Articles Posted in Insurance Issues

While car insurance is supposed to assist Maryland car accident victims in getting back on their feet after an accident, the unfortunate reality is that insurance companies are often looking for ways to get out of paying up. However, an insurance policy is a legally binding contract, whereby the insurance company agrees to pay for an accident victim’s costs related to covered claims.

Logging TruckThus, when an insurance company refuses to pay out on a claim, or it only offers a low-ball settlement offer that does not cover an accident victim’s costs, the accident victim has the right to ask a court to compel the insurance company to pay. When courts are confronted with these cases, they usually start by reading the policy language and determining if the claim was covered.

A recent case illustrates the difficulties one accident victim had when filing an uninsured motorist claim based on injuries that occurred while operating a vehicle that was furnished for his everyday use.

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Recently, an appellate court issued an opinion in a car accident case involving a plaintiff who signed a waiver of liability in favor of the defendant insurance company. The case required the court to determine if the waiver was valid. Finding that there was some evidence suggesting that the plaintiff was subject to undue influence when asked to sign the release, the court permitted the plaintiff’s case to proceed toward trial for a jury to make the final determination.

ContractThe case presents an important issue for Maryland car accident victims who may have signed a release of liability that grossly favors the other side.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was involved in a car accident with another driver. The facts suggested that the other driver was at fault. The at-fault driver’s insurance company sent out an insurance adjuster to discuss the possibility of settling the plaintiff’s claim.

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An insurance company can be a Maryland car accident victim’s best friend or worst enemy. While the stated purpose of insurance is to compensate a claimant for losses that occur due to a covered incident, in practice, insurance companies view most claims with an eye toward denial. This is because insurance companies are for-profit companies that rely on taking in more money in premiums than they pay out in claims.

TimerThat being the case, insurance contracts are often written in a way that gives the insurance company many “loopholes” to get out of satisfying even a meritorious claim. For example, almost all insurance policies have strict notice requirements that require an accident victim to provide the company with notice of the accident within a certain amount of time. The way that insurance contracts are written, if an accident victim fails to provide timely notice, the insurance company is not bound by the terms of the agreement and can deny an otherwise valid claim.

A recent case illustrates the frustration one motorist experienced when trying to recover compensation for his injuries after a car accident. While the case arose in Georgia, it illustrates an important point for Maryland car accident victims.

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Earlier last month, an appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case illustrating the importance of expert witness selection and preparation in Maryland car accident cases involving disputed medical evidence. The court ultimately concluded that the jury was acting within its purview when it found that the testimony of the plaintiff’s expert witness was speculative, and thus it declined to find that the plaintiff suffered a permanent injury as a result of the accident.

X-RayThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was involved in a car accident that was caused by another driver. The record is not clear if the other driver had no insurance, or if they had insufficient insurance to cover the plaintiff’s injuries, but regardless, the plaintiff ended up filing a claim with her own insurance company under the underinsured/uninsured motorist provision.

The plaintiff presented one expert witness, a neurosurgeon who had operated on the plaintiff. The neurosurgeon testified that the plaintiff suffered from degenerative disc disease, that it was possible the plaintiff would require surgery, and that the accident likely increased that chance by 15-20%. However, the neurosurgeon also testified that he had no idea how long the plaintiff’s degenerative disc disease had been developing.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court in Montana issued a written opinion in a personal injury case dealing with a plaintiff’s pre-trial motion for summary judgment on the issue of whether her future medical care was causally related to the car accident. The case is instructive to Maryland car accident victims because it shows the type of analysis courts will conduct when reviewing claims for future medical expenses. Ultimately in this case, the court concluded that there was conflicting evidence regarding the cause of the plaintiff’s ongoing medical needs, and thus summary judgment in the plaintiff’s favor was not appropriate.

X-Ray of SpineThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was involved in a car accident with a driver who was insured by the defendant insurance company. On the day of the accident, the plaintiff went to the doctor and was diagnosed with whiplash and related injuries.

The plaintiff’s attorney requested that the insurance company make advance payment of medical expenses, which totaled approximately $53,000 over the course of the next six months. At that time, the insurance company requested the plaintiff to undergo a medical evaluation to determine if the continued medical care she was requesting was a result of the accident. The plaintiff refused the evaluation, and the insurance company denied all future payment for medical expenses.

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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.

US MapA 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.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court in Florida issued an opinion in a personal injury case that may be of interest to Maryland car accident victims who are considering filing a claim against an insurance company. The case required the court to determine if the plaintiff’s failure to comply with a contractual term in her insurance contract barred her from recovering on her claim. The court explained that the insurance company’s position was correct; however, since it did not raise the issue in a timely manner, the court considered the company’s objections waived.

Insurance ContractThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was injured in a car accident that was caused by a driver who did not have adequate insurance to cover the injuries the plaintiff sustained in the accident. However, the plaintiff was covered by two other insurance policies:  her mother’s policy with Allstate and her father’s policy with Geico. The Allstate policy had underinsured motorist protection of $25,000; the Geico policy’s protection offered $20,000.

The plaintiff filed a claim only with the Allstate policy, claiming that the insurance company should cover her expenses that were not covered by the at-fault driver’s policy. When she filed her claim, the plaintiff averred that all necessary conditions had been satisfied.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court in Arizona issued a written opinion in a car accident case, illustrating the importance of abiding by all procedural court rules as well as naming the proper parties at the outset of a case. The case acts as an important reminder to car accident victims that there is no substitute for a knowledgeable and dedicated personal injury attorney to assist in the preparation of a Maryland car accident case.

Car AccidentThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was involved in a car accident with a driver who was insured by the defendant insurance company. After the accident, the responding police officer provided the plaintiff with the at-fault driver’s name and insurance information. One day before the two-year statute of limitations expired, the plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault driver’s insurance company, seeking compensation for the injuries she sustained in the crash. The plaintiff’s lawsuit claimed that the insurance company “intentionally delayed, postponed, or otherwise disregarded the resolution of this matter; at times providing false information.”

In the state where the case was filed, accident victims do not have a right to file a lawsuit directly against an insurance company; the claim must be filed against the driver. The defendant insurance company objected to it being named as a defendant, and the plaintiff withdrew the case so that she could name the at-fault driver as a defendant and remove the driver’s insurance company.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court in Alabama issued a written opinion that presented an interesting legal issue that may be of interest to Maryland car accident victims. The case presented the court with the opportunity to determine whether an accident victim should be able to seek compensation for her injuries against the insurance company of the at-fault motorist when that motorist had subsequently filed for bankruptcy. Ultimately, the court concluded that the plaintiff’s claim was not barred and allowed her claim against the insurance company to proceed.

SUV AccidentThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff in this case was the surviving husband of a woman who was injured in a car accident and then subsequently died. There was conflicting evidence as to whether the woman’s death was related to the accident; however, the husband’s claim asserted that the at-fault driver was at least liable for his wife’s injuries, and potentially for her wrongful death. The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault driver as well as the insurance companies for both drivers.

After the lawsuit was filed, but before the case was resolved, the at-fault driver filed for bankruptcy. As a part of the bankruptcy proceeding, the pending case against the driver would be dismissed. The plaintiff’s own insurance company then sought dismissal of the case against it as well, arguing that since the plaintiff no longer had a right to recover from the at-fault driver, the insurance company could no longer be held liable. In support of its claim, the insurance company pointed to a pertinent state law stating that a plaintiff can only seek insurance benefits from an insurer if he is “legally entitled to recover damages” from the at-fault party.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court in Georgia issued a written opinion in a personal injury case that illustrates the kinds of difficulties that Maryland car accident victims routinely face when filing claims against an insurance company following an accident. The decision issued by the court held that the plaintiffs were only entitled to $250,000, which was the limit under their single insurance policy, despite the plaintiffs’ claim that they had two policies with the insurance company.

Insurance ContractThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiffs were the surviving family members of two people who were killed in a tragic car accident. The driver responsible for the accident had insufficient insurance coverage to compensate the plaintiffs for their loss, so they filed a claim with their own insurance company under the underinsured motorist provision. The insurance company paid the plaintiffs $250,000, which was the maximum under the policy.

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