By Cory Bilton
Personal injury lawyers in the DC area often assist clients with filing PIP claims under the client’s auto insurance. No-fault auto insurance claims tend to be merely an administrative task, since there is no need to argue who was at fault in the collision (although there are occasionally some disputes over “reasonableness” of charges). Despite the tame nature of the subject, I’ve come to realize that there are a lot of interesting issues and disagreements over the law in this area. Recently, I’ve come across competing interpretations (one from an anonymous lawyer, the other from a nonlawyer) about priority of coverage between a Maryland health insurer and PIP benefits from an automobile insurer. The anonymous lawyer stated that Maryland Insurance Code § 19-507(b)(2) requires health insurers to get the insured’s consent before making PIP primary. The nonlawyer told me, “Maryland law requires PIP to be primary.” It turns out that neither interpretation seems to be correct.
By Cory Bilton
If you are injured in an accident in DC, Maryland, or Virginia, one of the first barriers to recovering from the wrongdoer is the concept of contributory negligence. Contributory negligence is a rule that states that if you are partly at fault for your injuries, you can’t recover any money from the other person that caused the accident. This rule can bring about exceedingly harsh results. Even if you were only 1% at fault, and the other person was 99% at fault, you cannot recover anything.
Only five jurisdictions use the harsh contributory negligence rule, and the majority of them are the ones in the DC area. That’s right, DC, Virginia, and Maryland all use the contributory negligence rule (North Carolina and Alabama are the other two). Since so few states use the rule, there are many people who are unaware of it. In fact, I had a guest lecturer in a law school class at GW, a practicing lawyer himself (though not a personal injury lawyer), who said during his lecture, “I don’t think there are any jurisdictions that use contributory negligence anymore.” So, many people may not realize that if they were even the slightest bit to blame, no matter how negligent the other person’s behavior, contributory negligence says you get nothing (as with pretty much all legal topics, there are some exceptions).