Thursday, June 13, 2019

Maryland Expands Pre-Litigation Discovery of Insurance Coverage Limits & Changes Qualifications for Experts in Medical Malpractice Disputes

The Maryland General Assembly recently passed bills expanding the scope of pre-litigation discovery of insurance coverage limits and changing the qualifications for experts in medical malpractice disputes. The new laws are set to take effect in Maryland on October 1, 2019.

Senate Bill 101 will expand the scope of the law that authorizes the discovery of insurance coverage information relating to claims involving motor vehicle accidents.

Generally, an insurer must provide a claimant with any documentation regarding the limits of liability coverage in an insurance agreement under which the insurer may be liable to satisfy all or part of the claim. To obtain this information, a claimant must have filed a written tort claim involving a motor vehicle accident and must also provide the insurer with the following information in writing: (1) the date of the accident report; (2) the name and last known address of the alleged tortfeasor; (3) a copy of the vehicle accident report; and (4) the insurer's claim number.

However, the Bill, once enacted into law, will extend the application of this law to include not just motor vehicle accidents, but any tort involving death or bodily injury. Claimants will be able to discover information about the applicable limits of coverage in any automobile, homeowner's, or renter's insurance policy. The law will also expand the required documentation that claimants must submit to the insurer to include a letter from a licensed attorney certifying that: (1) the attorney has made reasonable efforts to investigate the underlying facts of the claim; and (2) based on the attorney's investigation, the attorney reasonably believes that the claim is not frivolous.

Senate Bill 773 will change the requirements for experts testifying in medical malpractice disputes. Currently, qualified experts may not dedicate more than 20% of their professional activities to activities that directly involve testimony in personal injury claims. For something to qualify as a "professional activity,” it must: (1) contribute to, or advance, the profession to which the expert belongs; or (2) involve the expert's active participation in that profession. However, activities such as reading journals, observing procedures conducted by other physicians, and discussing matters with former colleagues are not considered “professional activities” included in the 20% rule.

Once Senate Bill 773 takes effect in Maryland, it will increase experts’ 20% limit on personal injury testimony to 25%. It will also expand the definition of “professional activity” to include all activities arising from, or related to, the health care profession. In addition, the new law will establish that once a health care provider qualifies as an expert, he/she must be deemed a qualified expert for the pendency of the claim.

-Jahnee Waller, Law Clerk