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Uninsured Menace: Dealing With Insurance And Uninsured Motorists In Maryland

Woman holding a clipboard with insurance document, dealing with insurance and uninsured motorists in Maryland - The Yolles Legal GroupWhile car insurance is a legal obligation in Maryland, it is difficult to enforce. As a result, every year, drivers and pedestrians find themselves in accidents they cannot afford, with drivers whose insurance is either non-existent or insufficient. This article aims to help Maryland residents understand their options and plan ahead for such situations, notably by:

  • Understanding the problems caused by uninsured drivers in Maryland
  • Analyzing the advantages of Uninsured or Underinsured Motorist Insurance (UM/UIM) coverage
  • Discussing how drivers end up on Maryland roads without sufficient or any insurance

What Happens If You’re Hit By An Uninsured Or Underinsured Motorist And You Do Not Have UM/UIM Coverage In Maryland?

If you are hit by an uninsured or underinsured motorist and you don’t have UM/UIM coverage in Maryland, there is a fund that could be available to you through the state of Maryland. However, if you’ve had the opportunity to to have UM/UIM coverage and you waived it, you would not be eligible for that fund.

In order to be eligible for that fund, you would need to not have a car registered to you or have had the opportunity to have insured yourself or be insured under a policy that waived UM/UIM coverage. As a result, this fund is almost exclusively available to Maryland residents who do not drive, or pedestrians, bicyclists, and other individuals who have never needed car insurance.

Can I Sue The Uninsured Motorist For The Damages They Caused In Court?

Even if you don’t have the necessary coverage, you can still pursue a claim against the person who hit your or caused your injuries. Whether or not you’re able to recover is contingent on that individual’s ability to pay.

This is why it is strongly recommended that each motorist has uninsured or underinsured coverage through their own insurance company.

What Is Uninsured Or Uninsured Motorist Coverage?

The terms uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage are somewhat similar and are often used interchangeably, but there is a subtle difference between them.

Uninsured motorist (UM) coverage is insurance that you buy for yourself in the event you are involved in an accident with somebody who doesn’t have any insurance. Therefore, the other party was uninsured.

Underinsured motorist coverage (UIM), applies if you are involved in an accident and the other person has some, but does not have enough, coverage. If your policy has limits greater than the at-fault driver’s coverage, it is available to supplement the available coverage, up to your own policy limit.

Because of Maryland’s laws, having UM/UIM is highly recommended, so it is important to understand how they work.

How Does Uninsured Or Underinsured Motorist Coverage Work In Maryland? What Does It Typically Cover?

Uninsured Motorist and Underinsured Motorist (UM/UIM) coverage is contractual, and the precise details of coverage and policy limits will thus vary from contract to contract. It is something that you buy for yourself under your own policy with your own insurance company.

If you are then involved in an accident with somebody that does not have any insurance, you are able to make a claim against your own insurance company and they will cover damages. Your own insurance company steps into the place of the other driver’s insurance. In the case of an underinsured driver, it gets slightly more complicated.

First, you make a claim against the insurance company of the person at fault. They will then send an offer, including their policy limits, which you can then take back to your own carrier and show that your claim is worth more than what the other’s policy can afford. You then make a claim for what you need in excess of those policy limits with your own insurance company.

How Do I Access My Underinsured Motorist Coverage Benefits?

Accessing these benefits is never as simple as merely asking for them. There are plenty of statutory requirements with which you must first comply.

First, you need to let your carrier know by certified mail that you’ve received a policy limits offer. That policy limits offer also has to be in writing.

Then, your insurance carrier has a window of 60 days from the date that they have received your certified mail to decide whether you can accept the policy limits from the other driver’s insurance (the tortfeasor) and sign a release.

If they do not give you permission to do that, then your own carrier has to tender the policy limits, but they retain their rights to go after the tortfeasor if they pay out anything additional.

What Are The Minimum Insurance Requirements In Maryland For An Uninsured Or Underinsured Motorist?

In Maryland, insurance carriers have to provide the legal minimum policy limit of at least $30,000 per person or $60,000 per occurrence and $15,000 in property damage. Your carrier has to offer you at least those same limits and you cannot obtain limits higher for yourself than you have on your policy for liability.

This means you cannot have minimal limits when you cause injury to someone else while having higher limits for yourself if someone causes harm to you. In other words, liability limits (what your insurance will pay out to others) have to be at least equal to or greater than your limits (what they will pay to you).

You can, however, have your limits be less than your liability limits, if you really want. All of this, of course, applies to other drivers as well, which is how you can end up with some with quite low liability limits, which may be insufficient to cover the damages and harm they caused you.

This is one reason why Maryland created the enhanced underinsured motorist coverage in 2018.

What Is The Enhanced Underinsured Motorist Coverage Policy In Maryland And How Does It Work?

Under the old rules, Underinsured Motorist coverage (UIM) would simply supplement the difference between the at-fault driver’s policy and your own UIM limits.

For example, consider a case in which the other driver had the minimum $30,000 policy, and you had a $100,000 UIM policy. Both of you sustained significant injuries. The tortfeasor’s policy would pay the first $30,000 and then your carrier would be responsible for the next $70,000 for a total of $100,000.

However, under the enhanced UIM laws, you now can essentially stack the policies. If you had the injuries that required it, you would be able to claim $30,000 of coverage from the tortfeasor and an additional $100,000 from your own policy for total coverage of $130,000.

Be careful, though. You have to affirmatively elect to have the enhanced UIM coverage, assuming you even have UIM or UM coverage in the first place. In Maryland, it is not automatic.

Why Do So Many Maryland Drivers Have Insufficient Uninsured Or Underinsured Motorist Coverage?

Unfortunately, under current Maryland insurance rules, you can also have lower UM/UIM limits than your own liability limits, and you can even waive UM coverage completely. Worse still, many Maryland drivers are ending up waiving their uninsured motorist coverage without even realizing what they are giving up or its importance.

When buying insurance online you might easily select an option that lowers your insurance without carefully reading why. Or, even more horrifying, the default setting on the site may be to offer the lowest possible limits and waive certain benefits to seemingly offer amazing rates. The premiums come down online and end up being significantly lower while people do not realize that they are waiving crucial benefits until it is too late.

What, If Any, Is The Solution To Maryland’s Uninsured Or Underinsured Motorist Insurance Problems?

First and foremost, people ought to know what they are paying for and, more importantly, what they are giving up by not paying for it. After all, in Maryland you don’t just give up the right to uninsured motorist coverage when you refuse it, you also give up your right to state assistance and coverage if you get hit by an uninsured driver.

Unfortunately, that information and understanding are not always easy to come by, even an article like this cannot cover everything. Instead, you should always seek out and consult an expert.

While a real-life (not online) insurance agent will surely understand and be able to explain your choices, their interest is still in getting you to make a purchase. A seasoned personal injury attorney, on the other hand, can explain first-hand the consequences of choosing different policies, allowing you to make an informed decision.

Everyone wants lower premiums, but not all policies and coverages are the same. We have gotten used to buying insurance like any other product based on price alone. When we buy most products online, we check reviews to confirm whether it is a quality product or not, but that is not happening with insurance.

It is vital to investigate what you are required in Maryland to have in terms of insurance and to understand what you are buying. You are spending money on it and you should know what you’re getting, and what you are turning down. By the time most people find out what their insurance really covers, it is too late.

For more information on Uninsured & Underinsured Motorist Coverage, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (301) 670-0443 today.

The Yolles Legal Group

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(301) 670-0443

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