Maryland Court Holds that Driver Is Not Covered as a Dependent of Policy Holder

In a particularly fact-based ruling, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals ruled that a non-related person living with a policy holder was not covered as a dependent person for the purposes of an “umbrella” insurance policy. In Rigby v. Allstate Indem. Co., (Md. Ct. Spec. App. Sept. 30, 2015), the driver was using a vehicle owned by the policy holder when he struck and injured three people on the side of the road. The injured plaintiffs brought negligence claims against the driver for an amount that exceeded the amount of liability coverage on the vehicle.KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

At the time of the accident, the driver was living with the vehicle’s owner, who maintained two separate policies with the insurance company. The automobile insurance policy covered the vehicle involved in the accident for up to $500,000. The umbrella policy provided up to $5 million of coverage for negligence, and it defined “insured person” to include any dependent person in the policy holder’s care, if that person is a resident of the household. The insurance company sought a declaratory judgment from the circuit court that the driver was not covered by the umbrella policy. The circuit court found that the driver was not a dependent person covered under the policy, and the matter was appealed.

The Court of Special Appeals cited state Supreme Court cases from Kansas and Michigan to define the terms “dependent” and “in the care of” under the umbrella policy. The court went on to explain that a dependent person is “one who relies on another to provide substantial contributions, without which he would be unable to afford the reasonable necessities of life.” In Rigby, the driver was a 24-year-old adult with a full-time job who had been living with the policy holder and his wife for three years. Although they were not related, the driver testified that their relationship was like that of a parent and son. He also paid $600 in rent to the policy holder, and although it was very low for the area, it was not a nominal amount. Under these facts, the court found that the driver was not a dependent.

In determining whether the driver was “in the care of” the policy holder, the court looked to several factors and concluded that they weighed against such a finding. This included facts that the policy holder was not legally responsible for the driver, nor did he have supervisory or disciplinary responsibility over him, and the driver was an emancipated adult in good health, with a full-time job earning $26,000 per year. Accordingly, the court affirmed the lower court’s ruling that the driver was not a dependent covered under the umbrella policy.

If you have been injured in a car accident caused by a negligent driver, you may be entitled to compensation for your medical bills, lost wages, and other expenses. At Foran & Foran, our Maryland personal injury attorneys handle a variety of injury claims, including auto accidents, motorcycle accidents, truck accidents, medical malpractice, workers’ compensation, premises liability, and more. To discuss your case with one of our experienced attorneys, call (301)441-2022.

More Blog Posts:

Maryland Auto Insurance Policy Lapses Day Before Fatal Accident; Court Provides No Relief to Driver, Maryland Personal Injury Blog, published October 6, 2015

Court of Appeals of Maryland Finds Underinsured Motorist Policy Applicable in Single Vehicle Car Accident Settlement Case, Maryland Personal Injury Blog, published July 15, 2015