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New Developments in Auto Insurance Law


Recent decisions have evolved the handling of auto insurance liability cases in Massachusetts. These decisions include:

Expansion of PIP insurer liability to pay the legal fees of PIP claimants

In Fascione v. CNA, 435 Mass 88 (2001), the Court had previously denied the Plaintiff legal fees against the insurer when they had to sue for PIP payment. However, in recent cases, namely Excel Physical Therapy v. Enterprise Rent-A-Car, 2012 Mass. App. Div., 145 and Regional Rehab. Assoc. v. Pilgrim, 2012 Mass. App. Div. 182, the Court distinguished the Fascione case in order to grant Plaintiffs attorneys fees. In Fascione, the insurer had not denied PIP benefits but merely inadvertently failed to pay; in these recent cases, the Court granted attorney's fees where they found that the insurer had incorrectly disputed the merits of the PIP claim. These are important decisions, as the legal fees of the Plaintiffs are likely to be higher than the PIP benefits being claimed.

Expansion of insurer liability for failure to settle cases

Under M.G.L. Chapter 176D and Chapter 93A, an insurer has a duty to try and settle meritorious claims and can be found liable for failing to due so, with punishments of double or even treble damages to the Plaintiff.

In a recent decision, Rhodes v. AIG, 461 Mass 486 (2012), the court changed the way these damages are calculated. In Rhodes, the Plaintiff had been rendered a paraplegic after she was rear ended by an 18 wheeler. AIG failed to offer settlement both before and after trial. The Supreme Judicial Court ruled that the damages to be doubled or tripled was not the interest calculated on the amount the insurance company should have offered, from the date it should have been offered through when it was, but the amount of the judgment that enters against the insured in the bodily injury lawsuit. This opens up the insurer to even greater damages. In the Rhodes case, it was about $21 million. It is sure to prompt more insurers to settle their cases promptly and reasonably.

The greatest way to get the settlement you deserve is by hiring a personal injury attorney to represent you and deal with the insurance company on your behalf. Not only can they give you guidance on what a good settlement entails, but they can fight the fight for you should the insurance company not be willing to pay out what you deserve. If you've been injured, contact our firm today for a free consultation.