Surviving Family Members Litigate Damages in Fatal Maryland Car Accident Case

Insurance coverage and damage amounts are often contested issues between car accident victims and their motor vehicle insurers.  As illustrated in a June 6, 2019 Maryland wrongful death case, the procedural aspects of a claim may be crucial for the surviving family members to recover the full amount of damages sought.

The case arose out of a car accident involving the plaintiff, which resulted in the death of the other driver.  At the time of the accident, the plaintiff was driving a car owned by another individual.  A year after the accident, no survival or wrongful death claims had been filed by the driver’s survivors.  The plaintiff, the plaintiff’s insurance company, and the car owner’s insurance company subsequently filed a Complaint for Interpleader, in which they conceded liability for the other driver’s death to his survivors.

A hearing was held on the matter, at which counsel for the survivors informed the trial court that he wished to work with the potential beneficiaries to resolve the apportionment of the policy proceeds without further litigation.  The trial court then signed two proposed orders provided by the plaintiffs, which allowed each insurer to deposit an amount totaling $600,000 into an account for apportionment among the beneficiaries after they negotiated their respective interests.

Thereafter, the plaintiffs filed an Amended Complaint seeking to limit their liability to $100,000 each, for a total of $200,000.  Counsel for the beneficiaries filed a motion to strike the Amended Complaint, arguing that the plaintiffs had received the relief they had requested in their original Complaint, and therefore, were no longer involved in the litigation.  The court granted the motion to strike, and the plaintiffs appealed the issue to the higher court.

In the first phase of an interpleader action, the court ordinarily finds that the deposit of money or property with the court is appropriate, determines the amount of such deposit, and orders the deposit, which generally allows the original interpleader plaintiffs to walk away from the proceedings.  The second phase of the action generally involves only the parties who have a claim to the funds deposited, and deals with the proper appointment of those funds among the parties.

Before reaching the substantive issues, the appeals court considered whether the matter was properly before it.  As a general rule, under Maryland law, litigants may only appeal from a final judgment.  The appeals court found that the orders to deposit funds and strike the Amended Complaint did not have the effect of putting the plaintiffs out of court, and as such, were not final determinations.  As such, the court ruled that the orders were not appealable.  The matter was thus remanded back to the trial court for further proceedings.

At Foran & Foran, P.A., our Maryland injury attorneys can provide legal advice to people who have been hurt in automobile or truck accidents and other negligence cases.  If you are seeking experienced legal representation for a personal injury or wrongful death action, we can help.  Call Foran & Foran, P.A. at (301) 441-2022 or contact us online and schedule an appointment to discuss your case with one of our skilled accident lawyers.