S.L. v. Hartford Underwriters Insurance Company, MIA No. 27-1001-09-00042 (March 16, 2010)
Insurer failed to produce all required documents and therefore defaulted.
The MIA found that Hartford acted in bad faith because Hartford failed to submit a copy of its claims log to the MIA. Hartford therefore lost by default.
Plaintiff was rear ended on the Washington Beltway on March 8, 2007. At the time, Plaintiff was covered by a Hartford policy providing UM coverage of $100,000 per person and $300,000 per accident. (Op. 1, 3.) She began to suffer chronic back pain and other ailments. (Op. 4.)
She claimed medical expenses of $23,625. Her lawyer told Hartford it was $22,375. The bills added up to $20,480. Plaintiff also asserted lost wages and reduced income capacity. She claimed she was earning $65,500 per year. According to her tax statements, however, she had earned $5000 three years previously, $13,000 two years previously and $24,000 in the prior year. (Op. 5.)
The driver who rear ended Plaintiff was insured and settled for policy limits of $20,000. Plaintiff then turned to Hartford for the UM coverage. (Op. 6-7.) Negotiations broke down and Plaintiff filed this action, alleging that failing to tender policy limits constituted a failure to act in good faith. (Op. 6-7.)
Although the Plaintiff sent in a mere three exhibits with her complaint (for a total of seven pages), Hartford failed to send all the mandatory documents. It only provided the Plaintiff’s medical records and did not submit a copy of the claims log or other documents. (Op. 7.)
The MIA found that because Hartford had not produced all the statutorily-required documents, it lost by default. (Op. 8.)
The MIA then turned to Plaintiff’s damages. It found that Plaintiff’s medical damages came to $20,480.85 in medical expenses, $30,721.27 in pain and suffering (1.5 times the medical expenses due to the “minor nature of the injuries”), and $5,500.00 in lost wages. (Op. 10-11.) This totaled $56,702.12.
Plaintiff’s attorney requested one third of the recovery in attorney’s fees. The MIA denied this request because the lawyer had not demonstrated how his fees related to the bad faith litigation. It instead awarded $5000 in attorney’ fees. (Op. 11, 12.)