I am happy to report that today the Maryland Senate passed House Bill 825 by a vote of 27-20. The measure had already passed the Maryland House of Representatives, so it will become law assuming it is signed by Governor O’Malley.

The new law requires that car insurance policies sold or delivered in the State of Maryland after January 1, 2011 provide at least $30,000.00 in liability coverage per person and $60,000.00 in coverage per car accident. This is an increase from the prior minimum limit of $20,000 per person and $40,000.00 per person.

As the President of the Maryland Association for Justice, I worked very hard on this legislation, and I can tell you that it was a hard fought battle. Getting this bill passed took a lot of hard work by MAJ’s legislative team including:

  • Robert Zarbin (Legislative Chair)
  • Wayne Willoughby
  • George Tolley
  • John Bratt
  • Jim MacAlister
  • Eric Schloss

and Bruce Plaxen.

Our lobbyists Frank Boston, Dan Doherty, and Fran Doherty worked incredibly hard on this as well, and did a terrific job. The increased limits of car insurance will provide protection to Maryland Citizens injured in accidents, and it is also anticipated that it will increase the pool of money that can be used for uncompensated care by the hospitals.

We owe a special thank you to Senator Rob Garagiola and Delegate Charles Barkley from Montgomery County, Maryland for helping us in this fight.

The bill was opposed by the insurance industry, car rental car companies, and others. The bill to increase the minimum limits of car insurance was supported by the Maryland Association for Justice, Victims of Car Accidents (3 victims testified at the Senate Hearing), and Maryland Hospitals (It is unusual for the Maryland Trial Lawyers and the Maryland Hospitals to be working together on an issue).

Baltimore Attorney Billy Murphy also testified in support of the Legislation before the Senate Finance Committee.

The debate/floor fight on the Maryland Senate Floor occurred on Tuesday April 7, and Wednesday April 8, 2010 in Annapolis, Maryland. Opponents of the bill offered numerous amendments-most of which were, in my opinion, not legitimate and were simply intended to stall the legislation and force it to fail.

On Tuesday Baltimore City Senator Lisa Gladden attempted to bring forth an amendment that would have allowed MAIF to finance auto insurance policies it sells. However the amendment was not ready, and therefore she moved to Special Order the bill until Wednesday. Her motion for special order passed and the debate on the bill to increase automobile insurance coverage minimum limits in Maryland continued on Wednesday April 7, 2010.

On Wednesday, Ms. Gladden withdrew her amendment, however numerous other amendments were presented by other legislators to stall the legislation. All of the amendments were defeated. Senator Jennie Forehand from Montgomery County suggested that the insurance companies should not raise rates if the increased limits legislation passes because they have had very high profits and can afford to be charitable in light of the current economic climate in Maryland.

The minimum limits of car insurance in Maryland was set at $20,000.00/$40,000.00 in 1972 and has not been increased since that time. By contrast the property damage limits have been increased two times since 1972. It should be noted that 66% of States have minimum limits set higher than $20K/$40K. The insurance industry has always opposed efforts to increase the minimum limits. In fact, at the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee Hearing on the issue a State Farm Insurance Company Representative testified that State Farm would not object to reducing the limits below $20,000.00/$40,000.00.

In the State of Maryland it is estimated that about 200,000 car owners have minimum limits insurance policies. About 65,000 of those minimum limits policies are sold and issued by MAIF (Maryland Automobile Insurance Fund). Thanks to this new legislation, those injured by cars in Maryland will soon have at least $30,000.00 in protection to help pay for medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering and other losses.

This new law will help us to protect the rights of our most seriously injured clients.