Maryland Uninsured / Underinsured Motorist Coverage: What Is It and Why Do I Want It?
Many lawyers forget that an auto accident might be a clients first involvement with the legal system or insurance companies. If you find yourself as the victim of an automobile accident, you may have any number of questions. You may also be shocked about the things that you learn. One thing that you might learn is that many drivers have NO insurance or they have inadequate insurance for your claim. If you are struck by a car with no insurance, then you would likely have an uninsured motorist claim. While that does not mean that you cannot sue the driver of the other car, it does mean that they will not have an automobile insurer available to step in and settle your claim or satisfy any judgment. So, under that scenario, a common practice is to bring a claim against your own automobile insurer for uninsured motorist benefits. If you are resident of Maryland, you should have a minimum of $30K in uninsured motorist benefits. You will want to review your policy and declarations page so that you know the amount of insurance coverage available to you. Please note that the amount of your insurance coverage does not necessarily dictate the value of your claim. For example, if you have $300K in insurance coverage, but you sustained very minor injuries in the accident, then your claim may be worth significantly less than $300K.
There are situations where an accident victim’s vehicle is struck by an underinsured motorist. That basically means that the negligent driver has insurance, but not enough for the nature of your claim. Historically, your insurance carrier would get to offset your underinsured motorist coverage by the amount received from the negligent driver. So, if the negligent driver maintained $30K in insurance coverage and you maintained more than that in underinsured motorist coverage, then your insurance carrier would be permitted to offset its policy limits by the amount received from the negligent driver’s insurance company (i.e., $30K). While these policies still exist, insurers in Maryland are required to offer enhanced uninsured motorist coverage wherein one does not have to offset the negligent driver’s policy limits with their owner insurance carrier’s limits. Instead, an injury victim is permitted to stack the policies. So, for example, if the negligent driver pays his or her policy limits of $30K to you and you have $100K in enhanced underinsured motorist coverage, then your maximum recovery in terms of insurance coverage would be $130K. Please note that insurers in Maryland must offer enhanced underinsured motorist coverage. You do not have to buy it, but it is certainly something to consider, if it is feasible. If you do not buy it, then you will have the traditional underinsured motorist coverage. Please note that there are various procedural hurdles that one must follow when properly settling an underinsured motorist coverage – that is for another blog post!
If you feel overwhelmed by insurance jargon and the law, you are not alone. There are car accident attorneys, such as the ones at Henderson Law, that are ready, willing, and able to assist you with your uninsured/underinsured motorist claim. Please feel free to call today for a free consultation.