Thursday, September 2, 2010

Court rules that insurer is not liable for low settlement offer in low impact case, or for not conceding liability

One constant area of contention between personal injury attorneys and insurers is damages from low impact collisions. A low implact collision is one in which there is contact between the vehicles but it is so slight that it often results in little or no damage to the cars. Plaintiffs' attorneys contend that despite the seemingly minor nature of the accidents, severe back injuries can nevertheless result. Insurers are dubious of such claims.

In Lanton v. Lin, 2010 WL 3038719 (Mass. Super.), Superior Court Judge Fremont-Smith held that an insurer did not violate Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 93A by offering $1,500 to settle a low impact case, especially where the jury had found that the plaintiff had not suffered any damages.

The plaintiff contended that the insurer had violated 93A on a second ground, because it did not concede liability even though the plaintiff had been rear-ended. That failure caused the plaintiff to incur additional attorney's fees to prove that the insured defendant was at fault. Judge Fremont Smith ruled in favor of the insurer on this issue as well. He held, first, that there were no damages because liability was not contested at trial and, second, that the plaintiff had not demanded in his 93A demand letter that the insurer concede damages and so it had no obligation to do so.

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