Maryland Appeals Court Allows Plaintiff to Bring Lawsuit Against Auto Insurer

In some cases, a driver who caused a car accident may not have enough insurance coverage to fully compensate for the resulting injuries.  An injured person, however, may seek payment from their own insurance company for the remaining damages if they have coverage.  In a June 4, 2019 Maryland car accident case, the plaintiff filed suit against her insurer after it denied her claim for underinsured motorist benefits.  The lower court dismissed her action, and she filed the current appeal.

The plaintiff in the case was involved in a motor vehicle collision in April 2011.  As a result of the accident, she suffered injuries.  The driver who caused the crash was insured under an auto policy that provided liability coverage up to $20,000.  In April 2013, the driver’s insurance company offered the plaintiff the maximum amount available under the policy to settle the claims against the driver.  Days later, the plaintiff’s insurance company agreed to the settlement offer and waived its subrogation rights against the other driver.  In February 2014, the plaintiff executed the settlement agreement and waiver releasing the driver and the driver’s insurance company from liability for the policy limit of $20,000.

In January 2015, the plaintiff sought payment from her insurer to cover the rest of the damages she suffered in the accident.  Although the plaintiff’s insurance policy did include underinsured motorist coverage, her claim was not immediately approved.  The plaintiff filed a legal action against her insurance company in September 2016 to recover the amount of damages in excess of the $20,000 settlement. The circuit court ruled that the plaintiff did not file her action before the deadline provided by the statute of limitations, and it dismissed the case.

In Maryland, an uninsured/underinsured motorist claim is a contract claim, and thus it is subject to a three-year statute of limitations.  The limitations period for an underinsured motorist claim begins to run on the date that the at-fault driver’s insurance coverage has been exhausted.  In the case, the plaintiff’s insurance company argued that the date commencing the limitations period was in April 2013, when it consented to the settlement agreement and waived its subrogation rights.  The lower court agreed and had based its dismissal on that date.

The appeals court, however, concluded that the earliest possible date that the statute of limitations began to run was February 2014, the date when the plaintiff accepted the $20,000 settlement offer from the driver’s insurance company and executed the release and waiver of liability.  The court explained that this date was when the other driver’s insurance coverage was exhausted, since the plaintiff had the right to sue the other driver up until the time she formally released him from liability.  Since the plaintiff’s complaint was filed within three years of February 2014, the appeals court reversed the dismissal and allowed her to proceed with her lawsuit.

If you have been injured by a careless driver, you may be entitled to compensation for your medical expenses, lost wages, and other expenses.  At Foran & Foran, P.A., our Maryland personal injury lawyers represent victims of car crashes, medical malpractice, and other accidents caused by negligent businesses or individuals.  Schedule an appointment to discuss your injury case with an experienced attorney by calling (301) 441-2022 or contacting Foran & Foran online.