Insurance Bad Faith - Failure to Settle Automobile Accident Case
The case was brought against the automobile insurance company, Utica Mutual Insurance Company, for bad faith settlement practices. Utica Mutual had failed to settle the underlying car accident case even though liability was absolutely clear, in violation of G.L. c. 93A, the Consumer Protection Act, and G.L. c. 176D, the Unfair Claims Practices Act. Ultimately the company was found liable for an additional $670,000 in damages and attorneys' fees.
Plaintiff had suffered serious injuries in an automobile accident which was immediately determined to be the fault of another driver. The other driver had $250,000 in insurance coverage through Utica Mutual. He also had excess insurance coverage of $1,000,000. Utica Mutual Insurance Company refused to settle the case, and suit was filed against the driver and the insurance company. The personal injury case against the driver was settled by prior counsel for $675,000.00 shortly before trial. The case against Utica Mutual Insurance Company was tried in Cambridge Superior Court, and the judge found that Utica Mutual had violated the Massachusetts Consumer Protection Act, G.L. c. 93A, as well as the laws which prohibit unfair insurance claims practices, G.L. c. 176D. The judge awarded triple damages totaling $750,000.00, plus attorney's fees of $150,000.00. For more information, read the Complete Trial Court Opinion.
On appeal, the judgment was affirmed in part and reversed in part. The Supreme Judicial Court, which took the matter on direct appellate review, affirmed the trial judge's findings of bad faith insurance practices on the part of Utica Mutual. The Court rejected attempts by Utica Mutual, which was supported by several other insurance companies as amici curiae, to undermine c. 93A law. In particular, the Court affirmed that an insurance company may still be liable for c. 93A violations even after the underlying case is settled. The Court remanded the matter for further trial on the matter of damages, after finding that damages were incorrectly calculated. The full text of Clegg v. Butler, 424 Mass. 413 (1997), is available here.
After further hearing in the Superior Court, the trial judge determined the period of plaintiff's loss of use of money, interest and attorneys', and the matter was then closed upon a settlement payment of approximately $670,000.00. The award included treble damages for the bad faith of the insurance company.
Choosing a Massachusetts Insurance Bad Faith Lawyer
Insurance bad faith cases are complex and difficult, and require an understanding of the insurance industry and insurance claims practices. The lawyers at the Boston, Massachusetts firm of Breakstone, White & Gluck, PC, have developed a specialty handling claims on behalf of consumers injured by insurance bad faith practices, seeking multiple damages from the responsible insurance company. It is important to choose a bad faith insurance attorney carefully. Our Choosing a Lawyer page answers many questions you may have about choosing an experienced Massachusetts attorney for your case.
If you feel you have an insurance bad faith case, it is vital that you act immediately to protect your rights, as Massachusetts has strict statutes of limitations for G.L. c. 93A cases. Please call us at 617-723-7676, or toll free at 1-800-379-1244, or use our contact form.