Massachusetts Court Discusses Right of an Injured Party to Pursue Claims Against a Negligent Party’s Insurer

Most drivers in Massachusetts carry automobile insurance. Thus, if a driver causes an accident that harms another person, the driver’s automobile insurance carrier will typically make payments to the injured party on behalf of the driver. If an insurance company declines to make payments to an injured party on behalf of a negligent driver, however, the injured party cannot pursue claims directly against the insurer, as explained in a recent Massachusetts appellate court case. If you suffered harm in a car accident caused by a reckless driver, it is in your best interest to speak with a skillful Massachusetts personal injury attorney regarding your options for seeking damages for your harm.

Facts of the Case

It is reported that the plaintiff was involved in an accident with a driver that was insured by the defendant. The defendant’s insured was at fault for the accident, and therefore the defendant attempted to negotiate a settlement agreement with the plaintiff. The parties were unable to independently resolve the matter, however. As such, the plaintiff filed a lawsuit against the defendant, seeking compensation for the damages caused by the defendant’s insured. The defendant filed a motion to dismiss, which the trial court granted. The plaintiff then appealed the trial court’s dismissal of his case.

An Insurer’s Liability for the Acts of its Insured

Under Massachusetts law, a person injured in an accident cannot pursue claims against a liability insurer for the acts of its insured. Instead, a person injured in an accident must engage in a two-step process to recover damages from an insurance company. First, the injured person must obtain a judgment against an insured party. If the injured person obtains a judgment and the judgment is not satisfied, the injured person may then pursue a bill to reach and apply against the insurer of the liable party.

The court explained that the reasoning behind requiring two steps is that in many cases, an insurer may be able to assert a defense in relation to its insured, such as a breach of the cooperation clause. In cases in which claims against an insurer are pursued absent a judgment against an insured, however, it is difficult and often impossible to raise this defense. The plaintiff argued, however, that the two-step process was only required in cases in which the insurer did not concede the liability of its insured. Further, the plaintiff stated that his dispute was solely with the defendant, as it pertained to the value of the plaintiff’s damages, rather than whether liability rested with the defendant’s insured. The court noted that the plaintiff failed to comply with the rules of appellate procedure, but evaluated his brief regardless of its insufficiencies, and rejected his argument as invalid.  As such, the court affirmed the dismissal of the plaintiff’s complaint.

Meet with an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney

If you were injured in a car accident that was caused by a negligent driver, you should speak with an experienced attorney regarding your potential claims. The dedicated personal injury attorneys of the Law Office of James K. Meehan possess the skills and resources needed to help you seek a favorable outcome, and we will work diligently on your behalf. We can be reached via the online form or at 508-822-6600 to set up a confidential and free consultation.