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Massachusetts Court of Appeal Discusses Unfair Settlement Practices in Car Accident Insurance Claim Dispute

If you were hurt in a car accident, you probably have questions about whether you are entitled to insurance policy benefits. Working with insurance companies can be incredibly frustrating, especially if they do not have your best interests in mind or if they fail to play by the rules. At Mass Injury Group, our seasoned team of Boston car accident lawyers have handled countless insurance claim negotiations and are ready to put our knowledge and experience to use on your behalf. Call our office today and start pursuing the just outcome that you deserve.

Recently, in Mundell v. Commerce Insurance Company, 98 Mass. App. Ct. 1121 (2020), the Massachusetts Court of Appeal issued an opinion discussing whether an insurance company engaged in unfair settlement practices pursuant to the Massachusetts Consumer Protection Act. The plaintiff made a claim for policy benefits from the defendant auto insurer, which provided an auto insurance policy to the person who caused a car accident involving the plaintiff.

The plaintiff made a demand for the policy benefits of $20,000 in a demand letter that gave the insurance company 30 days to respond. The insurance adjuster assigned to the claim investigated the matter. He later notified the plaintiff that the insurer was accepting liability on behalf of the defendant and that he was waiting for settlement authority from his supervisor.

Meanwhile, the 30-day time limit from the plaintiff’s demand letter expired. The plaintiff filed a claim against the at-fault driver and received a jury verdict of $50,000 in damages. The insurer made a partial payment of $20,510. The at-fault driver assigned his rights against his insurance company to the plaintiff, who then pursued the remaining balance of the verdict from the insurance company in a 93A letter demanding the remaining balance. Under the Massachusetts Consumer Protection Act, businesses are prohibited from engaging in unfair or deceptive acts. To pursue action against a company that has violated this law, the plaintiff must first send a 93A demand letter identifying specific information regarding the claim and providing the company with 30 days to respond.

The insurer denied that it had violated the consumer protection statute, and the plaintiff filed an unfair settlement practices lawsuit against the insurer. The court dismissed the plaintiff’s complaint, finding that the insurer did not engage in unfair practices by failing to tender the policy limits in the plaintiff’s unilaterally imposed deadline and that it was reasonable for the insurer to provide the policy limits within a 40-day period. According to the record, the only reason it took the insurer an additional 10 days to provide the policy limits was due to the claims adjuster’s status as a new employee still in training. The plaintiff appealed the lower court’s ruling, which an appellate court affirmed.

If you are dealing with an insurance dispute after a Boston car accident, you do not have to fight for your rights alone. An attorney can help you make sense of the complex terms in an auto insurance policy and pursue legal action if the other party is not playing by the rules. You can schedule a free and confidential consultation with Mass Injury Group to start learning more about your potential insurance payout. Call us today at 617-263-0060 or contact us online to get started.

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