Underinsured/Uninsured drivers and the concept of Contributory Negligence
*Please be advised that effective October 1, 2017, the law, as it is explained in our blog post below will change. Prior law was that if you got into a car accident that was not your fault, and exhausted the other party’s policy limits, you would turn to your own policy for underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage. You could only recover UIM benefits to the extent that your coverage exceeded the other driver’s coverage; in other words: you could not “stack” the coverage. However, the new legislation taking effect on October 1, 2017 means these policies can stack. For example, under the old law, $50k in primary coverage + $50k in UIM coverage = $50k; but with the new law, $50k primary + $50k UIM = $100k
This edition of our blog addresses two issues related to car accidents: Underinsured/Uninsured drivers and Maryland’s policy of Contributory Negligence.
Continuing the scenario from our last blog post: Someone wasn’t paying attention, they ran a red light and your bad luck put you in the intersection right in their path. Your family was in the car with you. You find yourself injured and at the hospital. You’re worried, hurt, maybe medicated – yet there are lots of people asking lots of questions that need answers. The hospital wants billing information, the police want a statement and insurance adjusters want details. There are lots of forms. It’s normal to be stressed about all this but then, even while lying in the hospital, everyone eventually has the same questions – “How am I going to pay for all of this? What if I miss work? Will the hospital wait to get paid until other driver’s insurance company pays me?” (The real world answer is no, they are more likely to send you to collection possibly damaging your credit). “How’s the car going to get fixed? Do I get a rental while it’s in the shop?” These are the “typical” questions people have and unless you are in the insurance industry, you probably can’t answer them. So your next question is… “Do I need a lawyer?”
This blog edition adds two more important questions which are fundamental to your claim: “Does the other driver have any or adequate car insurance?” and “Was I even partially at fault?”
Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Coverage
If the answer to the first question is “No” then you may be eligible to recover under coverage in your own auto insurance policy. In Maryland, all auto policies are required to carry a minimum amount of uninsured motorist (UM) or underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage. UM/UIM is insurance that provides coverage for people who have been in an accident with an at-fault driver who has no auto insurance or a policy with limits that are too low to cover your damages, or in the case of a phantom driver or hit and run collision.
The only catch is that in order to provide benefits your UM/UIM coverage has to be greater than the coverage of the driver that hit you. It’s most easily illustrated by these scenarios:
- The at-fault driver has no car insurance and you have $30,000 in UM coverage – there are up to $30,000 in benefits available to you.
- The at-fault driver has $30,000 in coverage and your UIM policy has $30,000 in coverage – no UIM benefits are available.
- The at at-fault driver has $30,000 in coverage and your UIM policy has $50,000 in coverage – there are $20,000 in UIM benefits available to you.
It’s also important to note that there may be time limits to make your UM/UIM claims. So it’s important to get advice as quickly as possible after learning the other driver has too little insurance. Contacting a Personal Injury Attorney who has experience handling complex insurance matters will provided you with the best chance for a positive outcome.
Contributory Negligence – Why Maryland is one of the most difficult jurisdictions for Plaintiffs
Maryland is one of only five “contributory negligence” jurisdictions in the country. Under this doctrine if you contributed to your accident in any way then you have no right to make a claim for damages or injuries against the other driver or the UM/UIM coverage in your own policy. This is true even if the other driver is 99 percent at fault. This is a tremendous advantage for insurance carriers and provides them a defense in Maryland that they wouldn’t have in most other jurisdictions.
The cause of the accident is often in dispute in these cases. Many factors come into play – driver negligence, traffic conditions, weather, distractions, mechanical defects and vehicle maintenance are typical considerations. It’s rare that all of information about these factors is known to both sides. The attorneys who represent the insurance companies are often able to raise the prospect that you contributed to the accident by filling in the blanks with their “theory” of how the accident occurred. It’s important that you discuss these factors with your lawyer in detail so that he or she is best prepared to deal with the defense’s theory of the case.
The personal injury attorneys at Ferrante & Dill have years of experience. In the past Partner Nick Ferrante has worked for many of the major insurance companies and represented well known national retailers and trucking companies defending these types of claims. But now we work exclusively on the side of people who are injured – helping them to get compensated for the losses they have incurred as a result of someone else’s negligence. If you or someone you care about has been hurt please call the Personal Injury Attorneys at Ferrante & Dill as soon as possible to set up your free initial consultation. You can reach us by phone at (410) 535-6100, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more about our firm visit us on the web at www.ferrantedill.com