Massachusetts Appellate Court Reverses Summary Judgment for Defendant in Taxicab Car Crash Case

Top of taxiDealing with insurance companies is one of the most difficult aspects of being involved in a motor vehicle accident. At the Law Office of Michael O. Smith, our seasoned team of Boston car accident lawyers has the experience and tenacity to stand up to big insurance companies that don’t always have your best interests in mind.

A recent appellate decision illustrates how important it is to assert your rights when dealing with an auto insurer. The plaintiff was involved in a car crash while riding in a taxi. The taxicab driver drove down a freeway ramp and through a yield sign into the rear end of a van that was waiting for traffic to pass on the road where the offramp merged. The drivers of each vehicle communicated briefly and then got back into their respective vehicles and drove away. The taxicab driver took the plaintiff to her home. She did not obtain his information. The plaintiff could not identify the driver of the taxi or the person driving the other vehicle involved in the accident.

The record at trial contained conflicting information regarding the exact date that the plaintiff became aware of her injuries. The physician’s report indicated, however, that she started experiencing pain immediately after the crash. The plaintiff consulted with an attorney, who sent a letter to the cab company providing notice of the plaintiff’s claim for personal injuries. The notice said that the plaintiff was injured on the date of the accident as a result of the driver’s negligence. The cab company responded, saying that it was only a dispatch service and that it did not have the identity of the cab driver without the driver’s name or the name of the owner of the vehicle. The plaintiff’s lawyer did not provide any additional information to the cab company. Over the next eight months, the plaintiff did not seek to identify the driver of the cab.

The plaintiff next filed a claim with her insurer, seeking uninsured motorist benefits. This notice contained substantially more information regarding the crash, but it failed to include a policy number and misspelled the plaintiff’s name. The insurer requested more information, and the plaintiff’s lawyer sent a second notice with the correct information. The insurer then commenced an investigation into the claim. In the investigation, the cab company denied any knowledge of or connection to the accident. The insurer then conducted an examination of the plaintiff, who provided for the first time additional details about the crash.

After completing its investigation, the insurer denied coverage for the claim, stating that it was not liable under the terms of her auto insurance policy. The plaintiff filed a lawsuit against the insurer. On cross-motions for summary judgment, the lower court concluded that the insurer was not liable. The plaintiff appealed, and the reviewing court reversed, finding that there were genuine issues of fact that rendered summary judgment inappropriate, particularly regarding whether the plaintiff had fulfilled a duty to gather information about the accident and whether the plaintiff’s late notice regarding the accident materially affected the insurer’s ability to investigate the accident in a proper fashion. The appellate court vacated the judgment in the defendant’s favor and remanded the case for further proceedings.

If you or someone you love suffered injuries as a result of a car accident, you may be entitled to compensation. Whether you were involved in a minor crash or a devastating accident resulting in permanent injuries, you deserve a dedicated and aggressive lawyer who will help you seek the compensation that you deserve. To schedule a free consultation, call us at 617-263-0060 or contact us online.

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