Auto AccidentMassachusetts Court Discusses Whether an Insurance Company’s Demand for Arbitration was Untimely and Waived

December 6, 20180

A major aspect of any car accident is dealing with insurance companies. There are many different policy provisions and protocols that you may need to review to ensure that you are making your claim appropriately and that you receive the coverage that you deserve. Even if you are doing your best to follow all of the proper steps, insurance companies usually don’t have your best interest in mind. This means that they will try to do whatever they can to avoid paying you the coverage that you deserve. The dedicated Boston car accident lawyers at the Mass Injury Group are prepared to help you assert your rights to the fullest extent.

A recent case discussed the application of an underinsured motorist policy and the arbitration provision included in the insured’s policy. The plaintiff suffered injuries in a car accident and eventually obtained a settlement for the amount of that driver’s policy limits. The plaintiff’s insurance company was not a party to that settlement but provided consent to it.

The plaintiff then sought underinsured motorist coverage from her insurance company, which invoked the arbitration provision in the plaintiff’s policy. Arbitration is a form of dispute resolution in which the parties agree to let a neutral arbitrator resolve the matter. The outcome of an arbitration is binding on the parties in the same way that a court judgment is binding.


The plaintiff and her insurance company each filed motions for summary judgment and the court concluded that the insurer’s invocation of arbitration was untimely and that it had waived its right to arbitration. It also concluded that as a result of the settlement that the plaintiff had obtained from the driver, the insurer was collaterally estopped from contesting issues of liability and damages associated with the underinsured motorist claim. The insurer appealed.

The reviewing court reversed, finding that despite the significant amount of time that had passed between the insurer’s demand for arbitration, the insurer did not violate its policy-based and statutory right to seek an arbitration. First, it noted that the insurer never expressly waived its right to arbitration and that it was reasonable for the parties to wait until the resolution of the plaintiff’s legal dispute with the driver. The appellate court also stated that it was not a waste of judicial resources and time for the insurer to wait on the resolution of the plaintiff’s claim against the driver because the insurer was not a party to that action. As soon as the plaintiff entered into a settlement with the driver, the insurer demanded arbitration.

If you were involved in a car accident and have questions about your right to compensation or how to deal with insurance companies, we are waiting to assist you. We understand how confusing the court system and insurance policies can be, particularly if you are also injured and dealing with the stress of the accident. Our seasoned team of Boston car accident lawyers offers a free consultation to discuss your situation and how we might be able to help you. Call us now at 617-263-0060 or contact us online.

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Auto insurance policies take many different shapes and forms. It can be difficult to understand the extent and limits of your coverage, especially if your policy is written in legalese. Although it is best to have a clear understanding of your coverage before an accident occurs, sometimes questions come up following an unfortunate crash. As dedicated Boston car accident lawyers, we have assisted numerous individuals and families with understanding whether they are entitled to coverage following a car accident and we are standing by to assist you. Recently, the Massachusetts Court of Appeal issued an opinion in a case where the plaintiff filed suit against an insurance company seeking coverage as a household member under a policy held by the mother and step-father of his partner. The plaintiff and his long-term partner had a child together. The court was asked to interpret the phrase “related by blood” when it comes to people who do not share a blood relation but who share a blood relationship through a third party. At the time of the accident, the plaintiff was living with his partner and her mother and step-father. He was injured while riding as a passenger in a vehicle owned by a third party. The injuries were severe, resulting in several days of hospitalization, long-term disabilities, and medical bills exceeding $40,000. The plaintiff settled with the at-fault driver for her policy limits in the amount of $100,000. The plaintiff’s partner’s mother and step-father maintained an insurance policy providing coverage for two of the vehicles in the home providing $250,000 coverage per person in the event of an underinsured motorist claim. Under the policy, the term household member was defined as someone living in the household who is related to the policyholder by blood, marriage, or adoption including wards, step-children, or foster children. The insurer rejected the plaintiff’s claim that he was a household member due to his relation to the policyholders through his biological son. The plaintiff filed suit and on cross-motions for summary judgment, the court concluded that the plaintiff was not a household member. The plaintiff appealed and the reviewing court affirmed the decision finding that there was no genetic relation between the plaintiff and the policyholders. The language of the policy covers persons “related to [the policyholder] by blood, marriage, or adoption” which the court distinguished from persons who are related by blood through a third party. Had the plaintiff been married to his long-term partner, his injury-related damages would be covered under the terms of the policy. The court chose to adopt the plain and ordinary meaning of the words. To adopt the plaintiff’s suggested interpretation would potentially open the floodgates of coverage and allow many different persons to claim coverage through a third-party relation. If you were hurt in a motor vehicle collision, you may be entitled to damages and/or insurance coverage. Our seasoned team of car accident lawyers is prepared to assist you in investigating your potential claim and defending your rights against insurance companies that don’t always act in their insureds’ best interests. To schedule a free consultation, contact us at 617-263-0060 or contact us online to get started.
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