The Court of Appeals of Maryland recently issued a decision holding that insurers are required to pay rental expenses and other loss-of-use damages in uninsured motorist claims. Uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage is required by law in Maryland for every motor vehicle insurance policy issued in the state. The coverage is meant to protect insured drivers by covering their out-of-pocket expenses when involved in an accident with an uninsured or underinsured tortfeasor.
The state’s highest court considered whether the phrase “damage to property” in the state’s uninsured motorist law included the loss-of-use damages. Loss-of-use damages provide coverage for the period of time that the property could not be used, such as the expenses of a rental car while a vehicle cannot be driven. The court decided two cases involving the same legal issue. In the first case, the plaintiff was hit by an uninsured motorist and sought to recover rental car expenses from his insurer after the accident. In the second case, the plaintiff was hit by an uninsured motorist and sought to recover out-of-pocket expenses from her insurer.
Under section 19-509(e) of the Maryland Uninsured Motorist statute, a motor vehicle liability insurance policy must contain uninsured motorist coverage equal to the coverage set forth in Maryland’s financial responsibility law. That law requires coverage at least for claims for “property of others damaged or destroyed in an accident of up to $15,000, in addition to interest and costs.”
The court considered the plain language of the statute as well as the intent of the legislature when it enacted the statutes, which was to protect innocent individuals injured by uninsured motorists. Considering the language of the statute and because the statute is meant to restore injured individuals to the same position they were in before the accident, the court held that the phrase damage to property encompasses loss-of-use damages.
The court noted that the legislature recently amended the uninsured motorist statute, stating that “the insured is entitled to recover from the owner or operator of an uninsured motor vehicle because of property damage, including loss-of-use of the insured vehicle.” Thus, the revised statute, which takes effect on October 1, 2020, expressly incorporates loss of use damages into the statute. The court considered the revision and found based on the text and legislative history that the revision of the statute was made to clarify that loss-of-use damages were covered under the statute, and that the previous version also covered loss-of-use damages. Accordingly, the court held that the phrase included a loss of one’s ability to use a vehicle and that the plaintiffs were entitled to loss-of-use damages.
Have You Been Injured by an Uninsured Motorist?
If you have been injured by an uninsured motorist or underinsured motorist in a Maryland car accident, contact an attorney with experience handling these types of claims. The car accident attorneys at Lebowitz & Mzhen can assess your claim and guide you through the legal process. They will seek to recover the maximum compensation possible and will not recover any legal fees unless they obtain a settlement or a judgment in your favor. Call Lebowitz & Mzhen at (800) 654-1949, or contact them online today to set up a free consultation.