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Posts from the ‘Miscellaneous’ Category

In the Social Media Era, Any Publicity is not Good Publicity for Insurance Companies

A Maryland insurance company has recently been placed squarely on the defensive in the press due to it recent defense of an uninsured/underinsured motorist (UM) insurance claim in court.  Actually, that is not entirely accurate.  The insurance company does not find itself this position because of the outcome in the court case.  Rather, the public scrutiny it now faces results directly from the evils of social media – the dreaded blog post.  Although to be fair to blogs (as I kind of have to be), the situation could have come from one of the many relatives of the blog, be it the Tweet, the Facebook post, the YouTube rant, MySpace, the message board comment, etc.  Despite having done nothing wrong, the insurer finds itself in a public relations nightmare, which in the internet age, maybe should not be all that surprising.

I will not identify the insurance company here or the specific case because (1) the company’s actions were completely appropriate; and (2) it does not matter which insurer it was – other insurers handle UM claims the same way, and any one of them could have found themselves in the same position. Read more

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Hurry Up and Wait

The waiting is the hardest part
Every day you see one more card
You take it on faith, you take it to the heart
The waiting is the hardest part

“The Waiting”
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

Contrary to popular myth, this classic Tom Petty song was not written about attorneys, but you cannot blame litigators for often feeling that the song applies to them.   A litigator spends hours preparing for an important hearing or trial, has dreams (or nightmares) of presenting his argument to the court.  Then the day finally comes, and the lawyer gets in his car 20 minutes early to account for traffic, only to find out that traffic is running 25 minutes behind.  The adrenaline is kicking in.  He rushes to the courtroom just as the clock strikes the scheduled start time and then… Read more

Maryland House Passes Same-Sex Marriage Bill

Late Friday, the Maryland House of Delegates, in a close vote, passed a same-sex marriage bill, which will now be forwarded to the State Senate.  If passed by the Senate, Gov. O’Malley will sign it, and Maryland will join a number of states and Washington, D.C. that allow some form of gay marriage or civil union.  Although I am sure that the politics that have gone on publicly and behind the scenes are fascinating, this is not a political blog site, and I have no interest in making it one.  The gay marriage issue, though, is nothing if not headline-making, so it merits a brief look at how legalizing same sex unions may affect tort and insurance issues in Maryland.  Ultimately, the impact will probably be minimal, but a few items immediately come to mind:

1.  “Resident Relative” Coverage: In many personal liability policies, coverage is generally available to the “resident relative” of the named insured.  Currently, a same-sex partner would not fall into that category, but if the partner were to become a spouse, then presumably, he or she would become an insured by definition under the policy and be entitled to a defense and indemnity if an applicable tort claim was brought against the person.

2.  Loss of Consortium: A loss of consortium claim exists in favor of the spouse of a personal injury plaintiff for loss of affection, companionship, services, and the like.  Juries often have a difficult time placing a whole lot of value on loss of consortium claims, given the whole “in sickness and in health” thing, but just think of some of the debates that may go in inside of a jury room when the loss of consortium claim involves a same-sex couple.

3.  Joint Marital Assets: When an individual is sued in tort and a judgment is obtained, the prevailing plaintiff has many avenues of collecting if the judgment is not timely paid, including attaching bank accounts and placing liens on real property.  However, there is a catch – the judgment creditor can only go after the debtor’s personal property and generally has no rights to jointly held property.  With same-sex marriage, gay couples will likely accumulate and maintain more joint property than if there were no legal recognition of the union.  The family home, for example, will likely automatically be joint property of the spouses regardless of how it is titled, thus protecting the property from lien.