Maryland Court Finds Plaintiff Timely Filed Lawsuit Against Insurer for Underinsured Motorist Benefits

In Maryland, drivers are required to have a motor vehicle insurance policy that includes uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage.  This mandatory coverage protects insured drivers from paying out-of-pocket expenses for their injuries if they are involved in a motor vehicle accident caused by an uninsured or inadequately insured driver.  It may also give rise to a claim against a driver’s own insurance company, as in an April 20, 2020 Maryland personal injury case.

The plaintiff in the case was involved in an automobile accident in April of 2011, in which her vehicle was rear-ended by a vehicle traveling behind her.  The plaintiff’s injuries required extensive medical treatment from the date of the accident until July 2014.  The driver who caused the accident had an insurance policy with a $20,000 limit per person for bodily injuries, which was not enough to cover the full amount of the plaintiff’s medical expenses.  Under the plaintiff’s auto insurance policy, she was covered up to $300,000 per person for injuries caused by an uninsured or underinsured motorist.

The plaintiff collected the $20,000 policy limit settlement offer from the other driver’s insurer nearly two years after the accident.  She then attempted to collect additional underinsured motorist benefits from her own insurer.  The settlement negotiations went on for several years and, with her claim still pending, the plaintiff filed suit against her insurer in September of 2016.  The insurance company filed a motion to dismiss, contending that her suit was barred by the three-year statute of limitations.

The statute of limitations issue was subsequently brought before the Maryland Court of Appeals.  Both parties agreed that the statute of limitations period was three years.  In dispute was the date that the three-year period began to run.  On appeal, the insurer argued that the statute of limitations for an underinsured motorist claim begins to run when the at-fault driver’s policy limits are exhausted.  As applied to the case, that date was in April of 2013, when the $20,000 settlement was accepted.  The plaintiff, in turn, asserted that the statute of limitations begins to run when the insurer denies the underinsured motorist claim for coverage under the insurance policy.

Ultimately, the Court of Appeals held that the statute of limitations in an underinsured motorist claim begins to run when the insurer denies an insured’s demand for benefits, and thereby breaches the insurance contract.  As it pertained to the plaintiff’s case, the court noted that the record did not include a definitive date on which the plaintiff’s insurer had denied her underinsured motorist claim.  Nevertheless, the court held that her lawsuit was not time-barred, as her underinsured claim had been denied within the three years before the date the plaintiff filed her lawsuit.

If you are fighting with the insurance companies for coverage after an auto accident, a Maryland personal injury lawyer can assist you.  At Foran & Foran, P.A., our experienced attorneys work tirelessly to help individuals get the compensation they need.  We represent plaintiffs in personal injury actions, medical malpractice cases, and other lawsuits against negligent parties or insurance companies.  Call Foran & Foran at (301) 441-2022 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation with one of our skilled accident attorneys.

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