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The Weapon of Fair Play in Injury Litigation

Today I will be discussing the 93A Massachusetts statute, which declared unfair or deceptive acts or practices in trade or business unlawful. There is also a similar statute of 176D, which declares unfair acts or practices in the business of insurance unlawful. The original intent of the 93A statute, I think it is fair to say, was to help consumers when dealing with purchases of consumer goods, such as appliances. But over the past few decades, 93A along with its insurance counterpart,176D, has evolved to assist plaintiffs and their attorneys in pursuing personal injury claims against insurance companies. Insurers are required to investigate claims fairly and to submit a reasonable offer in the event that liability is reasonably clear. Also, insurers cannot compel a plaintiff to institute litigation by offering substantially less than the plaintiff recovers.

A big benefit to asserting a 93A and 176D claim is that it allows you to ascertain the adversary’s position within 30 days of sending a demand letter. The recipient is required to give a response within that time period. If a reasonable offer is not made, the insurer (and any 93A entity as well) is then subject to the imposition of multiple damages and attorney’s fees. I am finding that a 93A,176D letter will flush out the insurer’s position early in the life of the case.

I have direct experience against one of the biggest national insurers, one that has received its comeuppance in Massachusetts. My client was offered $200,000 by that insurance company a month prior to trial on a case that the jury ultimately awarded, with interest, 7.8 million dollars. All 7.8 million dollars was collected. Details about this case can be found on the homepage of my website and elsewhere. The very same insurance company who “low-balled” me (thankfully, to their great detriment) was recently found to have violated 93A and 176D by the highest court in Massachusetts, the Supreme Judicial Court. This is the very powerful decision of Rhodes v. AIG, 461Mass.486 (2012). It is important for your attorney to keep 93A and 176D in mind as he or she pursues your case. I certainly do. It was designed to be consumer-friendly and, without doubt, has exceeded what the drafters of the legislation could have expected.

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