Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Why PIP claims are rarely litigated

In my last post I discussed the Salem District Court case of Genest v. Commerce Ins. Co., in which an insurer was held not to have violated Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 93A when it based its denial of a PIP claim on an IME report.

In that case it is worth noting that although 93A damages were denied, the insured was probably awarded attorney's fees pursuant the PIP statute itself. The statute grants attorney's fees if judgment against the insurer enters on a PIP claim.

That is crucial. The maximum actual damages under a PIP claim are $8,000. Very few lawyers are willing to litigate a claim of that size. On a contingency fee claim they simply cannot make back their investment of time, and on an hourly basis the client would end up losing money. The only way such a claim is worthwhile is if an award of attorney's fees is available.

However, under the PIP statute, an insurer can pay a PIP claim at any time up until judgment enters, even after trial has begun, and not have to pay attorney's fees. As Genest illustrates, an insurer can incorrectly refuse to pay a PIP claim without being liable for attorney's fees under 93A.

That is why PIP claims are rarely litigated.

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