An important Massachusetts Appeals Court decision came out recently, relative to insurance settlement practices in car accident cases.
According to Massachusetts General Laws, c. 93A and c. 176D., insurance companies must not be unfair or deceptive in their settlement practices with claimants. If they fail to do so, they can be penalized with paying double or even treble the damages owed to the claimant.
Unfortunately for plaintiffs, they can lose out on this if they, or their attorney, do not cooperate fully themselves. In Giacalone v. Commerce Insurance Company, Inc., the Appeals Court says, "An insurer's duty to settle arises only when liability has become reasonably clear, including as to both fault and damages...Viewed in the most favorable light, the plaintiff's argument appears to be that Commerce had a duty to offer the policy limit long before it did - even in the absence of a formal demand - because Commerce knew, or should have known, that the plaintiff's legitimate damages dwarfed the policy limit...[T]his argument is inconsistent with the uncontested facts established by the summary judgment record." Most importantly, the Court went on to say that "Once Commerce marshalled its evidence that it acted reasonably and was delayed by the plaintiff's lack of cooperation, it was incumbent on the plaintiff to put forth facts demonstrating a triable issue...The plaintiff failed to engage that burden, and summary judgment was therefore appropriately entered in Commerce's favor..."
It's important to take from this that you need to have an advocate who is going to pursue settlement for you aggressively and not let things fester on the insurance company's end. As this case shows, it's next to impossible to prove that the insurance company is being unreasonable, if your attorney is failing to present demands and follow up with the insurance company.
If you've been the victim of a car accident or other personal injury matter, contact our firm today. Our aggressive representation will get you the settlement you deserve.