A husband and wife out for a leisurely stroll in their neighborhood would never return home the same again. It was a summer day in Maryland in 2009. As they passed a residential driveway, a driver in his 20s backed out of the driveway without looking.
In so doing, the driver struck the couple. The wife screamed and, as she would later allege in her complaint, hit the vehicle with her hand to alert the driver and make it stop. She reportedly then made eye contact with the driver, who stopped momentarily and then nevertheless seeing what had happened, continued moving his car, backing over her husband in an attempt to flee the scene.
Both husband and wife sustained serious injuries, though the husband had the worst of it. His injuries included a traumatic brain injury and other severe head injuries, as well as injuries to his neck, body and limbs. He was transported to a local hospital and then, later to a rehabilitation center, where he died two years later.
The wife, meanwhile, sustained injuries to her back, neck, arm and leg. She also suffered the emotional trauma of watching her husband be run over by a vehicle.
The subject of a lawsuit recently before the Maryland Court of Appeals, Connor v. GEICO, deals with the amount of coverage the couple’s own insurance company should have to pay after they had reached the maximum limit of compensation with the driver’s insurance company.
Pedestrians who are struck by a vehicle often do not realize that their own insurance company is probably responsible to pay some of the damages, if the at-fault driver’s insurer does not. That’s because even though the pedestrian wasn’t driving at the time of the accident, it’s still considered an “auto accident” worthy of coverage. Typically, we’d be dealing with uninsured motorist coverage or underinsured motorist coverage in these instances.
This type of coverage, which comes standard in most auto insurance policies, allows for the policy holder and others covered under the policy to receive the difference between their damages and what the at-fault driver’s insurance company paid. So if the at-fault driver had no insurance, the injured pedestrian would receive the full UIM coverage amount (assuming his or her damages met that threshold or more). If an at-fault driver’s insurance company only paid $20,000, but damages were at $50,000, the insured should receive $30,000 from his or her own insurance company, assuming the policy allowed for at least $30,000 in coverage.
The Connor case dealt with whether the insureds should receive the total UIM policy amount of $300,000, even though the at-fault driver’s insurance company paid $100,000 to each individual.
In an auto accident lawsuit like this one, what is going to be key is the unambiguous language of the individual policy.
Here, plaintiffs argued that in addition to the $200,000 they had received total from the at-fault driver’s insurer, they should also receive $300,000 from their own insurer per the terms of the UIM policy.
The insurer instead paid them $100,000 – the remaining amount left on the UIM policy, minus the $200,000 already paid by the other insurance company. Plaintiffs sued to collect the remaining $200,000.
However, the trial court ruled and the appellate court recently affirmed, that the clear terms of the policy indicated the couple’s damages were capped at $300,000, and that because $200,000 had already been paid by the other insurer, that amount offset the total they could receive from their own insurer.
Not every case with similar circumstances is going to have this exact outcome. Again, it highly depends on the individual facts and the policy language in the insurance documents.
Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights.
Connor v. GEICO, April 17, 2015, Maryland Court of Appeals
More Blog Entries:
Jones v. Alayon – Challenging the Seat Belt Defense, April 25, 2015, West Palm Beach Car Accident Attorney Blog