Massachusetts Appellate Court Upholds Award of Multiple Damages to Plaintiff in Unfair Settlement Practices Claim against Insurer

Car accidents can be incredibly stressful for the victim when it comes to dealing with insurance companies and knowing whether you are being treated fairly. Our experienced team of Boston car accident lawyers is well versed in the rules that apply to insurance companies when it comes to settling accident claims and tendering policy limits. Contact us today to start learning more about whether you are receiving the fair treatment that you deserve following a car crash.

In Hopkins v. Liberty Mut. Ins., the court concluded that the insurer violated clear Massachusetts laws requiring insurers to make a good faith and prompt attempt to resolve insurance claims. Following a jury-waived trial, the judge concluded that the insurer engaged in knowing and willful violations of Massachusetts laws prohibiting insurers from engaging in unfair and deceptive claim settlement practices. More specifically, the statute deems it an unfair claim settlement practice if the insurer fails to make a prompt, fair, and equitable settlement of claims where liability has become reasonably clear. The plaintiff sought compensation for injuries that she sustained in a five-car accident involving a work truck owned and operated by an employer and driven by an agent-employee. This driver caused the first impact, which unleashed a chain reaction series of accidents involving the other five drivers.

The judge awarded the plaintiff damages for her injuries and the statutory violations as well as attorney’s fees. The defendant appealed on the basis that the statute that prohibits insurers from delaying settlement of claims does not allow recovery for each alleged act or omission and that the statute does not allow for an award of multiple damages and attorneys’ fees.

Reviewing the record, the appellate court concluded that the lower court’s award of compensation was appropriate and rejected the defendant’s challenges to the judge’s interpretation of the damages provision of the statute. There was evidence at trial to indicate that liability was clear and that the plaintiff had provided sufficient evidence to reasonably support her requested damages. The judge also determined that the insurer for the defendant violated the unfair settlement practices statute when it failed to tender a fair offer of settlement to the plaintiff within a reasonable period of time after the plaintiff made a settlement demand of $700,000.

When calculating the plaintiff’s damages, the lower court judge also correctly determined that there were damages sustained as a result of the defendant’s unfair settlement practices and calculated the amount of damages from the time that the defendant should have tendered a settlement until the date the settlement was actually finalized. The judge then awarded the plaintiff reimbursement for her attorney’s fees incurred in bringing the unfair settlement practices claim against the insurer. The judge deemed that multiplication of the plaintiff’s actual damages was appropriate because there was evidence showing that the insurer deliberately refused to make any offer of settlement until four years after it had actual knowledge that its insured was at fault for the accident and knowing the full extent of the plaintiff’s injuries.

If you were hurt in a car accident and you are dealing with insurance companies, you are probably feeling overwhelmed and frustrated. At the Mass Injury Group, we have assisted numerous families and individuals with ensuring that they receive the fair outcome they deserve following an unnecessary car crash. We offer a free consultation so that you can discuss your situation and learn more about how we might be able to assist you. Call us at 617-263-0060 or contact us online to set up your appointment.

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