Compelling the Defendant’s Address in Auto Accident Cases

Last week, I received a call from an insurance company (Progressive) asking how many occupants were in our clients’ vehicle in a car accident case our lawyers are handling. Sadly, it appears someone saw our clients get in what was a serious accident, noted the vehicle information, and then pretended that they were involved in the accident. Progressive called me and asked if I can get an affidavit from my clients stating that this person was not in the vehicle. I appreciated where the adjuster/investigator was coming from because he wanted to close his file, but I did not see how it helped my client to provide an affidavit, and I could conjure up scenarios where it would not be helpful to me to help them.

I felt knocked off balance for a second after denying Progressive’s request, losing my moral high ground. But then I quickly asked the adjuster if Progressive will accept service sometimes as I was getting ready to file or if they would require me to spend needless money and jump through the hoops of hiring a process server to serve the defendants individually. Instantly, the order of the moral universe was restored. Wherever you are at this moment, you probably felt a jolt of unknown origin. The lesson, as always: if your game plan is never getting a quarter, don’t ask for one.
Another needless hoop insurance companies make you jump through in an auto accident case in Maryland is getting accurate identifying information for the defendant driver. Once settlement negotiations have failed, the next step is to file a Complaint. But to effectuate service of process, you need the defendant’s address. It is not uncommon for our only information regarding the defendant driver to be a name and insurance information. If his name is Joe Brown or Steve Smith, it can be difficult in car accidents where there is no filed police report, the defendant has moved since the accident or the defendant gave a false address.

This could all be made easier if the insurance companies will cooperate. But they will rarely (read: never in auto accident cases) voluntarily provide their insured’s information for service.

Luckily, in Maryland, the Annotated Code of Maryland provides the Maryland accident lawyer a means to get this information fairly quickly and cheaply. Maryland Courts & Judicial Proceedings Code Ann. § 6-311 requires a self-insurer or liability carrier to disclose the defendant driver’s “last known home and business addresses, if known” once the Plaintiff files the proper certification. That section requires a Plaintiff to file a certification with the clerk of the court where the action is filed and serve it on the insurer or self-insurance plan that provides benefits to the defendant driver. The certification must: 1) state that the defendant had applicable insurance coverage at the time the accident occurred; 2) set forth the reasonable efforts made, in good faith, to locate the defendant; and 3) state that the defendant is evading service, or the whereabouts of the defendant are unknown to the plaintiff.

Once a certification conforming to these requirements is filed and served on the insurer or person who has the self-insurance plan, they must disclose to the plaintiff the last known address information for the defendant driver.

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