Massachusetts Appeals Court Clarifies Who Constitutes “Household Member” Under Insurance Policy

Unfortunately, car accidents are a dime a dozen in Massachusetts. If you have sustained injuries in a car accident, we can help you figure out your next steps. At The Law Offices of Barry Feinstein & Affiliates, P.C., our reputable Massachusetts car accident attorneys know how to handle even the most complex personal injury claims, including issues pertaining to insurance coverage. For over 25 years, we have vigorously fought for the rights of our clients and you can rest assured that we will do the same for you.

The Case

Victims of auto accidents often rely on insurance companies to compensate them for their losses. In Oliveira v. Commerce Insurance Company, the Appeals Court of Massachusetts recently had to figure out whether the plaintiff was a “household member” under the insurance policy. The plaintiff, a passenger in the vehicle, sustained serious injuries after being involved in a car accident. He was in the hospital for several days and acquired hefty medical bills amounting to $40,000. He also suffered long-term disability. The plaintiff agreed to settle with the person driving the vehicle for the maximum amount of the driver’s insurance policy, which was $100,000.

When the accident took place, the plaintiff resided with his long-term partner and their child in a house along with his partner’s mother and stepfather. The mother and stepfather had an insurance policy, which covered both automobiles used by those who lived in the home. The plaintiff sought to obtain underinsured motorist coverage under that insurance policy.

The court ruled in favor of the insurance company, reasoning that the plaintiff could not be considered a “household member” for purposes of the underinsured motorist coverage. The policy defined a “household member” as any person residing in the insured party’s house who was related to that insured party “by blood, marriage or adoption.” The plaintiff claimed that he was related to the policyholders since he had a son with his girlfriend who was a daughter of one of the policyholders. The court rejected this argument, explaining that there was no genetic relationship between him and either one of the policyholders; thus, he was not a “household member” under the insurance policy.

Interpreting Insurance Policies in Massachusetts

In Massachusetts, the law requires insurance polices to be interpreted according to the terms of the policy in a “usual and ordinary sense.” As a practical matter, this means the court will look to the language of the insurance policy and should uphold the plain meaning of the terms present in the contractual agreement.

Seasoned Massachusetts Car Accident Attorney

If you have been injured in a car accident caused by someone else’s negligence, you need to speak to a seasoned Massachusetts car accident attorney immediately. At The Law Offices of Barry Feinstein & Affiliates, P.C., we understand that you may be entitled to significant compensation for your medical bills and property damage. We will work hard to investigate your case and come up with a suitable legal strategy accordingly. For more information, call us today at 1-800-262-9200 or contact us online.

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