Massachusetts Court Discusses Bodily Harm in the Context of Insurance Coverage

Typically, people who suffer losses due to car accidents can recover benefits from their insurer. While some insurance claims are straightforward and are paid promptly, in others, the insurer will dispute the harm suffered or the damages owed. In such instances, the parties will typically turn to the courts to interpret the applicable provisions. For example, in a recent Massachusetts opinion, a court answered the question of whether emotional distress constituted bodily injury under the terms of a policy, ultimately determining that it did not. If you were hurt in a car accident, you may be owed compensation, and it is advisable to speak to a Cape Cod car accident attorney to discuss your possible causes of action.

Facts of the Case

It is alleged that the plaintiff and her husband were driving towards one another on a highway; she was driving a car and he a motorcycle. As they approached the intersection, the car in front of the plaintiff turned and struck her husband. The plaintiff witnessed the accident and saw her husband fly through the air and land on the pavement. He later died from his injuries.

Reportedly, the plaintiff developed PTSD and filed a lawsuit against the driver that caused the accident. Her insurer tendered $250,000 to the plaintiff, which it alleged was the maximum amount she was entitled to as only one person suffered bodily harm. The plaintiff rejected this assertion, arguing she suffered bodily harm as well in the form of post-accident trauma. The insurer then filed a declaratory judgment action. The trial court ruled in favor of the insurer, and the plaintiff appealed.

Bodily Harm in the Context of Insurance Coverage

On appeal, the appellate court ultimately agreed with the insurer and affirmed the trial court ruling. It noted that the policy language clearly and unambiguously stated that it applied a per person limit to harm suffered by more than one person, where the harm arises out of bodily harm sustained by the same person in the same accident. Further, the Massachusetts courts had previously held that emotional distress caused by witnessing another person’s injury and death did not constitute a separate bodily harm. In other words, physical ailments suffered as a result of emotional distress were not caused the distress and therefore did not constitute a bodily injury. Thus, the appellate court affirmed the trial court ruling.

Speak to a Skillful Cape Cod Attorney

Insurers have an obligation to provide their insureds with any benefits they are owed, but in some instances, the parties will not be able to come to an agreement as to what coverage is afforded under the terms of an insurance contract. If you were hurt in a collision, you may be able to recover insurance benefits and civil damages, and you should speak to an attorney. The experienced car accident lawyers of The Law Offices of John C. Manoog, III, can advise you of your rights and aid you in pursuing the maximum compensation recoverable. You can contact us via our online form or by calling us at 888-262-6664 to set up a conference.

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