Maryland law requires every motorist to carry “uninsured motorist” (UM) coverage as part of their vehicle insurance coverage. This required coverage is designed to protect an injured motorist (whether bodily injury, property damage or both) from two all too frequent scenarios. First, it provides coverage when the at fault vehicle has no insurance coverage at all. Second, it provides “gap” coverage where the at fault driver has too little insurance to pay the full value of the claim. Indeed, despite the law, there are drivers who continue to operate vehicles illegally without insurance. In those instances, the claim would be submitted to the victim’s UM carrier for payment. A UM claim is no-fault in that a claim against the policy will not affect insurabilty, renewability or rates.
A typical example where UM benefits are needed is where serious injuries have been sustained by one or more individuals in a vehicle struck by another who is deemed at fault. Under Maryland law, the person (non-business) must carry a minimum of $20,000 of coverage for the bodily injury of one victim and a total of $40,000 to cover the bodily injury of all victims involved in a single accident. Although this amount may seem significant, it is actually very scant coverage which oridinarily falls well below what is required to pay the claims in full. When a shortage of coverage arises, the UM coverage may be tapped to provide additional coverage provided the UM limits of the victims’ policies exceed the limits of the at fault driver’s policy. So, if one who is injured has a $50,000 per person UM limit, and the at fault driver has a $20,000 per person limit, the victim may claim the difference between the at fault’s policy and their own as additional coverage. In the example, that amount would be an extra $30,000.
UM claims can be very tricky and complicated due to issues surrounding the proper method for making claim, settling claims with more than one insurance company, and determining when the applicable statute of limitations begins to run. If you find yourself involved in an accident involving an uninsured or underinsured driver, please contact our attorneys who will be happy to explain your rights to all appropriate benefits and coverage.