Posts Tagged ‘personal injury; lawsuit; damges’

Punitive Damages Part 3

February 20, 2012

A few weeks ago, in part two of our discussion concerning punitive damages, I referred to a case that was before the Massachusetts Supreme Court. The case is entitled Rhodes, et al v. AIG Domestic Claims, Inc., et al. Last week the court announced its decision. It stated that under the Massachusetts Consumer Protection laws, Chapters 93A and 176D, insurance companies are required to negotiate in good faith. It also held that if liability is reasonably clear insurance companies must make a reasonable offer of settlement in an attempt to settle the case, prior to litigation. The court then went on to explain the consequences to insurance companies for refusing to obey the Consumer Protection laws. If a jury returns a verdict for the plaintiffs there may be punishment damages awarded by the trial judge in addition to the jury’s award of compensatory damages. The judge may hold a separate hearing on whether the insurance company engaged in bad faith and unreasonably delayed the settlement of the case or refused to engage in a good faith negotiations. In the Rhodes case,  the Massachusetts Supreme Court decided, in clear and understandable language, that the insurance companies engaged in bad faith and that punitive damages were appropriate. The S.J.C. in Rhodes has done more to redress the economic disparity between the powerful and the weak, and the rich and the poor, than all the legislation passed in Massachusetts in the past 20 years. There was no dispute about liability. The car occupied by Mr. and Mrs. Rhodes was rear-ended by a truck. Mrs. Rhodes sustained severe injuries. The jury returned a verdict, with interest, of approximately $11,000,000. Under the Consumer Protection laws the award may be doubled or tripled as a punishment and as a deterrent. The state Supreme Court decided that 2x the jury award was an appropriate remedy for the many years of delay caused by the insurance companies. The punitive damage award was $22,000,000. I previously stated, in Part 2 of our punitive damages discussion, that money is the only sanction that gets the attention of an insurance company. At least in Massachusetts, insurance companies now have a clear motivation to do the right thing. It just became more expensive to ignore the law than to follow its requirements. The total amount of money that the insurance companies are required to pay  Mr. and Mrs. Rhodes is approximately $33,000,000. This case is particularly significant for the little guy who gets hurt once when injured and once again when they just string it out and hope to lowball and stonewall him. Prior to this ruling, the Massachusetts courts were looked upon as paper tigers on the issue of 93A and 176D. All this case does is to bring the courts back into line with what is fair and reasonable.

Pain and Suffering: damages in a personal injury lawsuit

November 17, 2011

Everyone has heard the term “pain and suffering” associated with damages in a lawsuit. Many people discount the legitimacy of such damages and consider them overblown or exaggerated. This suspicion of  “pain and suffering” appears to exist until you are injured, until you are thrown into a world of hurt and until your world is turned upside down. Because pain and suffering is difficult to prove it does not mean that it does not exist.
For example, many people believe in god but no-one has ever seen the Divine.

Pain and suffering comprises both physical pain and emotional pain. Let’s see if we can describe what it feels like to be in constant, severe and unremitting pain:

the worst of hells is continuous pain; hell is continuous suffering;

pain and suffering shrinks your life; pain reduces your reality.

if life is a river you stay on the shore in the same place as when you were injured.

life continues in its normal flow without you.

you are disconnected from yourself, other people and the life you knew.

your identity is snatched away from you and you are in solitary confinement with yourself.

says the Buddah; he who is in perpetual hell never dies even if he wants to die.

infinite suffering for infinity.

constant unrelenting pain, every instant and for every second without relief with only death being able to relieve the pain.

“they shoot horses don’t they” to relieve their suffering.

the pain scours you.

it strips you of your self-respect.

it makes a coward out of you.

it debases you.

it makes you feel ashamed of yourself.

It, the pain, robs you of your hopes and dreams.

There is not enough money in the world to balance the scales of life to endure this pain and suffering. It is your reality from the moment you open your eyes in the morning to the time you struggle at night to close them.

These are some of the reasons that pain and suffering are part of the damages considered by juries in personal injury cases.

Arthur F. Licata