On April 20, 2017 Paul Schwab and Jud Lipowitz of Azrael, Franz, Schwab & Lipowitz, LLC presented a seminar in Baltimore entitled, “Protecting Families:  Wrongful Death and Survival Actions” to the Estate and Gift Tax Study Group of the Estates and Trusts Section of the Maryland State Bar Association in Baltimore.  The seminar was simultaneously broadcast to attorneys in Potomac, Maryland.

The Azrael Franz attorneys stressed the importance of carefully examining clients’ automobile and umbrella insurance policies.  Jud explained the risks and policy provisions that are or can be included in automobile and umbrella policies.  Using examples encountered in his practice, Jud illustrated how increasing the limits and types of coverage can be a cost effective way to protect clients and their families.  He also described the family member exclusion and how if it is in the policy less insurance is available for an injured spouse than other crash victims.  Jud concluded by reviewing the Maryland legislation enacted in April of 2017 that will enable clients to elect to receive the full benefit of their uninsured motorist coverage by being able to “stack” it on top of the at fault driver’s liability insurance.

Paul discussed how estate planning attorneys review life, long-term care and other insurance with clients.  He recommended that attorneys examine the declaration page of clients’ automobile insurance policy and suggest questions to ask the agent.  This allows the clients to make an informed decision on whether they wish to provide enhanced coverage for themselves and their family.

He also listed steps attorneys should consider if contacted by the at-fault driver or his family or the victim’s family.  Besides seeing that that the at-fault driver receives appropriate representation at any traffic, criminal or MVA hearing, the at-fault driver’s family should review the provisions made for the driver in their estate plans.  For example, if the driver is the beneficiary of a life insurance policy, the policy owner may want to change the beneficiary to a trust for the driver and/or the driver’s children.

With respect to the victim or the victim’s family, the attorney must determine whether he or she is competent to handle the claim and willing to accept sole responsibility and the time and financial commitment involved with the case or wishes to co-counsel it with an experienced attorney.

Jud and Paul responded to a number of questions from the attorneys following their presentation, including a couple on risks that can or may be covered by an “umbrella” policy, the allocation of a settlement when an attorney represents all the beneficiaries of a wrongful death claim, and factors to be considered in addressing the allocation of a settlement between the wrongful death and survival actions arising from the family member’s death.

Detailed written materials together with a power point were made available to all members of the Estate and Gift Tax Study Group prior to the presentation.  Those materials are available by clicking the links below: