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.
Before 2018, Maryland used a “gap theory” formula to determine the amount a victim could recover. The gap theory would only allow a victim to recover damages to the level of their UM limit, even if the negligent driver had additional coverage. However, Maryland’s enhanced UM (EUM) coverage now provides additional protections, and allows motorists to purchase coverage to close the gap through insurance stacking. For example, if a victim’s damages were $150,000, but the at-fault party only had $30,000 in coverage, there would be a gap of $120,000. If the victim had $100,000 in UM coverage, they would only be able to collect $30,000 under the at-fault’s driver’s policy, leaving them with $50,000 in damages. The EUM will not be subject to the gap theory and instead stack on top of the at-fault’s coverage limit.
Motorists should understand that Maryland insurance companies must offer EUM coverage when they sell an insurance policy, but they do not need to offer this at renewal. Moreover, drivers must opt-in for this heightened coverage in writing. This is an important caveat, because recently, a court in another jurisdiction denied a plaintiff’s claim to compel their insurance company to provide increased UM coverage. The court found that even though the plaintiff increased their standard liability coverage, their UM coverage did not increase because it was done during the middle of a policy period, and they did not explicitly opt-in.
Have You Suffered Injuries in a Maryland Car Accident?
If you or someone you know has suffered serious injuries in a Maryland car accident, you should contact the experienced injury attorneys at Lebowitz & Mzhen, Personal Injury Lawyers. The attorneys at our law firm understand the financial, physical, and psychological toll that car accidents can have on victims and their families. Many car accident victims face significant hurdles when trying to recover damages against an at-fault motorist or their insurance company. We have a long-standing, successful history of recovering compensation for our clients from negligent drivers and their insurance companies. Contact our law firm at 800-654-1949 to schedule an initial consultation with an attorney.