Articles Posted in Insurance Issues

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.

Earlier this month, an appellate court in Kentucky issued an interesting opinion in a car accident case that may be of interest to Maryland car accident victims who are considering filing a claim with their insurance company. The case presented the court with the opportunity to discuss whether an insurance company can require accident victims to submit to questioning under oath before approving a claim. Ultimately, since the questioning at issue was related to the underlying accident, which in turn related to the vehicle’s coverage, the court held that the insurance company was permitted to question the accident victims under oath.

Insurance ContractThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiffs were several people in the same vehicle who were injured in a rear-end accident while they were stopped at a red light. The vehicle that struck the car occupied by the plaintiffs fled the scene, and no information was obtained to help locate the vehicle.

After the accident, several of the plaintiffs filed a claim with the driver’s insurance policy. In the processing of their claims, the plaintiffs each answered questions related to the accident. Specifically, the questions were regarding where the plaintiffs were going, where they had come from, and so on. The plaintiffs also answered questions from the police officer who arrived on the scene after the accident.

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Maryland hit-and-run accidents present a number of legal questions. Most often, these questions are answered by the courts after an accident victim files a claim against their own insurance company that is subsequently denied. Earlier this month, the Georgia Court of Appeals issued a written opinion in a car accident case involving two defendants:  a hit-and-run driver listed only as “John Doe,” as well as the named defendant. The court was tasked with determining whether the plaintiff’s choice of venue was proper, given the fact that neither the plaintiff nor the named defendant lived in the county where the case was filed.

Car AccidentThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiffs were traveling on a Georgia highway when an unknown motorist entered their lane of travel, causing them to slow down in order to avoid a collision. As the plaintiffs’ vehicle slowed, the defendant’s vehicle crashed into the back of the plaintiffs’ vehicle. The vehicle that cut the plaintiffs off drove off without stopping and was never located.

The plaintiffs filed a personal injury lawsuit against the defendant who had struck their car as well as the hit-and-run driver who caused them to slow down in the first place. The plaintiffs’ claim against the defendant was that he was following too closely at the time. The case was filed in the county where the accident occurred.

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Last month, an appellate court in Connecticut issued a written opinion in a car accident case showing how a plaintiff’s award after a favorable personal injury case can be reduced – sometimes unfairly. In the case, Marciano v. Jimenez, the court ultimately determined that the plaintiff’s award should not be reduced due to the right of subrogation, which may result in the insurance company seeking payment from the plaintiff for previously paid benefits.

Wrecked CarThe Right of Subrogation

After an accident, medical costs are usually incurred. Often, an insurance company, or some other “collateral source,” will pay for these costs. Later, if the injured party seeks compensation for their injuries through a personal injury lawsuit and is successful, they will receive compensation for these very same injuries.

Some of that compensation may be designated for the pain and suffering caused as a result of the accident, but other amounts will likely be awarded to reimburse the injured party for the cost of the medical treatment they needed following the accident. If a collateral source paid these medical bills, that party may seek reimbursement from the injured party. This is called subrogation. A recent case serves as a good example.

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Earlier this month, a federal appellate court issued a written opinion in a case brought by a woman who was denied insurance coverage under her own underinsured motorist policy after she was seriously injured in a drunk driving accident. In the case, Peden v. State Farm, the court concluded that since the insurance company failed to conduct a thorough investigation prior to denying the plaintiff’s claim, the company may have acted in bad faith. As a result, the court reversed the lower court’s decision to dismiss the plaintiff’s case and permitted her to proceed toward trial against the insurance company.

VanThe Facts of the Case

Peden was injured in a drunk driving accident as a passenger in a friend’s van. On the day in question, Peden was at a birthday celebration for a friend who had just received a van from her fiancée, Mr. Graf, as a gift. At some point in the evening, several friends piled into the van so that Graf could take a picture. However, Graf unexpectedly got into the driver’s seat and took the van for a joyride while he was intoxicated. Graf crashed the van, injuring Peden, who then filed a personal injury lawsuit against him.

Both Peden and Graf were covered by a State Farm insurance policy. Initially, State Farm settled Peden’s claim involving Graf’s policy, but Peden claimed her damages were not fully covered and filed a claim under her own policy’s underinsured motorist provision. State Farm denied the claim, explaining that Peden got into the vehicle with a driver she knew to be drunk, and therefore she assumed the risk of injury.

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Car accidents happen all of the time and often result in serious injuries. Normally, an injured party can recover compensation for their injuries from another driver if the other driver was at fault for the accident. However, many drivers fail to obtain the proper insurance for their vehicles. In that situation, this means an injured motorist can only recover compensation if they have uninsured motorist coverage through their own insurance.

Car AccidentIn a recent case, a court considered a claim for uninsured motorist coverage and found the driver was able to receive his award without having it reduced by the money already paid by his insurer. The man was in a car accident with an uninsured driver and sustained serious injuries. The man had car insurance, which provided a total of $300,000 in uninsured motorist coverage and $5,000 in medical payments. His insurer paid the man’s medical bills up to the policy limit of $5,000 for medical payments in his policy. The man also made a claim for uninsured motorist coverage, but his insurer disputed the claim.

The man filed a lawsuit against his insurer for refusing to pay. The court found in his favor and awarded him over $68,000. But the court reduced the award by the $5,000 already paid by his insurer for medical bills. However, the state’s supreme court found the award should not have been reduced by $5,000. The court explained that statutory language barred the reduction in this case. As a result, the award was reinstated.

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