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Articles Posted in Insurance Companies

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.

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.

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.

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.

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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A recent case decided by the Maryland Court of Appeals addressed the issues of whether an insurance company may waive its right to receive written notice of a settlement offer from a motor vehicle insurance liability insurer, as required under Md. Code Ann., Ins. § 19-511, and whether the insurance company must demonstrate prejudice in order to deny uninsured/underinsured (UM/UIM) motorist coverage to its insured in cases where it did not consent to the settlement offer.

Woznicki v. GEICO Gen. Ins. Co., 115 A.3d 152 (Md. 2015) involved two car accident cases with the same issues presented to the court. In the first case, Woznicki received an offer from the at-fault driver’s insurance company for its policy limits ($20,000), in exchange for her release of all liability claims against it and its insured. Pursuant to the terms of her insurance policy, as well as Md. Code Ann., Ins. § 19-511, Woznicki was required to notify GEICO in writing of any settlement offer and obtain consent from GEICO before agreeing. While Woznicki’s attorney did provide written notification to GEICO of the settlement and request for consent, it was sent on the same day that Woznicki had signed the release accepting the settlement offer from the liability insurer. Woznicki argued later at trial that her attorney had obtained an oral consent to settle when he spoke with a GEICO claims representative on the phone. Nevertheless, although Woznicki’s policy with GEICO provided UM/UIM coverage of $300,000, GEICO denied her claim because of her failure to obtain its consent to settle with the at-fault driver’s insurance company. The second case also involved a plaintiff who accepted the tortfeasor’s liability coverage before her insurance company consented to the offer.

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There are several reported Maryland cases regarding automobile accidents on ice or snow. They include Larkins v. Balt. Transit, 249 Md. 305; Billmeyer v. State f/u/o Whiteman, 192 Md. 419; Wolfe v. State f/u/o Brown, 173 Md. 103; and Trusty v. Wooden, 251 Md. 294. A person must use reasonable care when driving on ice or snow. This could include reducing speed and being aware of longer stopping distances. Car Accident on Ice or snow.

Slip and Fall Evidence
02/04/2010 09:34:32 AM

Slip and Fall. The case law in Maryland suggests that in order to prevail on a slip and fall case where liquid has been left on the floor Continue Reading ›

Medical helicopters have recently come under scrutiny. There have become an increasing number of medical helicopter accidents in the last several years, some of which are attributable to the competition between the helicopter companies in the business of medical transport. The National Transportation Safety Board is being urged at hearings to place tougher regulations on the helicopter industry. In one eleven month period in 2008 there were 9 fatal medical helicopter crashes that cause 35 deaths.

If a loved one has been involved in a medical helicopter incident involving serious injury or death, please refer them to our office. All of our fees are contingent upon the outcome of the case. If we are not successful on your case, there will be no fee

Pharmaceutical Negligence and Darvon
02/18/2009 03:16:23 PM

Recently a Maryland man settled a wrongful prescription lawsuit against Walmart. Continue Reading ›

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