Uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage is good for everyone to have, even in cases of bicycle and pedestrian accidents. This type of coverage makes up the difference between an injured person’s losses and the amount covered by the driver’s insurance. It also covers losses when the other driver doesn’t have insurance at all.
It can be an invaluable resource. But that doesn’t mean you won’t likely have to fight for every penny of it.
In the recent case of Connors v. GEICO, before the Maryland Court of Appeals, a husband and wife were taking a walk around their neighborhood when they were struck by a vehicle backing out of a residential driveway. The driver reportedly stopped momentarily when the wife screamed, made eye contact and then continued to back over, causing severe injuries to both victims.
The wife suffered injuries to her head, neck, back, leg and arm. The husband, meanwhile, suffered major injuries to his head, including traumatic brain injury, as well as injury to his neck, back, arms and legs. Although he initially survived, he was later transferred to a rehabilitation center where he died two years after the accident, having never returned home after the traffic accident.
Initially, plaintiffs filed a claim with the driver’s insurance company. Ultimately, that firm agreed to pay the policy limit of $100,000 to each plaintiff, for a total of $200,000.
After that amount was settled out-of-court, plaintiffs pursued recovery from their own insurer under the UIM policy. The fact was, $200,000 simply didn’t cover all of their losses.
But the exact amount they could recover from their own insurer quickly became a point of contention. Plaintiffs asserted they should be entitled to collect the full UIM policy amount of $300,000, which would bring their total recovery amount to $500,000.
However, insurer countered that their damages under the UIM policy terms were capped at $300,000, and that amount was offset by what the driver’s insurance company had already paid. That meant by the insurer’s calculations, it needed only to pay an additional $100,000 – not the full $300,000.
It paid the $100,000, but refused to render the other $200,000 in dispute.
The case went to court.
Trial court ruled in favor of the insurance company, finding the terms of the policy were unambiguous and clearly stated damages were capped at $300,000 and could be offset by other amounts collected.
The case later went to the Maryland Court of Appeals, and that ruling was affirmed.
It should be noted that many states tend to construe insurance policies against the companies that wrote them. Maryland, where this case was decided, isn’t one of those states.
Florida does generally err on finding favor with injured insureds where there is any ambiguity in the policy. However, the court in this case found ambiguity was not at issue, as the policy language clearly indicated damages would be capped at $300,000 and offset by other amounts collected.
Cases such as these require an experienced injury lawyer carefully comb through all the fine print of an insurance policy to determine the steps necessary to maximize client compensation. We are committed to carefully reviewing all relevant insurance policies and identifying all possible liable parties in order to ensure adequate damage recovery for our clients.
If you have been a victim of a traffic accident, call Chalik & Chalik at (954) 476-1000 or 1 (800) 873-9040.
Connors v. GEICO, April 14, 2015, Maryland Court of Appeals
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Skaperdas v. Country Cas. Ins. Co. – Car Insurance Agent Owes Duty of Care, March 28, 2015, Fort Myers Pedestrian Accident Attorney Blog