Consumer Protection Laws and Insurance Claims

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Massachusetts has some of the most stringent consumer protection laws in the nation.

M.G.L. c. 93A prohibits all “unfair or deceptive acts or practices in the conduct of any trade or commerce.”  See  section 2(a).

Any business that violates 93A may be forced to pay double or triple the amount owed to the plaintiff at trial along with his or her legal fees.

If you have a dispute with your insurance company it’s important that you make 93A part of your case.

Section 9 of 93A states that violations of the state’s insurance laws codified in M.G.L. c. 176D, § 3 automatically constitute a breach of the consumer protection laws.

Section 3 of 176D contains a list of many of the most common issues people have when settling a claim with their insurance company:

(a) Misrepresenting pertinent facts or insurance policy provisions relating to coverages at issue;

(b) Failing to acknowledge and act reasonably promptly upon communications with respect to claims arising under insurance policies;

(c) Failing to adopt and implement reasonable standards for the prompt investigation of claims arising under insurance policies;

(d) Refusing to pay claims without conducting a reasonable investigation based upon all available information;

(e) Failing to affirm or deny coverage of claims within a reasonable time after proof of loss statements have been completed;

(f) Failing to effectuate prompt, fair and equitable settlements of claims in which liability has become reasonably clear;

(g) Compelling insureds to institute litigation to recover amounts due under an insurance policy by offering substantially less than the amounts ultimately recovered in actions brought by such insureds;

(h) Attempting to settle a claim for less than the amount to which a reasonable man would have believed he was entitled by reference to written or printed advertising material accompanying or made part of an application;

(i) Attempting to settle claims on the basis of an application which was altered without notice to, or knowledge or consent of the insured;

(j) Making claims payments to insured or beneficiaries not accompanied by a statement setting forth the coverage under which payments are being made;

(k) Making known to insured or claimants a policy of appealing from arbitration awards in favor of insureds or claimants for the purpose of compelling them to accept settlements of compromises less than the amount awarded in arbitration;

(l) Delaying the investigation or payment of claims by requiring that an insured or claimant, or the physician of either, submit a preliminary claim report and then requiring the subsequent submission of formal proof of loss forms, both of which submissions contain substantially the same information;

(m) Failing to settle claims promptly, where liability has become reasonably clear, under one portion of the insurance policy coverage in order to influence settlements under other portions of the insurance policy coverage; or

(n) Failing to provide promptly a reasonable explanation of the basis in the insurance policy in relation to the facts or applicable law for denial of a claim or for the offer of a compromise settlement.

(10) Failure to maintain complaint handling procedures; failure of any person to maintain a complete record of all of the complaints which it has received since the date of its last examination, which record shall indicate in such form and detail as the commissioner may from time to time prescribe, the total number of complaints, their classification by line of insurance, and the nature, disposition, and time of processing of each complaint. For purposes of this subsection, ”complaint” shall mean any written communication primarily expressing a grievance. Agents, brokers and adjusters shall maintain any written communications received by them which express a grievance for a period of two years from receipt, with a record of their disposition, which shall be available for examination by the commissioner at any time.

(11) Misrepresentation in insurance applications: making false or fraudulent statements or representations on or relative to an application for an insurance policy, for the purpose of obtaining a fee, commission, money, or other benefit from any insurers, agent, broker, or individual.

If you have any questions or need legal assistance, please contact me directly at justin@jrmccarthy.com.

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