MD Car Accidents & Insurance Company Practices: Why The Two Aren’t Always Compatible
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UPDATED: Jul 15, 2021
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When you’re in a car accident in Maryland, chances are likely that an insurance company will become involved at some point. However, as one legal expert points out, Maryland car accidents and insurance company practices aren’t always compatible.
Maryland Auto Accident Attorney Doug Stevens
Doug Stevens, a Maryland attorney who has practiced law for 30 years and whose firm focuses on personal injury and car accident matters in Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia, says that while the tort system is a wonderful invention and prevents people from exacting justice by violence at the scene of an accident, insurance company practices in car accident cases are often egregious. He explained:
In my mind, one egregious aspect of our situation is the failure of the insurance companies in our states to inform people of their uninsured motorist rights. Uninsured motorist protection means that if a person who hits you has no insurance, then your own company will become the company for the uninsured person to the extent that it will pay you for the damages owed by the person who hit you (or for the gap between the wrongdoer’s coverage and your own.) If the company never tells you this, it never has to write a check.
The insurance companies have case law on their side which says you’re in an adverse position with your own uninsured motorist carrier. Uninsured motorist protection, of course, means that if I am hit by somebody who has no insurance, then my insurance company effectively becomes the insurance company for the other guy. Using it can’t increase my insurance rates and they cannot surcharge my policy – which means my rates cannot go up.
However, Stevens says that insurance companies don’t inform people of this right. So time and time again, the amount of money that the insurance company should pay is forfeited. He says that while it’s legal, it’s somewhat unethical. He explained, “[T]here certainly should be – at a very minimum – a requirement for the insured to be informed as follows: ‘Notice: If the insurance on the other party is less than the value of your case or if the other party has no insurance, you have a right to collect from us up to your limits.’ The minimum limits in Maryland are $20,000 per person, per accident, and $40,000 per occurrence.”
In some situations, multiple venues may be available to bring a lawsuit – and choosing the right venue for your situation is something to discuss with an experienced attorney whose practice focuses in this area of law.
Diminished value of a damaged vehicle
Another issue to be aware of is the diminished value of a damaged vehicle, according to Stevens. “For years, everybody knew that if your car is in an accident, you’re going to end up selling it some day for less. However, the insurance companies would only pay the out-of-pocket costs to repair the vehicle. Now the concept of diminished value has finally taken hold and the insurance companies have evaluators who will say, ‘Okay, here’s $8,200 to fix your car and here’s another $1,100 because the accident has reduced its value.”
An experienced Maryland car accident attorney will be able to explain the process, evaluate your situation and discuss what options might be best for you.