Monday, January 6, 2014

When Insurance Companies Won't Pay

Hello friends, and welcome to our first blog post. In this blog I will primarily discuss our relevant areas of practice, like personal injury, criminal defense, and firearms law. Of course, I will once in a while probably render a humble opinion about a law-related news story.

Today, I would like to discuss personal injury and insurance coverage. Anyone who knows me knows that I like to say that insurance companies will not pay for injuries in accidents if they can find, create, or argue for any way to avoid it. I know, because I used to work for them. I found lots of ways to avoid liability, and won a lot of trials for more than one insurance company.

Let’s talk about a recent case that relates to a pretty common situation in our everyday lives. Most of us have rented a vehicle at some point in our lives. Here is a brief description of a recent case here in Massachusetts involving a rental car situation. The name of the case is WAYNE MAHONEY vs. AMERICAN AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE COMPANY, 83 Mass.App.Ct. 677 (2013).

 Here are the facts: Hill rented a car from Hertz. Teague was driving the car without Hill in it and was the at-fault, or negligent driver. Teague was not listed on the Hertz rental agreement. She did not even have a license. While driving, Teague negligently crossed the center line and hit another vehicle, driven by Mahoney. The innocent driver, Mahoney, was seriously hurt. After the accident, Mahoney sued Teague for negligent operation and Hill (the renter and the person with AAIC insurance) for negligently allowing Teague to drive the car Mahoney wanted to recover his damages, which were assessed in a court hearing, at $74,000.00. Hertz settled for $20,000, the limits of its insurance policy, on behalf of the driver and the renter.

 American Automobile Insurance Company was the car insurer for the renter, Hill, and AAIC declined to provide coverage for the renter and the driver in order to cover Mahoney’s claims. The company argued that the driver had been using the Hertz rental vehicle without the consent of Hertz, the actual owner of the vehicle.

Mahoney wanted the Court to find that AAIC should have to pay for his damages, but the Court held that since the driver was not listed on the Hertz rental agreement when she got into the accident, that she did not have the consent of the owner of the vehicle, Hertz, to be driving the car. AAIC therefore did not have to pay under its policy, whether or not the renter gave the driver permission.

This left the renter and driver underinsured to cover Mahoney’s damages. Let’s hope Mr. Mahoney had a good underinsured motorist policy at the time of the accident. This coverage is optional in Massachusetts, and the case above is a good example of why you need it.

 Thanks for listening and for visiting the site! Your comments are welcome. Please come back.

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