Articles Posted in Insurance Companies

After a car accident, a claim for medical expenses and other damages is typically submitted to the insurance company.  If the insurance company delays or refuses to pay the claim, however, accident victims may be unsure of their legal recourse.  Many people choose to hire a Maryland car accident attorney to file an insurance claim on their behalf and represent them in any subsequent legal action.  A lack of legal knowledge and training could be detrimental in bringing a lawsuit against a big insurance company.skeletons

In a June 12, 2018 case, the plaintiff represented himself in a lawsuit against his insurance company to recover medical bills, lost wages, and other damages.  The plaintiff in the case had been involved in a motor vehicle accident with an uninsured motorist.  The plaintiff’s insurance company paid him the $2,500 policy limit of his personal injury protection benefits as a result of the accident.  Thereafter, the plaintiff sought additional coverage pursuant to his uninsured motorist policy for medical expenses he incurred approximately six months after the accident to treat whiplash.  The insurance company rejected the claim, and the plaintiff filed a lawsuit with the Maryland circuit court.

The plaintiff’s bad faith claim and claim for punitive damages were dismissed by the court, and the matter went to trial on the breach of contract claim.  At trial, the plaintiff attempted to introduce his medical records and bills without expert testimony.  The court sustained the insurance company’s objection, ruling that the plaintiff could not testify as to the medical opinions, diagnoses, or amount of the bills.  Consequently, and due to the lack of expert testimony, the court granted the insurance company’s motion for judgment, concluding that the plaintiff had failed to prove his claim that the insurance company had breached their contract.  The plaintiff then appealed to the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland.

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It is important to be aware of changes in Maryland motor vehicle insurance laws that may affect your coverage with your automobile insurer.  A January 31, 2018 Maryland car accident case before the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland illustrates the difficulties that may arise if coverage expectations are not met.

In the case, the plaintiff brought suit against her own insurance company for uninsured motorist (UM) benefits after she was involved in a car accident with an uninsured driver and suffered injuries.  The insurance company denied her claim, arguing that her UM coverage was limited to $75,000, despite a $300,000 liability limit on her policy.Legal News Gavel

Under Maryland’s motor vehicle insurance laws, unless waived, the amount of UM coverage provided under a car insurance policy must equal the amount of liability coverage provided under the policy. The statute requiring equal coverage was effective only for motor vehicle insurance policies issued or delivered on or after October 1, 1992.  To waive equality coverage, the first named insured must sign a statement in writing to that effect.

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Disagreements between victims and an insurance company regarding coverage for a car accident are common.  In some instances, legal action is taken to address the dispute.  In a January 8, 2018 case, the plaintiffs brought suit against their insurance company for denying their claim.  After the trial court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, the insurance company appealed to the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland.Legal News Gavel

The plaintiffs in the case owned two vehicles, which were insured by two different insurance companies.  One car was insured by the defendant with uninsured/underinsured limits of $100,000.  Their van was insured by a different company under a policy with uninsured/underinsured limits of $50,000.

The plaintiffs were driving the van when another car collided with them.  The other driver was determined to be at fault for the accident.  Accordingly, the driver’s insurance company settled with the plaintiffs for the full amount of the driver’s policy limit of $50,000.  The plaintiffs then filed a uninsured/underinsured claim under their policy with the defendant on their other car, seeking coverage in excess of the $50,000 settlement.  The defendant denied the plaintiffs’ claim for uninsured/underinsured coverage, based on the owned-but-otherwise-insured exclusion.

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With the state’s abundance of older buildings and housing structures, many Maryland residents have suffered from exposure to lead-based paint. Some Maryland lead paint victims have pursued a negligence claim against their landlords and property owners to recover compensation for their injuries. A December 18, 2017 decision by the Court of Appeals of Maryland is relevant to consider when bringing a claim arising out of lead exposure, particularly against out-of-state insurance companies and property owners.Legal News Gavel

The matter was brought before the Maryland court by the U.S. District Court, before which was pending a lead paint case. The District Court sought an answer to the question of whether the pollution exclusion contained in the defendant’s Georgia insurance policy, which excluded coverage for bodily injuries resulting from the ingestion of lead-based paint, violated Maryland public policy.

The plaintiffs in the case had been exposed to lead-based paint at a property owned by the defendant in Maryland. The plaintiffs brought suit against the defendant and the defendant’s insurance company, claiming that the insurance company was obligated to indemnify the defendant. The insurance company contended that it was under no such obligation, since the defendant’s general liability insurance policy, which was purchased in Georgia, did not cover injuries resulting from pollutants such as lead-based paint. The plaintiffs argued that the exclusion, although valid under Georgia law, was against Maryland’s public policy and could not be enforced in the state.

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Insurance coverage can be crucial if substantial damages are awarded in a personal injury claim. In some instances, the plaintiff must undergo another court battle against the defendant’s insurance company to obtain a judgment. Guidance from an experienced Maryland premises liability attorney is particularly beneficial in cases involving insurance firms, as demonstrated in a July 27, 2017 case.Legal News Gavel

The plaintiff in the case had visited a pub to watch a basketball game. As he was opening the door to exit the pub, he was struck by a bullet. The shooter was neither apprehended nor identified. The pub and the plaintiff reached a consent judgment agreement, in which the pub admitted negligence and agreed to a settlement of $100,000 for medical expenses and noneconomic damages. Thereafter, the plaintiff made a demand on the pub’s insurance company for payment of the settlement, which was denied. The plaintiff then filed an action for breach of contract against the insurance company. The trial court ruled in favor of the plaintiff and awarded damages in the amount of $100,000. The insurance company appealed the decision to the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland.

The policy at issue contained an provision that excluded coverage for bodily injuries arising out of assault and battery. The primary issue for the court, therefore, was whether or not the shooting incident constituted a battery under the policy exclusion. The appeals court noted that there was no evidence regarding the identity of the shooter or whether the shooting was intentional or accidental. The absence of such evidence also raised the question of whether the intent of the shooter must be established to distinguish the injury from one that arises out of an accident. The court answered the question affirmatively, explaining that if evidence of intent was not necessary, virtually all bodily injuries caused by another person would be barred under the policy exclusion, including accidental injuries.

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Insurance companies who deny coverage to their insureds after a Maryland car accident can be held liable in court. In a September 26, 2017 opinion, the Court of Appeals of Maryland reviewed a jury verdict that awarded an $8,000 judgment to the plaintiff in his action against his insurance company. The plaintiff brought an appeal for the rest of the amount he claimed for his non-economic damages.Legal News Gavel

The plaintiff in the case alleged that he was injured in an automobile accident when another motorist negligently collided with the side of his vehicle at a stop sign intersection. The driver of the other vehicle and his passenger jumped out of the vehicle and ran from the scene of the accident. The police could not determine the identity of the other driver because the vehicle had been stolen prior to the accident. Nor could the owner of that vehicle be liable for damages.

After the accident, the plaintiff received medical treatment from a chiropractor. He then filed a claim with his insurance company, seeking uninsured motorist benefits under his policy. The uninsured motorist benefits provision allowed him coverage in the event that he was in an accident with someone who didn’t have insurance. The insurance company admitted it was responsible for the claim but disputed the amount owed to the plaintiff. The case went to trial, where the issue for the jury, therefore, was the amount of damages that the plaintiff was entitled to receive.

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The Maryland Court of Special Appeals reviewed a wrongful death case involving a truck accident and addressed the issue of whether the defendant had insurance coverage. In Glass v. State Farm Fire & Cas. Ins. Co. (Md. Ct. Spec. App. Aug. 5, 2015), the defendant’s employee was driving the company delivery van and lost control of it. The van swerved across the center lines and hit the victim’s vehicle head-on. The victim died of injuries caused by the accident shortly thereafter. The victim’s husband brought a personal injury negligence and wrongful death suit against the employee and the employer, and he later amended the complaint to include the employer’s insurer.Legal News Gavel

The parties disputed whether the accident was covered under the business policy issued by the insurer, due to the unintended entanglement of two separate legal entities of the employer. In 2004, the employer created a general partnership. The general partnership purchased and owned the van driven by the employee, as well as the insurance policy in effect at the time of the accident. However, when the employer formed an LLC in 2006, intending to merge the general partnership with the LLC, it was never properly completed. As a result, both companies remained in existence as separate legal entities, and the general partnership held title to the van and the insurance policy. Although the employer began conducting business in the name of the LLC, it was performing the contractual obligations of the general partnership.

The parties filed motions for declaratory judgment for the trial court to decide the issue of insurance coverage. After an evidentiary hearing, the trial court found that at the time of the accident, the company was conducting business on behalf of the general partnership, and the van was owned by the general partnership. Therefore, the court held, the accident was not covered under the business policy through an exemption to a coverage exclusion for injuries arising out of the use of a non-owned automobile.

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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.Legal News Gavel

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.

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In a case with startling facts leading to worst-case scenario consequences, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals examined whether the insurance coverage of a driver expired just one day prior to a fatal accident. In Price v. State Farm Insurance Company (Md. Ct. Spec. App. September 14, 2015), the driver struck and killed someone crossing the street in a motorized wheelchair. As a result of the accident, the deceased’s heirs and estate filed an injury action against the driver.Legal News Gavel

In Price, the driver was delinquent in making his premium payment. On January 11, 2012, the insurance company sent a notice that, unless the premium was paid, his policy would be canceled on January 24, 2012 at 12:01 a.m. The letter also stated that, if payment was received any time after that date and time, the insurance company would inform him of whether and when the policy would be reinstated. It specifically added that there would be no coverage between the date and time of cancellation and the date and time of reinstatement.

Sometime on January 24, 2012, the driver’s wife mailed an electronic payment from her back to the insurance company, stating that it was intended to pay for the driver’s policy premium. Although the payment was processed on January 24, 2012, it was not received by the insurance company until January 26, 2012. In addition, the payment was applied to the wife’s, not the driver’s, auto policy. On the following evening of January 25, 2012, the driver hit and killed the deceased.

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In a case published earlier this year, Asphalt & Concrete Servs., Inc. v. Perry, 108 A.3d 558 (2015), the Maryland Court of Special Appeals decided the question of whether evidence of a defendant’s lack of liability insurance is admissible for purposes of establishing a negligent hiring claim.Legal News Gavel

The plaintiff sustained serious injuries after being struck by a dump truck while crossing an intersection. The dump truck was not covered by liability insurance at the time of the accident, as required by Maryland law. The plaintiff then brought a personal injury suit against the defendants, which included a claim of negligent hiring against ACS, the business that hired the trucking company to haul its materials. The jury verdict was in favor of the plaintiff, and he was awarded damages in the amount of $529,500. ACS appealed, claiming that the trial court erred in allowing evidence of the driver’s lack of insurance at trial.

Although lack of insurance is generally inadmissible to prove that a person acted negligently, it may be used for other purposes if it is relevant to the elements of the claim. For a negligent hiring claim, the court looked to whether the lack of insurance rendered the driver incompetent to do the job, and whether it was the proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injuries. The court stated that the lack of insurance coverage could be relevant to the first issue of the driver’s competence, depending on the job he performed. Since ACS was not allowed to have truck operators who did not produce insurance, the fact that the driver was uninsured did relate to his competence to transport materials on state highways. The driver’s lack of liability insurance, therefore, was relevant to whether the business employed a competent person.

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