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Connecticut Legislature approves pre-suit policy disclosures

October 2009

Overview

 

The Connecticut Legislature recently enacted an act requiring disclosure of automobile liability insurance policy limits prior to the filing of a claim.  Public Act 09-240, effective October 1, 2009 and applicable to all claims arising on or after that date, requires an automobile liability insurer to disclose the limits applicable under a policy it issued within 30 days after receiving a written request for disclosure.

 

Design of Public Act  09-240

 

The act, which was introduced by the Real Estate and Insurance Committee, is designed to allow injured parties to obtain information about a tortfeasor's liability insurance policy limits without being required to file an action in court and subsequently seek discovery of such information.

 

The request must be made by, or on behalf of, a person alleging bodily injury or death resulting from a motor vehicle collision involving a person the insurer's private passenger automobile policy covers. The disclosure must be in writing and indicate all coverage, including any applicable umbrella or excess liability insurance.

 

Information requirements

 

The act requires a letter from an attorney licensed to practice in Connecticut or an affidavit from the person alleging to have suffered injury in the accident that includes certain information.

 

The attorney's letter or the person's affidavit must include:

 

1. his or her juris number (if an attorney);

 

2. the type of claim alleged against the insured;

 

3. the date and approximate time the alleged incident occurred;

 

4. a description of the injuries the insured is alleged to have caused;

 

5. a copy of the person's medical bills and treatment records for the injuries; and

 

6. a copy of the accident report of the collision that allegedly caused the person's injury or death, if available.

 

See, Public Act 09-240.

 

Issues

 

This act has been met with a polarized response from the Connecticut Bar.  The Connecticut Trial Lawyers Association believes that the bill will cut down on litigation.  If an attorney knows that the tortfeasor has the state minimum amount of coverage, then plaintiff's counsel will be reluctant to incur the costs to initiate a lawsuit with that small exposure.  Rather, counsel will engage in aggressive settlement discussions with the claims representative to avoid the need to bring suit.  See Written Testimony of CTLA submitted to the Insurance and Real Estate Committee, February 17, 2009.

 

The Connecticut Business & Industry Association disagrees with that position and testified at the legislative hearing that early disclosure of policy limits prior to filing of a claim will increase the plaintiff's advantage in the settlement process.  In addition, it will motivate plaintiffs to negotiate based on policy limits, rather than in good faith.  See Testimony of Kevin R. Hennessey before the Insurance and Real Estate Committee, February 17, 2009.

 

Comment

 

The act does create unique settlement strategies that can be employed by claims representatives, regardless of the policy reasons behind this new act.  For example, if the insured driver maintains a $20,000 policy (the state minimum), a claims representative will now be able to negotiate with counsel under the pretense that an attorney would be unlikely to incur the filing fees if all he or she can recover will be a maximum of $20,000.  Thus, any settlement values can be conservative in nature.

 

The inverse is also true.  If there is a large policy, a claims representative should retain counsel early in the process, as plaintiff's counsel will likely pursue litigation to maximize the value of the claim.  Early settlement negotiations by the carrier directly may be futile in this scenario.

 

If you have any questions regarding motor transport law in any mode, please contact Brian Del Gatto, Chairman of the Motor Transportation & Logistics Practice Team and Managing Partner of the Connecticut office at brian.delgatto@wilsonelser.com or Partner Stephen P. Brown at stephen.brown@wilsonelser.com,  who are also members of the Motor Transport & Logistics Team.   They can also be reached by phone in our Connecticut office at 203.388.9100.

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