In Maryland, all motorists are required to maintain auto insurance. The purpose of requiring motorists to obtain car insurance is to ensure that, in the event of an accident, accident victims have an avenue of recovery to help them recover the costs associated with the accident.
An insurance contract is like any other contract. The insured pays a monthly premium and in exchange, the insurance company provides insurance. An insurance contract is a lengthy legal document, and the details of an insurance policy are typically complex. Among the many issues covered by an insurance contract, the document will explain the situations in which insurance coverage applies, the process by which the insured must file a claim, as well as the obligations of the insurance company to investigate the claim.
Recently, a state appellate court issued an opinion discussing an insurance company’s obligation to settle a meritorious claim that is within a policy’s limits. Ultimately, the court concluded that although an insurance company does have a duty to settle a claim that is within the policy limits, this duty is only triggered by the insured making an offer to settle. If you have questions about insurance pay-outs after an accident, reach out to a dedicated Maryland car accident attorney without delay.
The Facts of the Case
According to the court’s written opinion, four people were seriously injured as a result of a car accident that was caused by a driver who was insured by the defendant insurance company. Following the accident, the insurance company acknowledged that the accident was covered and that the liability exceeded the policy limits.
The plaintiffs filed individual cases against the estate of the at-fault driver. Two of the plaintiff’s made an offer to settle their claim with the insurance company for the policy limit. However, the insurance company did not respond in a timely fashion and, by the time the insurance company responded, the plaintiffs rejected the offer. The case ultimately proceeded to trial, where a $5.3 million verdict was returned in the plaintiffs’ favor. The administrator of the at-fault driver’s estate filed a failure-to-settle claim against the insurance company, arguing that the insurance company failed to accept a reasonable offer and, as a result, the case proceeded to trail and resulted in a $5.3 million verdict.
The court first held that an insurance company’s duty to settle a claim within the policy’s limits is not triggered until the plaintiff makes a settlement offer. Here, it was clear that the plaintiffs’ attorney made an offer. However, the court noted that the offer did not contain an explicit expiration date. Thus, the court held that the insurance company was not on notice that the offer would lapse and, as a result, was under no duty to accept the offer by a certain time.
Have You Been Injured in a Maryland Car Accident?
While the concept of car insurance is simple in theory, in practice it can be very complex and is best left to experienced personal injury attorneys. The dedicated Maryland personal injury lawyers at the law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC have decades of experience handling all types of Maryland car accident claims, and know what it takes to succeed on our client’s behalf. To learn more about how we can help you with your situation, call 410-654-3600 to schedule a free consultation today.
More Blog Posts:
Expert Witness Testimony May Be Necessary in Some Maryland Car Accident Cases, Maryland Car Accident Attorney Blog, published February 19, 2019.
Maryland Employers Can Be Held Liable for the Negligent Acts of Their Employees, Maryland Car Accident Attorney Blog, published March 4, 2019.