Uninsured Motorist Claims and Underinsured Motorist Claims in Maryland
In the video above, firm partner Kevin Goldberg explains what motorists should know about personal injury protection and uninsured motorist coverage.
What is Uninsured Motorist Coverage?
Uninsured Motorist coverage protects you, your family members, permissive users of your vehicle, and your passengers in the event that you are involved in an accident with:
(i) an uninsured motorist,
(ii) a motorist that has low liability insurance limits that are not sufficient to cover the amount of your damages, and
(iii) if you are involved in an accident with a phantom vehicle (or a vehicle that leaves the scene of the accident basically a vehicle in which you cannot identify the driver or applicable insurance policy).
Uninsured Motorist Carriers have a duty to act in good faith.
For example, if you are struck by a vehicle that does not have any automobile insurance coverage on it, and if you are injured in the car crash, then you can make an uninsured motorist claim against your own car insurance company for up to the amount of uninsured motorist coverage that you have purchased.
A second example would be if you are driving along the roadway, and you are forced off of the roadway by an unidentified vehicle and your car crashes into a tree. If the vehicle that forced you off the roadway leaves the scene of the crash before you can get the tag, then you could make a claim for uninsured motorist benefits.
A final example relates to what is known as underinsured motorist benefits (Maryland defines uninsured motorist as including an underinsured motorist). Suppose you are stopped at a red light and you are rear ended. You suffer serious injuries including a herniated disc that requires surgery. If the vehicle that rear ends you has only the minimal amount of insurance coverage ($20,000.00 in Maryland), but the value of your case is in excess of the $20,000.00, you can then get the $20,000.00 from the at fault driver (known as the tortfeasor) and then make a claim for your additional damages against your uninsured motorist carrier.
Do Auto Insurance Policies in Maryland Require Uninsured Motorist Coverage?
Uninsured motorist claims and underinsured motorist claims are governed by Sections 19-509 through Section 19-511 of the Insurance Article of the Annotated Code of Maryland. Technically, a claim for uninsured motorist benefits is not a negligence claim rather it is a claim for breach of contract against the insurance company that provides the uninsured motorist benefits.
Here are a few things that you should know about Maryland Uninsured Motorist Claims:
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- All automobile insurance policies sold in the State of Maryland are required to have uninsured motorist benefits coverage in the same amount as liability coverage unless the consumer properly waives this requirement. (See Section 19-509 (e)(2)). The waivers must be done in the manner set forth in Section 19-501 of the Insurance Article of the Maryland Code.
- Uninsured Motorist Carriers have a duty to act in good faith. In our experience, Maryland Insurance Companies often do not live up to this obligation. Consumers should know that if a Maryland uninsured motorist carrier does not act in good faith, a first party bad faith claim can be against the uninsured motorist carrier with the Maryland Insurance Administration.
- Insurance carriers can only exclude uninsured motorist coverage under very narrow specified circumstances (specified by the Maryland Legislature). Those circumstances include: (i) exclusion of resident relatives/family members who are injured when in a car that is owned but not insured by the named insured or immediate family member; (ii) named insured/family members injured by a vehicle operated by an excluded driver.
- If you are buying car insurance, you will want to be sure to purchase as much uninsured motorist coverage as you can reasonably afford. This coverage will protect you and your family in the event you are injured by an uninsured motorist in an accident. At a minimum, we recommend purchasing $100,000.00 of uninsured motorist coverage.
If you can afford more than this, then you should buy more. This is good coverage to have!
How Are Uninsured Motorists Claims Settled?
Uninsured motorist claims are complicated and you should hire an attorney to assist you as soon as possible after the accident.
It is especially important to be careful when settling with the at fault driver (the tortfeasor) when you will be making an uninsured motorist claim.
The proper way to settle with a tortfeasor is set forth in Section 19-511 of the Maryland Code. Basically once the policy limits settlement offer is made, the written offer must be sent to the uninsured motorist carrier by certified mail. The UM carrier will then have 60 days to either consent to the settlement and the signing of a release, or to refuse consent to settle.
If they refuse to consent to settle, the uninsured motorist carrier must pay the amount of the proposed settlement to the injured party.
Need Help? Contact Our Legal Professionals Today
At the law offices of Goldberg Finnegan, our lawyers have extensive knowledge of the automotive insurance laws in Maryland.
If you have been involved in an accident with an uninsured driver, contact us today for help with your claim.
Your initial consultation is free and there are no upfront costs fur us to handle your case.