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Mass General Law Chapter 93A and the Unreasonable Insurance Company Adjuster

The power and protection of MGL Chapter 93A should not be overlooked when dealing with an unreasonable insurance company adjuster when attempting to settle a personal injury matter. Recently, I handled a personal injury matter involving a pedestrian who was struck by a taxicab. My client was not in a crosswalk when he was hit. However, the passenger, who was in the taxicab at the time of the accident, indicated to police that the driver was on his cell phone at the time my client was hit. Additionally, my client indicated that the driver appeared to slow his vehicle to allow him to cross, but then suddenly sped up and hit him.

Thankfully, my client’s injuries were not catastrophic. My client suffered soft tissue injuries, bruising, and a shoulder strain. He was exposed to a conservative course of physical therapy and treated for approximately 11 weeks. My client missed no time from work as a result of his injury. I estimated the value of the case to be in the range of $4,000.00 to $5,000.00 at full value. However, in this case, had the matter gone to trial, a percentage of fault would have been assessed against my client for crossing the street outside of a crosswalk, which would decrease the value.

I sent a demand for settlement to the insurance company, which included my client’s medical records and bills, and the police report. Soon after, the insurance company forwarded correspondence indicating that their position was that the taxicab driver was only 30% at fault. The insurance company provided no additional explanation. The insurance company made no offer of settlement. When contacted, the adjuster merely repeated that the insured was only 30% at fault. I argued that the particular street my client crossed at the time of the injury was a highly traveled pedestrian area where it was common for people to cross outside of crosswalks, that the taxicab driver was familiar with the area and knew or should have known that pedestrians crossed outside of crosswalks, that the taxicab driver was on his cellphone at the time of the accident and that the driver slowed down which prompted my client to cross the street and then sped up and hit him. Still, seemingly without any investigation of the matter the insurance company made no offer and gave no explanation.

I sent an MGL Chapter 93A demand letter to the insurance company. Briefly, 93A through MGL Chapter 176D is a consumer protection statute. Under MGL c. 93A through MGL c. 176D 3(9)(c): failure to implement reasonable standards for prompt investigation, (f) failing to effectuate prompt, fair and equitable settlement offer in which liability has become reasonably clear, and (g) compelling (claimants) to institute litigation to recover amounts due under insurance policies, if proven at trial, may result in an award of double or triple damages, and attorney fees. MGL Chapter 93A, provides the insurance company with the opportunity to make a reasonable written settlement offer within thirty days of the receipt of the letter. A few weeks after I sent the 93A demand, the insurance company merely mailed out a copy of their original correspondence indicating that their position was that the taxicab driver was only 30% at fault. The insurance company provided no offer nor explanation.

I filed a Complaint in the District Court. I sued the driver of the taxicab, the taxicab company, and most importantly, I sued the insurance company for violations of 93A and forcing me to institute a lawsuit on behalf of my client despite clear liability. Approximately five days after service of the Complaint I got a call from an apologetic supervising adjuster. The adjuster made an initial offer of $10,000.00. The matter ultimately settled for $12,500.00, several days later. This amount was approximately three times what I estimated the full value of the case to be. Here, the initial injuries to my client were caused by the taxicab; however, it was the insurance adjuster’s unreasonable acts and omissions that created the additional damages pursuant to 93A for which my client was ultimately compensated.