For a number of years, Maryland has permitted pre-litigation discovery of insurance policy coverage limits under Md. Code Ann., Cts. & Jud. Proc. § 10-1101, et seq., but only with respect to motor vehicle liability coverage. As of October 1, 2019, claimants can obtain pre-litigation discovery of insurance information for homeowners’ and renters’ insurance policies as well.
Although the scope of the statute has been expanded, there is now a new and significant requirement that Claimants must meet in order to obtain pre-litigation documentation of insurance policy limits. It is no longer sufficient to simply provide basic information in writing concerning the claim. The amended statute now requires that an attorney admitted to practice law in the State of Maryland certify in writing that: “(i) the attorney has made reasonable efforts to investigate the underlying facts of the claim; and (ii) based on the attorney’s investigation, the attorney reasonably believes that the claim is not frivolous.” This new requirement applies to discovery of insurance coverage for injury claims pursuant to § 10-1103, as well as wrongful death and survival claims pursuant to § 10-1104, under motor vehicle, homeowners’ and renters’ insurance policies.
Furthermore, the statute previously permitted any claimant who alleges damages as a result of a motor vehicle accident to obtain documentation of policy limits. The term “Claimant”, as defined in §10-1101, has now been revised to include only those claimants, or attorneys on their behalves, who allege damages as a result of a tort involving bodily injury or death, whether caused by a motor vehicle or not, so long as the potential coverage is afforded by a motor vehicle, homeowners’ or renters’ insurance policy. Therefore, pre-litigation discovery of policy limits in a property damage only claim is no longer permitted. A fair reading of the statute indicates that it does, however, permit pre-litigation discovery of both bodily injury and property damage limits to a Claimant asserting a claim for damages as a result of a tort involving bodily injury or death.
Insurers who receive pre-litigation correspondence demanding insurance coverage information should be completely familiar with all of the requirements that a claimant must meet before releasing the information. Our attorneys can assist in that regard.