Uninsured motorist coverage (UM) is an essential component of auto insurance that protects you when the at-fault driver who caused you injury or property either has no insurance or carries insufficient coverage to compensate for the damages sustained.
All of us with car insurance in Maryland have uninsured motorist coverage. It is mandatory. This page explains what you need to know if you are bringing an uninsured motorist claim in Maryland.
Everyone with Maryland Car Insurance Has Coverage
If you have auto insurance, you have uninsured motorist coverage. Uninsured motorist coverage in Maryland protects you, your family members, and passengers in your vehicle in the event of an accident caused by an uninsured driver, a hit-and-run driver, or a driver with insufficient insurance to cover your damages (Md. Code Ann., Insurance § 19-509). The coverage applies to both bodily injury and property damage. In addition to the mandatory UM/UIM coverage, policyholders in Maryland may also opt for enhanced underinsured motorist coverage (EUIM), which provides additional protection in case of an accident involving an underinsured motorist (Md. Code Ann., Insurance § 19-509.1).
Underinsured v. Uninsured Motorist Coverage
Uninsured and underinsured claims are different:
- Uninsured Motorist Claims: This type of claim arises when the at-fault driver lacks any auto insurance coverage whatsoever. In such cases, the victim’s own insurance policy’s uninsured motorist (UM) coverage will step in to provide compensation for damages, such as medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering up to your coverage limits.
- Underinsured Motorist Claims: In this situation, the at-fault driver possesses auto insurance, but their liability coverage limits are insufficient to cover the full extent of the victim’s damages. Underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage comes into play in these scenarios, allowing the victim to seek additional compensation from their own policy to cover the difference between the at-fault driver’s policy limits and the total damages sustained. Some Marylanders have coverage that allows the uninsured motorist coverage to stack on top of the at-fault driver’s coverage. Maryland law requires insurance companies to offer this coverage. But few of us have stacking coverage because most people do not understand why it is important until after they are insured in a care accident. There was a push in 2023 to make stacking mandatory but it did not pass the Maryland legislature.
Minimum Coverage Limits
Maryland law requires every auto insurance policy to include a minimum amount of uninsured motorist coverage. In 2023, the minimum coverage limits are $30,000 per person and $60,000 per accident for bodily injury, and $15,000 for property damage (Md. Code Ann., Insurance § 19-509(c)(1)). However, these limits may change, so it is essential to verify the current requirements with your insurance agent or the Maryland Insurance Administration.
You can get whatever uninsured motorist coverage you want. But almost all of us have uninsured motorist coveage that mirrors our liability coverage. The most common coverage limit our Maryalnd uninsured motorist lawyers see is $100,000 per person and $300,000 per accident for bodily injury. Is that enough coverage? It really is not.
Filing a Maryland Uninsured Motorist Claim
If you are involved in an accident with an uninsured or underinsured motorist, you would file a claim with your own insurance company under your UM/UIM coverage. Your insurance company will investigate the claim and, if deemed valid, provide compensation for your damages up to the limits of your policy (Md. Code Ann., Insurance § 19-511). In situations where multiple parties are involved in the accident, Maryland follows a “pro rata” approach to allocate the available UM/UIM coverage among the injured parties (Md. Code Ann., Insurance § 19-513).
Stacking Policies Uncommon in Maryland
Maryland allows policyholders to “stack” their UM/UIM coverage. Stacking is the process of combining the UM/UIM coverage from multiple vehicles insured under the same policy or separate policies to increase the available coverage in the event of an accident (Md. Code Ann., Insurance § 19-514). For example, if you have two vehicles with $50,000 UM/UIM coverage each, you could stack the coverage to have a total of $100,000 available in case of an accident with an uninsured or underinsured motorist.
Again, few Maryland policies have stacking coverage. So what you are left with is the difference between the at-fault policy and your policy. In other words, your own policy limits typically serves as your damages cap.
- An example of how most Maryland underinsured motorist policies work where there is not policy stacking
Consent to Settle
If you are involved in an accident with an underinsured motorist and their insurance company offers a settlement, you must obtain your own insurance company’s consent before accepting the settlement (Md. Code Ann., Insurance § 19-511(e)). This requirement ensures that your insurance company has the opportunity to protect its interests and provide you with the necessary compensation under your UM/UIM coverage.
Relevant Maryland Uninsured Motorist Statutes
The primary statutes governing uninsured motorist coverage in Maryland are found in the Maryland Code, Insurance Article. Key sections include:
Md. Code Ann., Insurance § 19-509: Outlines the mandatory UM/UIM coverage requirements and the minimum coverage limits.
Quick summary of § 19-509:
(a) “Uninsured motor vehicle” refers to a vehicle that:
- Has caused bodily injury or death to an insured person, and
- Has insufficient insurance coverage for the injury or death, or the coverage has been reduced due to payments made to other claimants from the same incident.
(b) Uninsured motorist coverage is not required for vehicles that:
- Are not driven on highways and not subject to registration, or
- Are exempt from registration, or
- Have opted for enhanced underinsured motorist coverage instead.
(c) Auto insurance policies must include coverage for damages due to:
- Injuries caused by uninsured motor vehicles, and
- Deaths caused by uninsured motor vehicles, for surviving relatives.
(d) The coverage must follow the guidelines set by the Insurance Commissioner.
(e) Minimum coverage should:
- Meet the requirements set by Maryland law, and
- Not exceed the amount of liability coverage in the policy.
(f) Insurers can exclude coverage for:
- Named insured or family members injured by their own uninsured vehicles, and
- People who have other applicable insurance coverage.
(g) Insurer’s liability is limited to the coverage amount minus payments made by other liable parties.
(h) Uninsured motorist coverage can be included in policies that provide coverage in excess of other valid insurance. This coverage is primary to any recovery from the Maryland Automobile Insurance Fund.
(i) Policies providing protection against damages caused by uninsured vehicles also cover damages caused by vehicles insured by insolvent or unable-to-pay insurers.
(j) Provisions requiring binding arbitration for disputes about uninsured motorist coverage are prohibited and have no legal effect.
Md. Code Ann., Insurance § 19-509.1: Describes the optional enhanced underinsured motorist coverage (EUIM) available to policyholders in Maryland.
Quick Summary of § 19-509.1:
This is what we talked about earlier. This new law introduced enhanced underinsured motorist (EUIM) coverage to Maryland consumers. EUIM coverage allows insured individuals to recover damages from their own insurance company when the at-fault driver’s insurance coverage is insufficient. Insured individuals can choose EUIM coverage instead of the standard uninsured motorist coverage. The EUIM coverage should at least equal the amount of liability coverage provided under the policy. The policy should also include provisions for reducing the insurer’s liability by any amounts paid by or on behalf of the at-fault driver. This was touted as big win for victims when the law was passed 5 years ago… but not one has the coverage. Our law firm has only had a few cases where we have had EUIM coverage.
Md. Code Ann., Insurance § 19-511: Explains the procedures for filing a UM/UIM claim and obtaining consent to settle from your insurance company.
Quick Summary of § 19-513: This section of the Maryland Insurance Code outlines the procedure for making uninsured motorist (UM) and underinsured motorist (UIM) claims. It requires the insured individual to notify their insurance company of a potential UM or UIM claim promptly. The insured individual must obtain the insurer’s written consent before settling any claim with the liable party or their insurer. Failure to obtain this consent may result in a forfeiture of the UM or UIM coverage. Additionally, the insured individual’s insurance company has a right to subrogation, meaning they can recover the amount paid in UM or UIM claims from the at-fault party or their insurer. This statute is a tricky to manage and you want to be careful accepting liability limits – or any settlement – from the at-fault driver’s insurance company if you want to bring an underinsurance claim.
Key Maryland Uninsured Motorist Appellate Opinions
- Woznicki v. GEICO: The Maryland Supreme Court reaffirmed the “matching limits rule” we talked about above. The rule mandates that uninsured motorist (UM) coverage limits must equal the insured’s liability coverage limits, unless the insured specifically chooses lower UM coverage. So § 19-509(e) requires UM coverage limits to match the insured’s liability coverage limits, unless a lower amount is chosen in writing by the insured (which is rare).
- Kendall v. Nationwide Insurance Company: Explains the extremely unfair dollar for dollar workers’ compensation setoff
- State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co. v. DeHaan: What contitutes use of a vehicle for uninsured motorist claims
Statute of Limitations in Uninsured Motorist Claims in Maryland
In Maryland, there is a statute of limitations for filing a lawsuit related to a motor vehicle accident. For personal injury claims, you have three years from the date of the accident to file a lawsuit (Md. Code Ann., Cts. & Jud. Proc. § 5-101). For property damage claims, the statute of limitations is also three years from the date of the accident (Md. Code Ann., Cts. & Jud. Proc. § 5-105). It is crucial to be aware of these deadlines to ensure your right to compensation is preserved.
An uninsured motorist claim is a breach of contract claim at core. So could the insurance companies breach of the contract – i.e., the failure to make the payment to compensate you for your losses – come after the accident date. Yes. But you do not want to bank on that.
In conclusion, uninsured motorist coverage in Maryland serves as a crucial protection for drivers and their families in the event of an accident with an uninsured, underinsured, or hit-and-run driver. Understanding how this coverage works and the associated legal requirements can help you make informed decisions about your auto insurance policy and ensure you receive the compensation you deserve in case of an accident.
Settlements and Verdicts in UIM Cases
Below are summaries of verdicts and reported settlements from Maryland cases in which claims were made under UIM coverage. These cases fall into 2 main categories. The first are underinsured cases in which the plaintiff’s damages exceed the policy limits of the at-fault driver so they are pursing excess damages under their UIM coverage. The second category includes uninsured cases where the plaintiff was injured and the at-fault driver either has not insurance or fled the scene and cannot be identified.
$62,642 Settlement (Baltimore County 2023): The plaintiff in this case was riding as a passenger in his friend’s car when another vehicle failed to yield and turned in front them while exiting a parking lot. The at-fault driver had not insurance. The plaintiff received a policy limits settlement of $30,000 from his friend’s insurer company and then sought additional damages under the UIM coverage of his own auto insurance policy with State Farm. State farm refused his demand so he filed suit and the case eventually settled.
$14,000 Verdict (Baltimore City 2022): The plaintiff was injured when her vehicle was struck by a driver who had no insurance. The plaintiff sought UIM benefits under a policy issued by the Maryland Automobile Insurance Fund (MAIF). The Court found in favor of the plaintiff and ordered MAIF to pay $14,000 to the plaintiff.
$40,000 Settlement (Baltimore City 2022): The plaintiff had UIM coverage through the defendant, Allstate Insurance Company. While she was driving near an intersection an uninsured vehicle that was fleeing from the police struck the plaintiff and caused significant injuries including cervicalgia and thoracic and lumbar sprain/strains. Allstate contested the extent of her alleged injuries.
$1,282,000 Verdict (Baltimore County 2022): The plaintiff was a passenger in a vehicle driven by her husband when they were rear-ended on the interstate by a vehicle driven by an underinsured motorist. The plaintiff sought UIM benefits from State Farm but her claim was denied so she filed suit. State Farm contested the cause and extent of the damages, but a jury in Baltimore County awarded $1.2 million.
$100,000 Verdict (Baltimore City 2022): The plaintiff was stopped at an intersection when she was rear-ended by a vehicle driven by a motorist who left the scene without providing any identifying information. The plaintiff filed a claim for uninsured motorist benefits under her automobile policy with State Farm. The plaintiff claimed she suffered a left shoulder SLAP lesion, a right hip sprain/strain, left lateral epicondylitis, and mild left ulnar neuropathy. State Farm denied her claim but a jury in Baltimore City awarded $100,000.
$12,300 Settlement (Baltimore City 2021): The plaintiff was rear-ended by a tractor-trailer while stopped at an intersection. The tractor-trailer fled the scene and was never identified. The plaintiff sought uninsured motorist benefits under her insurance policy with Liberty Mutual. Her claim was initially denied by later settled for $12,300.
$29,457 Verdict (Baltimore City 2021): The plaintiff was backing his vehicle out of his driveway when he was rear-ended by a vehicle driven by an unknown driver who fled the scene. The plaintiff had UIM coverage through Liberty Mutual and he sought benefits under that policy. Liberty Mutual denied the claim and the case eventually went to trial.
$50,000 Settlement (Baltimore City 2021): The plaintiff claimed to suffer facial lacerations, right shoulder strain, bilateral wrist sprains, and cervical sprain when he was sideswiped and knocked to the ground by an unidentified taxicab while he crossed the street as a pedestrian outside of a train station. The plaintiff filed an uninsured motorist claim against his insurance company, defendant CSAA General, for his alleged injuries.
$225,000 Verdict (Baltimore City 2021): The plaintiff sought UIM benefits from her insurance company, State Farm, after she allegedly suffered post-traumatic headaches and a permanent neck injury, when her parked vehicle was impacted by an unknown driver who fled the scene.
Hire a Maryland Uninsured Motorist Lawyer
Our law firm has a history of maximizing the settlement amount or jury payouts in uninsured motorist claims. If you or a loved one were injured in a car accident, call us today at 800-553-8082 or talk to us about your case online.