Understanding the Role of the Statutory Demand Letter Requirement in Personal Injury Suits

In Massachusetts, claims for personal injury must be filed within the timeline set out by the Massachusetts General Laws. Medical malpractice, personal injury, product liability, and wrongful death actions must be filed within three years of the accident or the date the injury was discovered. If claims aren’t filed within the statutory timeline, the injured person generally loses the ability to sue for damages. Other timelines guide actions that must occur within certain types of civil suits, including the requirement found in Massachusetts G.L. Ch. 93A, which directs the plaintiff to send a demand letter 30 days before filing an action for an unfair and deceptive practice.

In auto accident cases, courts, insurers, and the injured parties all must look to an insurance contract to see or determine whether or not the policy provides monetary relief for the injured person. If the insurance company determines that the injured person was not covered under the policy in question, the injured person may then choose to file a separate, related suit against the insurance company for failing to provide coverage as contracted.

In a 2008 decision, Kanamaru v. Holyoke Mut. Ins. Co. (72 Mass.App.Ct. 396), an injured bicyclist sought benefits under his roommate’s policy after he was hit by an uninsured vehicle on the road. The roommate had previously insured him under his auto policy, since he intended to share the vehicle with the injured man. After the suit was filed, the insurance company declined to cover the roommate’s injuries, arguing that the policy did not extend to the roommate for UM (uninsured motorist) coverage. In addition to his arguments that he was covered by the policy, the injured man filed suit against the insurance company for unfair and deceptive trade practices. The appellate court in that case ruled that the trial judge correctly entered a summary judgment in favor of the insurer defendant for failing to send a demand letter 30 days prior to filing suit.

This type of summary judgment review was recently seen in a Massachusetts Appeals Court decision, Chery v. Metropolitan Property and Casualty Ins. Co. In this case, the court said that she not only failed to give notice and wait 30 days before filing suit, but she also failed to include an affirmation of this action in her pleadings, which is required by law. The injured woman in this case pointed out that the insurance company also failed to timely respond to her initial pleadings, thereby waiving its affirmative defense. The court disagreed, determining that the insurer was not obligated to address this issue at the initial motion for summary judgment.

These cases reveal the importance of experienced personal injury counsel who knows the law and has a deep understanding of what must be done to pursue all avenues of legal relief. Auto accidents and other personal injury actions that look to insurance policies for benefit payments can quickly become complex. The Massachusetts personal injury attorneys at the Law Office of James K. Meehan have the experience you need to maximize the damages you deserve. Call today at 508.822.6600 for a free, confidential consultation.

More Blog Posts:

Appeals Court of Massachusetts Reviews Slip and Fall on Ice at Hospital, Massachusetts Injury Lawyers Blog, April 28, 2015
Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Upholds Jury Award to Injured Child Harmed from Overdose of Motrin, Massachusetts Injury Lawyers Blog, April 21, 2015