When seeking damages through a personal injury lawsuit, the goal is to become “whole,” or as you were prior to the injury. Some of the damages are to help cover the costs during this period like lost wages. Others are to help pay for the medical care received after the injury and for future medical expenses required to continue healing. An experienced personal injury attorney will seek damages from any and all entities deemed responsible for the payment of damages. Many times, this will be an insurance company that issued an auto, homeowner, or commercial policy that is designed to provide quick, accessible payments. While insurers exist to provide funds in times of emergency, insurance companies often decline to pay the benefits found in a policy. These types of challenges present additional obstacles for the injured person to overcome.
A recent Massachusetts case (No. 15-P-1706) was a case in which an insurer was ultimately required by the appellate court to provide coverage. The plaintiff was injured by a dog while she was walking her own dogs. The injured person tried to protect her dogs during the attack, suffering a broken arm, a laceration to her face, and scrapes on her knees, elbows, and ankles. The aggressive dog had a history of biting other dogs. The owner of the dog had a homeowner’s insurance policy and attempted to file a claim to help pay for the injuries sustained by the injured person. The insurer refused to provide coverage, pointing to the application submitted by the owner that left out the prior bites. The trial court, despite protests from the dog owner and the injured woman, granted the insurance company’s motion to dismiss the claims against it seeking payment of benefits. Both the owner and the injured person appealed.
The dog owner acknowledged he owned a dog on his initial application for homeowner’s insurance. Under a section asking him to “Note breed and bite history”, he wrote, “American bull dog — no biting incidents.” The dog owner signed and verified that his answers were ‘true, complete and correct to the best of my knowledge and belief.” After the injury in this case, the insurance company investigated the claim and found that the offending dog had previously bitten two other dogs before the owner’s application was turned in. In its motion to dismiss, the insurer argued the answers were a material misrepresentation that voided the policy and its benefits.