In a Baltimore car accident involving an underinsured driver, the acceptance and signed release of the at-fault underinsured motorist’s policy limits started the clock ticking for making a claim against the underinsured motorist coverage for the driver who wasn’t at fault, according to a recent ruling from a Baltimore appeals court.
Margaret Shilling was involved in an auto accident in Gambrills, Maryland. Her underinsured motorist provider, Nationwide, gave permission to settle the claim with the other party and waived subrogation on April 23, 2013. The Baltimore-area driver agreed to accept the other driver’s insurance policy limits of $20,000 and signed a release on Feb. 3, 2014.
Underinsured motorist coverage (UIM) is insurance coverage related to injuries received from a Baltimore car accident where the other driver is at fault and has coverage limits too low to cover the expenses resulting from the auto accident. In 1981, the General Assembly recognized that uninsured motor vehicles included underinsured motor vehicles. The purpose of the uninsured motorist statute is to provide minimum protection for individuals injured by uninsured motorists. An insured can purchase a higher amount of uninsured motorist insurance which will become available when the insured’s uninsured motorist coverage, as well as the damages, exceed the liability of the person causing the Baltimore auto accident.
Although Maryland drivers are not required to carry underinsured motorist coverage, it’s a good idea to do so because many people in Baltimore can only afford to pay for the state required minimum auto insurance coverage amounts.
Shilling filed a lawsuit in the Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County, claiming that Nationwide was liable under the UIM provisions of the insurance policy for damages over the $20,000 settlement with the other driver. The trial court granted Nationwide’s motion, finding that the lawsuit was untimely because the statute of limitations had started to run on the Baltimore driver’s UIM claim when Nationwide agreed to the settlement on April 23, 2013. The court dismissed the claim. However, the Court of Special Appeals disagreed with the trial court and reversed the decision.
The appeals court noted that an uninsured/underinsured motorist claim is a contract claim and is governed by principles and procedures applicable to contract actions. In Maryland, contract claims are subject to a three-year statute of limitations. As a result, the court said, the earliest date for beginning contact limitations would be Feb. 3, 2014, the date when Shilling, with Nationwide’s permission, accepted the at-fault driver’s insurance company’s offer of $20,000 and signed the Release of Claims in favor of the at-fault driver.
“In conclusion,” the court said, “because Feb. 3, 2014 is the earliest date to trigger limitations under the UIM contract, Ms. Schilling’s suit against Nationwide, filed on Sept. 23, 2016, is not time-barred by the applicable three-year statute of limitations.”
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 a car accident in Baltimore City, Baltimore County and the surrounding areas. The attorneys at The Law Offices of Thomas J. Maronick have experience handling Baltimore and Maryland auto accident cases. You can contact Thomas Maronick on his cellphone at 410-881-4022, the law office at 410-881-4022 or via our website for a free consultation.