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Maryland High Court Limits the Right to Explain “Underinsured Motorist” Coverage to the Jury in an Auto Accident Case

by | May 2, 2014

“Underinsured motorist” (UIM) coverage is a type of insurance that protects you in the event that you are hurt by a person who doesn’t have enough insurance to compensate you. For example, if the defendant has an insurance policy of $30,000, but the damages resulting from your car accident are worth $100,000 (including medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, etc.), UIM coverage can fill in the gap (depending upon how much UIM coverage you purchase ahead of time).

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When a personal injury plaintiff goes to trial against a defendant with little insurance, the plaintiff’s UIM insurer may have an interest in participating in the trial, because a large verdict will mean that the UIM insurer has to pay compensation to the plaintiff. Therefore, even if the plaintiff sues only the defendant, the UIM insurer generally has a right to participate in the trial, on the side of the defendant. In that sort of case, it would seem logical to be able to explain to the jury why the UIM insurer’s lawyer is present at the trial, what UIM insurance is, and why it is important to the case. Unfortunately, in the recent case of Keller v. Serio, Maryland’s Court of Appeals (the high court) held to the contrary.

The Court of Appeals held that a trial court is under no obligation to explain anything about UIM coverage to the jury, other than the bare fact that the UIM insurer is a party in the case. The Court of Appeals held that talking about insurance would confuse the jury in an auto accident case. But it seems that not talking about insurance will only confuse the jury more, by leaving open the question of why the UIM insurer is there in the first place.

If you have any questions about UIM coverage and how it may affect your auto accident claim, you should contact the Maryland personal injury attorneys at Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C.

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