had the plaintiff executed a limited release of liability rather than a general release of liability, she would not have been precluded from pursuing her underinsured motorist claim.
Have You Been Injured in an Accident with an Out-of-State Motorist?
If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a Maryland car accident involving an out-of-state motorist, certain issues may arise that, if not properly addressed, could negatively affect your potential for recovery. The dedicated Maryland car accident attorneys at the law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC have extensive experience handling all types of Maryland car accident claims, including those involving out-of-state motorists and their insurance companies. To learn more, and to schedule your free consultation with a dedicated Maryland personal injury attorney, call 410-654-3600 today.
More Blog Posts:
Court Permits Car Accident Case to Proceed Against Company in Charge of Maintaining Back-Up Battery System in Traffic Lights, Maryland Car Accident Attorney Blog, published November 9, 2017.
Court Determines Photographs of Defect in Road Did Not Show Government’s Knowledge of the Hazard, Maryland Car Accident Attorney Blog, published November 23, 2017.