Massachusetts Appellate Court Issues Opinion Regarding Meaning of “Related by Blood” in Auto Insurance Policy

Auto insurance policies take many different shapes and forms. It can be difficult to understand the extent and limits of your coverage, especially if your policy is written in legalese. Although it is best to have a clear understanding of your coverage before an accident occurs, sometimes questions come up following an unfortunate crash. As dedicated Boston car accident lawyers, we have assisted numerous individuals and families with understanding whether they are entitled to coverage following a car accident and we are standing by to assist you.

Recently, the Massachusetts Court of Appeal issued an opinion in a case where the plaintiff filed suit against an insurance company seeking coverage as a household member under a policy held by the mother and step-father of his partner. The plaintiff and his long-term partner had a child together. The court was asked to interpret the phrase “related by blood” when it comes to people who do not share a blood relation but who share a blood relationship through a third party.

At the time of the accident, the plaintiff was living with his partner and her mother and step-father. He was injured while riding as a passenger in a vehicle owned by a third party. The injuries were severe, resulting in several days of hospitalization, long-term disabilities, and medical bills exceeding $40,000. The plaintiff settled with the at-fault driver for her policy limits in the amount of $100,000.

The plaintiff’s partner’s mother and step-father maintained an insurance policy providing coverage for two of the vehicles in the home providing $250,000 coverage per person in the event of an underinsured motorist claim. Under the policy, the term household member was defined as someone living in the household who is related to the policyholder by blood, marriage, or adoption including wards, step-children, or foster children. The insurer rejected the plaintiff’s claim that he was a household member due to his relation to the policyholders through his biological son. The plaintiff filed suit and on cross-motions for summary judgment, the court concluded that the plaintiff was not a household member.

The plaintiff appealed and the reviewing court affirmed the decision finding that there was no genetic relation between the plaintiff and the policyholders. The language of the policy covers persons “related to [the policyholder] by blood, marriage, or adoption” which the court distinguished from persons who are related by blood through a third party. Had the plaintiff been married to his long-term partner, his injury-related damages would be covered under the terms of the policy. The court chose to adopt the plain and ordinary meaning of the words. To adopt the plaintiff’s suggested interpretation would potentially open the floodgates of coverage and allow many different persons to claim coverage through a third-party relation.

If you were hurt in a motor vehicle collision, you may be entitled to damages and/or insurance coverage. Our seasoned team of car accident lawyers is prepared to assist you in investigating your potential claim and defending your rights against insurance companies that don’t always act in their insureds’ best interests. To schedule a free consultation, contact us at 617-263-0060 or contact us online to get started.

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