What Do I Do If The At-Fault Party Has Minimal Insurance Or No Insurance?
Maryland has minimum mandatory insurance requirements. Passenger cars registered in this state must carry a minimum of $30,000 in liability coverage. This type of insurance coverage, in turn, is that which is paid to other injured individuals as compensation where the insured person causes a car accident. Where that minimum coverage is not enough to fully indemnify the other party or parties, or the at-fault driver has failed to obtain any insurance whatsoever, there are two options.
Those injured would look to their own uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage, and/or will collect any excess judgment from the at-fault party directly.
$30,000 seems like a fairly large sum of money in the abstract. When dealing with an injury causing event, potentially involving more than one injured person, $30,000 might not go that far. Maryland drivers sometimes purchase more than the bare minimum requirements of the law. For example, a 100/300 liability policy is fairly commonplace in Maryland. These numbers mean that an insured individual has a maximum of $100,000 to compensate any one injured person, and the insurance company is responsible to pay a maximum of $300,000 to all individuals injured in one accident, caused by its insured driver.
But what happens for the injured person when that coverage simply doesn't fully pay their medical expenses, lost wages and compensate them for non-economic damage? In the first instance, that person would look to their own uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage on their own policy, or potentially a policy held by other resident family members. This coverage provides compensation in two scenarios. The first is where the at-fault driver lacks Insurance all together. The second is where the at-fault driver has insurance, but it isn't enough to fully compensate those injured.
Unfortunately, uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage is something that a Maryland driver may choose not to have. In that scenario, or in a situation where the combined liability and underinsured coverage is simply not enough to make the injured person whole, the second option is to pursue what is called an 'excess" judgment. The at-fault driver is responsible for all damage that they cause, regardless of whether or not there is sufficient Insurance to pay for it. A jury may certainly award more in damages then all available Insurance, combined. Indeed a jury would never know what the available Insurance limits are. In such circumstances, the injured driver would collect from all insurance, up to the limits of that insurance, and any amount remaining - i.e. the "excess"- would be collectible or recoverable directly from the at-fault motorist from their own personal assets. This can be a sometimes daunting prospect. There are collection based remedies permitted under the law, such as the garnishment of wages, or execution and levy on the assets of a judgement debtor. There are, however, limitations on these remedies. For example, an asset owned jointly with a spouse might not be subject to a judgment rendered against only one of the spouses. There are, moreover, some risks associated with obtaining an excess judgment. Litigation is costly, and there is no guarantee litigation costs can be recouped. A jury might disagree with the value of an injured Plaintiff's case, and in fact award less than the amount of insurance available. This can be crushing where the involved insurance companies have "tendered" or offered the full amount of the available polices in exchange for a release of the at fault motorist.