Plaintiff Seeks Coverage as a Named Insured in Maryland Accident Case

In some Maryland auto accident cases, insurance coverage for personal injuries may be available under multiple policies.  Generally, the laws of the state in which the policy was issued govern coverage disputes.   In a September 21, 2021 case, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland considered whether underinsured motorist coverage was available for a Delaware resident under an insurance policy issued to a Maryland resident.

The plaintiff in the case was a Delaware resident.  She was named as an “additional driver” of a vehicle insured by her daughter, a Maryland resident, under a Maryland auto insurance policy.  The plaintiff was injured in an accident in Delaware, in which she was the passenger of a car that was not insured by the Maryland policy at issue.  The plaintiff settled with the driver’s insurance company for his policy limits of $15,000, which was insufficient to cover all of her damages.  The plaintiff then claimed underinsured motorist benefits under the Maryland policy issued to her daughter, which the insurance company denied.

The plaintiff filed suit against the insurance company that issued her daughter’s policy.  When the circuit court granted the insurer’s motion for summary judgment, the plaintiff appealed to the higher court.

By law, Maryland auto insurance policies must provide uninsured motorist coverage, at a minimum, to the named insured, as well as any family members who reside with the named insured.  The policy at issue in the case defined “insured” as the policyholder, a relative of the policyholder who resides in the policyholder’s household, any other person in an automobile insured under the policy, and one who is entitled to damages due to injuries or property damages sustained by an insured.  

On appeal, the plaintiff acknowledged that she was not listed as a named insured, but rather, as an “additional driver.”  Nevertheless, she argued, her name on the declarations page of the policy was sufficient to vest her with the rights of a named insured.  The plaintiff based her argument on the Maryland statute defining “named insured” as ” the person denominated in the declarations in a motor vehicle liability insurance policy.”

On appeal, the court concluded that, although the statutory definition uses the word “denominated” without express limitation or qualification, it is only logical that, implicit in the definition, a person must be identified as a “named insured” to qualify as such, and that the mere appearance of one’s name on the declarations page does not magically elevate one to “named insured” status.  The court also found no evidence to indicate that the inclusion of the plaintiff as an additional driver was intended to vest her with the rights of a named insured.  The appeals court therefore affirmed summary judgment in favor of the insurance company. 

At Foran & Foran, P.A., our dedicated lawyers can assist  auto accident victims who are seeking compensation for their injuries.  Our Maryland negligence attorneys handle a range of personal injuries cases, including medical malpractice and premises liability actions.  Call our office today at (301) 441-2022 or contact us online and request a free consultation with an experienced lawyer.

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