Articles Posted in Insurance Issues

Uninsured and underinsured motorist protection provides coverage for insured drivers involved in a crash with uninsured or underinsured drivers. Although uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage is required in Maryland motor vehicle policies, stacking uninsured motorist coverage is optional. Opting for stacked uninsured motorist coverage can benefit Maryland car accidents victims in the event of a crash, because stacking coverage can provide additional coverage beyond an insurance policy’s general policy limits.

Stacked uninsured motorist coverage is expansive and typically provides coverage whenever and wherever the insured is injured by an uninsured motorist. This means that an insured can stack or aggregate uninsured motorist coverage if the insured has multiple insurance policies. Non-stacked uninsured motorist coverage provides less protection and does not apply whenever and wherever the insured is injured. This means that it normally cannot be stacked or aggregated. Maryland’s Private Passenger Motor Vehicle Liability Insurance – Enhanced Underinsured Motorist Coverage law requires enhanced coverage to be offered under policies issued as of July 1, 2018. The law allows individuals covered on such policies to stack their uninsured motorist coverage.

A recent case from a state appeals court highlights the differences between stacked and non-stacked policies. In that case, the court found two individuals were not entitled to non-stacked uninsured motorist benefits where they had accepted stacked uninsured motorist benefits their policies with other insurers. Two individuals were injured when one of them was driving and was hit by another car that was driven by an uninsured motorist. The car was insured by a commercial auto policy in another individual’s name and provided non-stacked uninsured motorist coverage with a policy limit of $300,000. The two settled under the policy for $300,000. They also had three of their own insurance policies that provided uninsured motorist coverage. In addition, the parties settled under two of the other policies, which had provided stacked uninsured motorist coverage. The third policy insurer refused to pay because they had chosen non-stacked coverage.

Every motor vehicle liability insurance policy issued in Maryland is required to include uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage. Uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage protects insured drivers from paying out-of-pocket expenses for their injuries if the drivers are involved in a Maryland car accident with parties that are uninsured or underinsured. The goal of Maryland’s uninsured motorist statute is to provide protection for individuals injured by uninsured motorists.

Uninsured motorist coverage refers to when an insured is involved in an accident with a driver that does not have any liability insurance. Underinsured motorist coverage refers to when an insured is involved in an accident with a driver that does have liability insurance but whose coverage is less than is needed to cover the accident victim’s injuries. If an insured driver is injured in an accident with an uninsured or underinsured driver, the insured can proceed with two separate claims. The first is a tort claim against the uninsured or underinsured driver. The second is a contract claim against the insured’s insurance company for uninsured or underinsured motorist benefits.

In a recent case before a Maryland appeals court, an insured driver was hit from behind by the underinsured driver in April 2011. In April 2013, the underinsured driver offered the insured driver a settlement offer of $20,000 (the extent of the underinsured driver’s policy), which she later accepted. The insured driver continued receiving medical care until July 2014, and in January 2015, she requested underinsured motorist benefits from her insurer to recover additional underinsured motorist benefits from her insurance company. Under her policy, she was entitled to up to $300,000 per person for bodily injury that was caused by an uninsured or underinsured motorist. In September 2016, she filed a claim in court against her insurer seeking to recover her additional benefits.

If you are found to be at fault for a Maryland car accident and your family members were in the car with you, you may wonder whether your family members’ injuries are covered under your insurance policy. Some insurance policies contain language, called exclusions, stating that the policy does not provide coverage to an insured or to the family member of an insured or to any family member of the insured residing in the insured’s household. Such provisions are written to prohibit coverage or to reduce coverage to those persons. The law on this issue varies depending on the state where the policy was issued. Some states prohibit household exclusions because many drivers and passengers are not covered if the family member is found responsible.

In a recent state appellate decision, one state’s supreme court considered the lawfulness of such provisions under state law. In that case, a man was injured in an accident while a passenger in a car covered by a policy the man and his wife had purchased from an insurance company. The man submitted a claim under the policy, but the insurance company refused to pay the man’s claim based on a partial household exclusion clause in the auto policy.

The court found that under that state’s law, partial household exclusion clauses were not valid. The state’s supreme court held that an auto policy in any coverage amount is not permitted to exclude or reduce liability coverage under household exclusion provisions “solely on the ground the claimant is a named insured or resident in the named insured’s household.”

Maryland regulates insurance in the state for all Maryland drivers. When a Maryland car accident occurs, compensation is often issued by the insurance companies through the insureds’ insurance policies. If a wrongdoer is not insured, or is underinsured, uninsured motorist coverage normally kicks in. Uninsured motorist coverage covers damages to a victim that are less than the amount of coverage provided under the statute.

Maryland’s uninsured motorist statute was enacted in 1972. The statute was meant to provide protection for individuals injured by uninsured motorists and to allow more injured victims to recover compensation. In 1975, the State made uninsured motorist coverage mandatory for all motor vehicle liability insurers. The term uninsured also now encompasses underinsured vehicles. There is a minimum coverage required by the statute. An insured individual can also buy additional uninsured motorist coverage.

To file an uninsured motorist coverage claim in Maryland, an insured must show proof of being insured, that he is entitled to recover from an uninsured motor vehicle’s owner or operator, that he sustained injuries or property damages, and that the injuries resulted from the uninsured driver’s use, ownership, or maintenance of the motor vehicle.

After a car accident, injured motorists, passengers, and bystanders are often left with significant property damage, physical wounds, and psychological trauma. The aftermath of these accidents can leave injury victims and their families with substantial financial obligations. Maryland car accident victims often rely on the at-fault party or their insurance company to cover the victim’s losses. However, in many situations, the at-fault party may deny liability and refuse to pay, or their insurance coverage may not adequately cover the victim’s losses. In these cases, car accident victims may be able to recover under their uninsured/underinsured motorist (UM) coverage.

In Maryland, UM coverage provides policyholders with protection if they are involved in an accident with an at-fault driver whose insurance coverage does not sufficiently cover the victim’s injuries. UM coverage can also cover injury victims in instances where the at-fault driver leaves the scene of the accident without providing identifying information.

In addition to liability insurance, and personal injury protection, Maryland law requires that motorists carry UM coverage that is at least $30,000 per person and $60,000 per incident, or a $75,000 combined limit. However, this amount may be higher because UM coverage must match the amount of standard liability coverage a motorist carries. Moreover, if a policyholder purchases higher levels of liability coverage, their UM coverage must increase to the same amount, unless the insured specifically chooses less UM protection. Even if the policyholder chooses UM coverage less than their liability coverage, the amount must still meet minimum requirements.

Maryland law requires every driver to purchase auto insurance, which ideally should cover them for damages caused in an accident. But anyone who has dealt with an insurance company in the wake of a Maryland car accident knows that insurers are notoriously difficult to work with. Sometimes, insurance companies will deny worthy claims against them, in the hopes that accident victims will lack the resources and knowledge needed to compel them to pay, and will instead give up.

For example, if Driver A gets into an accident with Driver B, and Driver B was at fault, Driver A may be able to recover for his medical expenses from Driver B’s insurance company. However, Driver B’s insurance company has an interest in paying as little as possible. In situations such as this, the insurance company may deny the claim and refuse to pay, sometimes without even giving a reason. Driver B may not be able to pay the claims on his own, and Driver A is then left with outstanding medical bills.

Driver A and Driver B may both feel frustrated in this case—they purchased auto insurance and followed the rules, and yet they still were not covered when an accident happened. In these cases, however, a lesser-known legal doctrine may come into play. When insurance companies deny worthy claims, they may be acting in “bad faith.” Acting in bad faith means they are violating their legal duty to act in “good faith” towards their clients, denying meritorious claims or otherwise operating in a deceitful manner to try and limit their liability. Importantly, both Driver A and Driver B may have a claim of bad faith against the insurance company. If they can prove bad faith, they may be entitled to the actual damages suffered by the accident victim and monetary compensation for the cost of litigation, such as attorney’s fees.

The Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA) reports that thousands of people are hurt or killed in Maryland car accidents every year. Crash report statistics have shown there has been a rise in Maryland car accidents every year since 2012. These incidents range from minor to severe, and Maryland car accident victims often suffer significant financial repercussions as a result of these accidents. Many accident victims do not realize that their insurance companies may not cover the extent of damages that they sustained. In these situations, injury victims may need to file a dispute with their insurance company to recover fully for their losses. In some cases, a Maryland personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault party may be necessary.

Injury victims are often surprised to discover that their insurance company is taking an adversarial role when the policyholder attempts to collect on a claim. Many times, insurance companies will go to great lengths to dispute a claim, deny coverage, and escape making a payment.

For example, recently, a state appellate court issued a ruling in a lawsuit stemming from a claim dispute between a policyholder and her insurance company. In that case, a woman suffered injuries while she was exercising at a mobile gym. The woman filed and settled a negligence lawsuit against the gym’s owner and the personal trainer. The gym was run out of the back of a pickup truck, so she filed a car insurance claim with her provider to recover her remaining damages. Her insurance company disputed coverage, arguing that her uninsured/underinsured coverage did not extend to motor vehicles such as a mobile gym. The insurance company cited specific provisions in her policy that limited the insurance company’s obligation to pay a claim. Ultimately, the appellate court ruled in the insurance company’s favor finding that the coverage did not extend to motor vehicles that are “located for use as a premises,” such as a mobile gym.

Those who have been involved in a serious Maryland car accident may have sustained injury, property damage, and missed time away from work. If the other driver who caused the accident has insurance, the accident victim can file a claim under that driver’s policy. However, if the at-fault driver either does not have insurance, or their insurance coverage is insufficient to cover the expenses incurred by the accident victim, the accident victim may have to look elsewhere to obtain full compensation.

Most commonly, in these situations, an injured motorist will look to their own insurance policy. Under Maryland law, all insurance policies must by default contain coverage for accidents involving underinsured or uninsured drivers. It is only if the insurance company obtains a written request by the insured to waive underinsured/uninsured motorist (UIM) protection that an insurance company can issue a policy without this coverage. Needless to say, UIM coverage can be critical to an accident victim obtaining a full and fair settlement. Unfortunately, issues frequently arise when dealing with UIM policies. One issue that comes up often in Maryland UIM insurance claims is whether the person making the claim was covered under the policy.

Maryland insurance policies are contracts, and are enforced through state contract law. In exchange for a monthly premium payable by the insured, an insurance company agrees to provide certain coverage, as outlined in the policy. Among other things, all insurance policies must contain the coverage amounts and state who the coverage applies to. Often, policies will contain “exclusions” which outline specific circumstances in which coverage will not apply.

When accidents happen and people are injured, many individuals rely on their insurance policies to help them cover the costs. For instance, homeowner’s insurance policies can protect individuals if something that they own hurts someone else or damages their property. Maryland law allows the injured party to sue the at-fault party in court to recover monetary compensation, and insurance can help the at-fault party cover all or part of the award. However, some insurance companies may try to escape liability for certain types of accidents, relying on vague or ambiguous language in the policy’s contract.

Take a recent state appellate case, for example. According to the court’s written opinion, the plaintiff brought suit when she was injured by the defendant’s Ford truck. The truck had been parked on an incline on the driveway when the plaintiff, examining it, pulled the emergency brake. The truck subsequently took off and went down the driveway, rolling over the plaintiff’s ankles and causing her multiple injuries, including several fractures and a knee effusion. The plaintiff then filed suit against the defendant, alleging negligence.

Typically, in situations like this, a defendant with homeowner’s insurance would receive assistance from their insurance company. However, the defendant’s insurer filed a complaint for a declaratory judgment to determine whether or not it had to cover the incident. The insurance company argued that they did not provide coverage for claims arising out of the “use” of a motor vehicle, and thus were not obliged to cover the defendant here. Ultimately, the question came down to what the ambiguous term “use of a motor vehicle” meant, since there was no further definition in the policy contract.

Understanding insurance coverage is a crucial part of any Maryland car accident case. After an accident, many unfamiliar terms may come up, potentially confusing an accident victim. Insurance stacking refers to a coverage option that some states allow policyholders to obtain to protect themselves if they are in a car accident with an under or uninsured motorist (UIM). Stacking enables policyholders to make claims under two policies or make two claims from different vehicles under the same policy. To obtain stacked insurance coverage, the policyholder must live in a state that allows this type of coverage.

State laws vary on whether policyholders are permitted to stack insurance policies. For example, Maryland does not permit policyholders to stack with multiple policies or within one policy if the language is clear and unambiguous. Whereas, Virginia allows drivers to stack policies unless there is clear and unambiguous language prohibiting stacking. Additionally, policyholders who wish to get this coverage must have UIM coverage on two cars under one policy or two separate policies on two vehicles. This coverage allows motorists to increase their bodily injury coverage if they are involved in an accident with a UIM.

States that allow stacking remove some unfair and burdensome barriers that motorists face when they are involved with a negligent uninsured driver. For example, a state appellate court recently issued an opinion in a case stemming from a car accident involving an underinsured driver. According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff purchased a car insurance policy for two of her vehicles. She initially waived her right to stack her UIM coverage but then increased her coverage and was not presented with the same waiver at that time. Several years later, she was involved in an accident with an underinsured driver, and the insurance company attempted to limit her coverage and claimed that she waived stacking when she increased her coverage. The appellate court found that it was the insurance company’s responsibility to provide her with a new waiver; otherwise, it could not be said that the plaintiff waived her right to the coverage.

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