Court Determines Insurance Coverage Payout in Prince George's County Auto Accident

Court Determines Insurance Coverage Payout in Prince George's County Auto Accident

One of the issues that can come up in a Baltimore City or Baltimore County auto accident is insurance coverage when more than one insurance company in involved. A recent court case demonstrates the interplay between uninsured and underinsured (UM/UIM) coverage in Maryland between two of the nation’s largest auto insurers.

The case began with a motor vehicle accident in Prince George’s County in 2013. Linda Wright was a passenger in the car where she sustained serious injuries. The driver of the car was at fault, the court said in its opinion. However, the vehicle was not owned by the driver; but, by someone else.

Wright was insured by GEICO. The limit in the GEICO policy was $300,000. The owner of the vehicle had an automobile liability policy issued by USAA. The USAA policy had a maximum UM/UIM limit of $100,000. However, GEICO allegedly refused to pay benefits under the uninsured/underinsured provisions in the policy.

Uninsured motorist coverage is insurance protection related to injuries received as a result of an uninsured, negligent driver. An uninsured driver is someone who did not have any insurance, had insurance that did not meet state-mandated minimum liability requirements, or whose insurance company denied their claim or was not financially able to pay it. A hit and run driver also counts as uninsured for bodily injury but not for property damage.

Underinsured motorist coverage is protection related to injuries received in an accident where the other driver is at fault and has coverage limits too low to cover expenses. If a driver with low coverage limits causes serious injury, it is possible that the available insurance won't pay all your medical expenses.

Wright filed a lawsuit against the driver and GEICO, asserting a claim for negligence against the driver of the car and asserting breach of contract against GEICO. She amended her legal complaint to join USAA as an additional defendant and asserting a claim for UM/UIM benefits.

USAA filed a declaratory judgment asking the court to sort out the obligations of each insurer under the UM/UIM provisions in each policy.

The Circuit Court for Prince George’s County entered a judgment stating that the two insurers were obligated to pay benefits on a pro rata basis. The trial court said that if the judge or jury returns a verdict for monetary damages in excess of the driver’s insurance policy. USAA should pay one-third up to the limits of the policy for the excess obligation and GEICO should pay two-thirds up to the limits of the coverage for the excess obligation.

But Maryland’s intermediate appellate court didn’t agree with the lower court. USAA is the primary carrier, the Court of Special Appeals court said. USAA is obligated to pay uninsured/underinsured motorist benefits to Wright up to the limits of the USAA policy, the court said. GEICO is obligated to pay any remaining benefits up to the limits of its coverage. As a result, Wright has no right to compensation under the terms of the GEICO policy until USAA’s underinsured motorist coverage is exhausted, the court said.

If you’ve been in an auto accident, you should talk to a Baltimore auto accident attorney. A Baltimore motor vehicle accident lawyer can make sure that you are fully compensated for the expenses you face when recovering from an auto accident in Baltimore City, Baltimore County and the surrounding areas. The attorneys at The Law Offices of Thomas J. Maronick have experience handling auto accident cases. You can contact Thomas Maronick on his cellphone at 202.288.0167, the law office at 410.934.3007 or via our website for a free consultation.