What is Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage in Maryland?
Many if not all states have laws that require motor vehicles to have liability insurance with differing amounts of mandated coverage. In Maryland the least amount of liability coverage is 30/60 which means that the vehicle is covered for $30,000 per individual and $60,000 per accident for all persons making a claim. Of course anyone can purchase higher amounts of coverage and we recommend doing so. In addition all Maryland vehicle policies must have Uninsured and Underinsured coverage for the same amount of coverage. Unfortunately some owners or drivers of motor vehicles fail to have insurance coverage or let their insurance coverage lapse. When an accident happens as a result of the negligence of the uninsured driver then your own Uninsured Motorist provision of your policy kicks in to cover you just as if that negligent person was covered by insurance. Keep in mind that this is a contract action against your carrier but the elements of a tort recovery are the same. You are recovering for the nature and extent of injuries, medical bills, lost wages, future medical care and bills and future lost wages, if any. And most importantly past, present and future pain and suffering from the injuries sustained.
So in essence uninsured coverage is available in two situations depending on the negligent vehicle's coverage: (1) The Uninsured motorist means the other driver is totally uninsured, and (2) The Underinsured motorist has insurance that is insufficient to cover your claim for injuries and damages.
How does Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist coverage work?
Let us assume that you are driving your automobile and are struck in an intersection by a negligent driver who failed to stop at a stop sign. You sustain serious injuries resulting in extensive medical care and bills. It is discovered that the other vehicle had no liability insurance. After proper medical care and treatment are concluded a claim is made against your own auto insurance carrier for the value of your total claim. If you have minimum coverage amounts then you have up to $30,000 in coverage amounts under your own policy. This is an Uninsured Claim against your own policy for which you pay your monthly, quarterly or semiannual premium. Everyone should review their declaration sheet for your coverage amounts and talk to your insurance agent or an attorney about the amount of coverage you actually need to protect you and your family. We recommend a minimum of $100,000/$300,000 uninsured/underinsured coverage.
Let us now assume that the other vehicle had a minimum policy of $30,000 per person and you have coverage amounts of $100,000 per person under the underinsured provision of your own policy. You have sustained serious injuries and your claim is well in excess of the $30,000 policy limits of the other vehicle. You now have a claim against the Underinsured provision of your own policy because the policy limits of $30,000 is inadequate to compensate you for your injuries. If your case is worth $100,000 and you are offered the $30,000 from the negligent driver's insurance you can recover another $70,000 from your own policy because the other driver was Underinsured.
Do I need to be in my own car or truck to be covered under my own uninsured policy?
The answer is generally no with some exceptions. If you are in a vehicle whether as a driver or passenger and the vehicle is underinsured you may turn to your own insurance policy if you have more uninsured coverage than the vehicle in which you are sitting. The purpose of the coverage and the law is to afford you the amounts of coverage that you pay for under your own policy.
Will my own insurance company voluntarily pay my claim
The answer is that even your own insurance company will seriously devalue your claim for damages until a lawsuit is filed. Once they see that you are serious about your claim then their attitude usually changes. After all insurance companies are in the business to make a profit and the less moneys paid out means more profit.
What is the statute of limitations for these claims
Since a claim against your own insurance company is a contract action, generally the time frame in which an injured person making a claim for breach of contract for failure to resolve an uninsured claim is three (3) years from the date the injured person knew or should have known that he she had a claim against his or her own insurance company for such benefits.
Do I need an attorney to represent me in these type of claims?
Uninsured and underinsured claims are complex and create a variety of pitfalls for the unwary person. Claims have to be submitted in a specific order and you cannot settle with one insurance carrier and not the other due to specific requirements under the law. This office has resolved or tried many uninsured and underinsured claims on behalf of injured persons in a variety of situations. So if you need a personal injury attorney for an uninsured or underinsured claim here in the Laurel/Bowie, Clinton, Ft. Washington, Greenbelt, College Park,Annapolis area, or on the Eastern shore towns of Salisbury, Easton, Denton, Ocean Pines, Berlin, or Ocean City, we have over 34 years of experience in the area of personal injury.