Every driver on the Massachusetts roadways owes a duty to every other driver to drive their vehicle reasonably. Because the people of Massachusetts, and the government, recognize that some drivers tend to have a hard time doing this, it is additionally required that every driver carry an insurance policy. This policy must meet certain requirements and cover drivers who act less than reasonably while cruising around the state. Drivers must pay premiums to their insurance company in order to keep their policy current and protect themselves and others from their own acts of carelessness. In turn, insurance companies are required to fairly settle with drivers who have been injured by the company’s policyholders. Unfortunately, certain insurance companies make the settlement process far less fair than it was originally intended to be. Still, the law maintains that insurers must settle claims promptly, fairly, and equitably once it is determined that liability is reasonably clear. A Massachusetts Court recently upheld this principle in Chiulli v. Liberty Mutual Insurance Company.
Insurance and Mr. Chiulli
The insurance principles that apply to drivers apply equally to business owners. In Mr. Chiulli’s case, Liberty Mutual was the insurer for a restaurant called Sonsie. In 2008, as a patron of the restaurant, Chiulli was involved in a street fight. As a result of this fight, Chiulli ended up in a three-month-long coma due to a fractured skull. His damages ultimately totalled approximately $1 million. A jury awarded him a $4.5 million verdict. The plaintiff’s attorney argued that Chiulli suffered additional damages by being forced to go through the trial process. These damages, it was argued, were a direct result of Liberty Mutual’s failure to settle within the provisions of Massachusetts law; meaning that despite liability being reasonably clear, no fair and prompt settlement was offered. The Boston-based insurance company argued that the standard deprived them of their right to trial. The appeals court disagreed and upheld the current standard.
Insurance and You
The standard articulated by the appeals court in upholding the finding in this case is a very plaintiff-friendly one. While many of us will not find ourselves negotiating with insurance companies based on the situation Chiulli found himself in, we will certainly deal with insurance companies at one point or another. Insurance companies are for-profit businesses and as such look out for their own best interests. The professional underwriters and adjusters are there to ensure that they are not paying out more than the company is taking in. In reality, quite the opposite is true; they must bring in a significant amount more than they are paying out. What this means for you is that they are not on your side. They understand, through the law of the state, exactly what and when they are required to pay to an injured party. Still, under those guidelines they must turn a profit. With this in mind, it is easy to see how you may get less than you are entitled to when dealing with an insurance company.
If you are hurt by the carelessness of another, level the playing field with the insurance company by hiring an experienced personal injury attorney. At our firm, we have the skill and experience to help you obtain a fair settlement for your claim. Contact Peter Ventura today at (508) 755-7535.