Massachusetts Court Discusses Litigation of Claims Arising Out of Car Accidents

Car accidents often cause extensive injuries and damages. While injured parties can seek compensation from the drivers that cause collisions, they will often also file claims directly with the motorists’ insurers. Insurers have a duty to promptly investigate claims and, if appropriate, make reasonable settlement offers, and if they do not, injured parties can pursue claims against them as well. Typically, such claims must be litigated after the claims against the negligent driver are resolved, however, as explained in a recent opinion issued by a Massachusetts court.  If you were hurt in a crash caused by a reckless driver, you should meet with a Massachusetts personal injury attorney to evaluate your possible causes of action.

The Facts of the Case

Reportedly, the plaintiffs were driving on a highway in New Hampshire when they were hit by a car driven by the defendant driver. Both plaintiffs suffered serious injuries. The police who investigated the accident determined that the defendant driver was at fault and cited him for driving under the influence of alcohol. The plaintiffs then filed a claim with the defendant insurer, the company that insured the defendant driver.

Allegedly, although the plaintiffs provided the defendant insurer with a comprehensive demand package, it failed to make an offer. Thus, the plaintiffs filed a lawsuit, asserting negligence claims against the defendant driver and unfair settlement practice claims against the defendant insurer. The defendant insurer then moved to sever and stay the plaintiff’s claims against it.

Pursuing Claims Against an Insurer

The court granted the defendant insurer’s motion. Specifically, the court agreed with the defendant insurer’s assertion that severing the claims would avoid unnecessary judicial efforts and costs associated with litigating the claims. Further, it would prevent undue prejudice against both the defendant driver and the defendant insurer by protecting privileged information and work product from unnecessary disclosure.

The court rejected plaintiffs’ reasoning that per Massachusetts case law, it was not necessary to bifurcate the claims and that it was the preferred and standard practice to try such claims simultaneously. Rather, the court explained that recent appellate cases held that when, as in the subject case, a plaintiff asserts both tort claims against an insured party and claims against its insurer, the common practice is to sever claims asserting the insurer engaged in unfair settlement practices and to stay them until the claims against the insured party are resolved.

Finally, the court noted that the claims against the defendant insurer were premature as the liability of the defendant driver had yet to be determined. As such, the court granted the defendant’s motion.

Confer with a Dedicated Massachusetts Personal Injury Attorney

People hurt in collisions are often able to recover compensation from the driver responsible for the crash and his or her insurer. If you sustained injuries in a collision, you should confer with an attorney regarding your rights. Dedicated personal injury lawyer James K. Meehan can assess the circumstances surrounding your harm and help you to seek the full amount of damages recoverable under the law. You can reach us through our online form or at 508-822-6600 to set up a conference.