Court of Appeals of Maryland Finds Underinsured Motorist Policy Applicable in Single Vehicle Car Accident Settlement Case

crash-car-869866-mThe Court of Appeals of Maryland recently had before it an appeal stemming from a single-vehicle car accident. In the case, Brethren Mutual Ins. v. Buckley, 86 A. 3d 665 (2014), the plaintiff was a front-seat passenger in a vehicle driven by her boyfriend that was involved in an accident, causing the plaintiff to suffer a personal injury.

The driver of the vehicle had an insurance policy with a limitation of $100,000 worth of coverage. Even though the plaintiff had medical bills in excess of $200,000, she agreed to settle the claim with the driver’s insurance, and she signed a release of claims related to that acceptance. She then attempted to pursue coverage for the remainder of her expenses under her uninsured/underinsured motorist (“UM”) policy with her insurance provider, Brethren.

Brethren attempted to enforce the release on the grounds that, since all parties had been released in regards to the claim, that included the company. The trial court agreed with Brethren and granted its motion for summary judgment on the basis of the terms of the release.

On appeal, the Court of Special Appeals found that the release did not serve to defeat the plaintiff’s claim, since Maryland statutory law regarding these kinds of cases was clearly on point. The relevant section states that “the injured person may accept the liability insurer’s settlement offer and execute releases in favor of the liability insurer and its insured without prejudice to any claim the injured person may have against the uninsured motorist insurer.”

The Court of Appeals found that, while the general release stated that it released all known claims against all persons or entities, the prior case law showed that these types of releases were upheld on the basis that there was no conflicting statutory law that prevented the language from being construed as written. Additionally, in tandem with this existing statutory law, the Court found that releases are contracts that should be interpreted according to the intent of the parties.

The purpose of the uninsured motorist statute, under Maryland law, is to ensure that victims of motor vehicle accidents are adequately compensated for their injuries. This public policy consideration, read in conjunction with the literal statement that general releases do not prevent uninsured motorist claims, led the Court of Appeals to agree with the interpretation of the Court of Special Appeals, and thus the Court found that the general release did not serve to defeat coverage under the uninsured motorist policy.

If you have been injured in a car accident due to another driver’s negligence, you may be entitled to compensation for your medical bills, lost wages, and other expenses.  Our Maryland personal injury attorneys handle a variety of injury claims, including auto accidents, motorcycle accidents, truck accidents, medical malpractice, workers’ compensation,premises liability, catastrophic accidents, and products liability.  When we are your personal injury lawyers, we are committed to the pursuit of excellence in all areas of our legal representation. Contact us today to discuss your case at (301)441-2022.

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Ski accident leads to settlement for beginner student, Maryland Personal Injury Blog, published June 25, 2010