If you were injured in a car accident, it can be helpful to understand how insurance works and when you’re eligible for a claim
Our lives change because of the choices we make every day.
Some choices are small, like what to eat for breakfast. Others are big, like whether to get married or have children.
Other choices are... medium.
Buying car insurance, itself, isn’t a choice because it’s required by law in every state in the nation. But how much, which insurance company to use, and the types of coverage you pay for can be “medium” decisions now that can have a big impact if you need to make a claim on the policy at some point in the future.
If you’re injured in a Maryland car accident, there are 3 ways to receive compensation to cover the costs of your injuries:
- File a claim against the at-fault driver’s insurance company.
- File a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault driver.
- File an uninsured motorist claim on your own insurance policy if the at-fault driver doesn’t have insurance.
How to recover compensation for the cost of your injuries
Maryland follows the pure contributory negligence rule of fault. Therefore, if you had any fault for the accident, you can’t recover damages from the other party in a lawsuit.
However, a lawsuit should be your last resort if you can’t recover compensation through insurance.
Generally, after an accident happens, your first call is to 911 or the police. Your second call is to your insurance company. That’s because most insurance companies require you to report the accident within a specific amount of time. If you don’t report it fast enough, you can lose the ability to file a claim.
Maryland auto insurance requirements
|Minimum Maryland car insurance requirements|
|Bodily injury liability coverage||$30,000 per person
$60,000 per accident
|Property damage liability coverage||$15,000|
|Uninsured motorist bodily injury coverage||$30,000 per person
$60,000 per accident
|Uninsured motorist property damage coverage||$15,000|
|Personal injury protection (PIP)||$2,500*
*Maryland allows a driver to waive PIP and instead choose a limited PIP option
The amounts of coverage above are the minimum required by law. You can — and probably should — choose to purchase higher policy limits.
Most vehicles are worth more than $15,000, and medical bills for an injury could easily exceed the $30,000 per person or $60,000 per accident minimum. If you’re at fault for an accident, any costs above your policy limits will need to be paid out-of-pocket. If you don’t have available funds to cover additional costs, you should consider purchasing more insurance.
Types of mandatory insurance coverage, explained
Liability coverage includes both bodily injury and property damage. It pays for any damages to another person (medical or property) if you were at fault for the accident. It also covers any family member who lives in your household or anyone who drives your car with your permission. It usually also pays for your legal defense if you’re sued as a result of a car accident.
The bodily injury provision often covers the occupants of the other involved vehicle, your passengers, and pedestrians or bicyclists.
Property damage coverage is for the repair or replacement of another person’s car or property.
Uninsured motorist (UM) coverage
Uninsured motorist coverage fills several gaps in the insurance spectrum.
- Uninsured driver. If you’re in an accident caused by the driver of an uninsured vehicle, it provides compensation to you for the damages they caused.
- Pedestrian or bicycle accident. If you’re a pedestrian or bicyclist and you’re injured by an uninsured vehicle, it would provide compensation in that situation, too.
- Hit and run. If you or your vehicle are damaged as a result of a hit-and-run and the driver is not identified, UM covers your costs.
There’s also underinsured motorist coverage (UIM), which is similar but can provide you with insurance payments if the other driver does have insurance, but not enough to cover your expenses. You could claim the difference through your own UIM policy.
Personal Injury Protection (PIP)
PIP insurance covers medical expenses for injuries suffered in an accident. Maryland law permits some people to waive the minimum $2,500 PIP coverage, but the purpose of PIP is to ensure that you have quick payment of your medical expenses after an accident. A PIP policy often also covers lost wages during your recovery.
Optional insurance policy coverage
The following types of insurance are optional in Maryland, but they might be required by your lender if you have an auto loan.
This would cover costs to repair or replace your vehicle. This is available regardless of who caused the accident, but you might need to pay a deductible.
If anything happens to your car that’s not the result of an accident, this is the policy that covers it. This includes vandalism, theft, glass breakage from weather or another incident, or if you hit an animal with your car.
You and your insurance representative can decide whether collision or comprehensive coverage is worth it for your car. If your vehicle is very old, it’s possible that your cost to have additional insurance could be more than the cost to repair or replace the car if it’s damaged.
But if you have a new car with a new loan, it’s a different story.
Traditional insurance covers the actual cash value of your car at the time of the loss. In other words, you could be without a car and still be required to pay for your loan. A GAP policy would pay the difference between the actual cash value of the car and the outstanding balance on the loan.
Penalties for driving while uninsured
In general, the insurance policy follows the car. In other words, it’s the car owner’s responsibility to purchase and maintain auto insurance. If you own a car and give permission to a properly licensed friend or family member to drive it, your insurance should cover an accident. The exception would be if the driver was breaking the law (for instance, driving while intoxicated) at the time of the crash.
However, there are stiff penalties for Maryland residents who own an uninsured vehicle. The penalties include:
- Loss of license plates and vehicle registration
- Uninsured motorist fees of $150 for the first 30 days and $7 for each additional day
- Registration restoration fee up to $25
- Loss of permission to register any future vehicle until insurance violations are cleared
- Prohibited from renewing suspended registration until insurance violations are cleared
- License plates confiscated
If you provide false evidence of insurance, your penalties can include:
- Fine up to $1,000
- Up to 1-year imprisonment
Are points on my license the same as insurance points?
You might be aware that if you commit a traffic violation, you can get points on your driver’s license issued by the MVA. The number of points is based on the severity of the violation and you can receive penalties for additional points in separate incidents. These points can remain on your driving record for 2 years.
In addition, an insurance company might assign points as part of its pricing guidelines for determining the amount of your premium. This is a separate point system from the ones issued by the MVA and aren’t the same.
Your insurance company will assign points for a moving violation or accident, and the total number of points might determine whether or not the company will insure you, renew your policy, or how much you will pay for insurance. An insurance company may keep points on your record for 3 years.
What if the drivers don’t agree about who’s at fault?
Most accidents aren’t clear-cut — and even if it seems to you as though fault is obvious, it’s always possible that the other driver resists because they don’t want to be held responsible.
Sometimes, the evidence doesn’t point to a clear conclusion. The police report, photos, and witness accounts might tell more than one story or might tell an incomplete version of a story.
That’s where your personal injury lawyer comes to your defense. If there are questions concerning liability (in other words, if no drivers acknowledge being completely at fault), it might come down to whose lawyer makes the best argument to convince the insurance companies (or a judge or jury) how the accident happened.
Need help finding the right attorney?
Visit the free Enjuris lawyer directory to locate a Maryland lawyer near you who’s experienced and ready to help you receive an insurance settlement or to pursue a personal injury lawsuit after your car accident.