A 2021 study by the Insurance Research Council revealed that one in eight drivers lack car insurance, even though all but two states mandate that drivers have car insurance. The 12.6% of uninsured motorists are of particular concern for drivers and officials in Maryland. That’s because the state is consistently one of the states with the highest number of uninsured drivers, beating the national average. According to data provided by the IRC, 14.1% of drivers in Maryland are uninsured.
The state has introduced legislation and made small steps to help drivers mitigate the ramifications of an injury from an accident with an underinsured motorist. Yet, there remains much more to do to reduce the rate of uninsured drivers on the roadways.
Maryland’s Policy On Uninsured Motorists
In Maryland, driving without insurance is recognized as a misdemeanor criminal citation. That means that drivers who are found to be driving without the required amount of liability insurance of $30,000 for bodily injury and $15,000 property damage face up to $2,000 in fines and penalties. There can also be additional administrative fines for each day a driver goes without the required insurance. In addition to financial penalties, drivers can face up to two years in prison and have their license suspended or revoked.
Currently, the Maryland Financial Responsibility Law stipulates that drivers must carry a minimum of $30,000 for bodily injury per person, $60,000 bodily injury per accident, and $15,000 for property damage. The state also mandates that drivers have underinsured motorists coverage of at least the following amounts: $30,000 for bodily injury per person, $60,000 for bodily injury per accident, and $15,000 for property damage.
Having uninsured motorist coverage is not only important for drivers, but also for non-drivers injured in car accidents. Maryland’s hit-and-run laws and at-fault policy for accidents and personal injury claims can make it difficult for drivers to recover full compensation. This is because the state of Maryland is an at-fault state, meaning drivers must supply evidence that the other party is at fault to claim compensation. There is also a strict contributory negligence law in place. This means if you are found to be even one percent responsible for an accident, you cannot claim compensation.
If your own insurance policy is not enough to cover the costs and personal injury costs of the accident, approaching a personal injury lawyer to file a personal injury lawsuit might be a wise next step to building a strong case for compensation. For instance, while many drivers opt for the mandated $30,000 bodily injury coverage, there are instances where the medical costs can surpass this. Similarly, the cost of a new vehicle may surpass the liability coverage the impacted driver currently has. In this case, uninsured motorist coverage can help to bridge that gap.
While it is not included in the standard insurance package, recent legislation in Maryland now requires car insurers in Maryland to offer enhanced underinsured motorist (EUIM) coverage as an alternative to traditional underinsured motorist (UM) coverage. This coverage allows the driver to recover compensation from their own policy and the at-fault party’s coverage without it being reduced by the other party’s policy. This enables stacking. However, drivers don’t need to purchase this package.
Time Limits for Uninsured Motorist Claims
Section 5-101 of the Maryland Code stipulates that a civil action must be filed within three years from the date the cause of action occurred. The exception to this rule is where a different statute of limitations is specified. However, the courts have been witnessing the filing of claims well out of the time limitations. For instance, the case of Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co. v. Shilling (2016) saw an insured driver file for additional motorist benefits from her insurance company after receiving medical care after the accident occurred in 2011.
The court ultimately maintained that the statute of limitations in an underinsured motorist claim would run when the insurer denies the insured’s underinsured motorist benefits claim. Since the claimant requested the benefits in 2015 and filed in 2016, she was deemed to be within the statute of limitations and entitled to file her claim.
So, while there is protection in place for drivers against uninsured motorists, the real change will come in establishing avenues to reduce the number of uninsured motorists and expand the coverage for drivers who opt for uninsured motorist insurance policies.
Guest Post from FVF Law Firm, Austin, Texas
FVF personal injury law firm believes it matters why we practice law: to make sure good people in unfair circumstances who want reasonable options are taken seriously, especially by their attorney. Dedicated to education, transparency, and putting our clients first, we aim to redefine what it means to practice injury law.