I received a distressing call earlier this week. The caller had been injured and was attempting to resolve his claim on his own. The insurance company sent him a letter stating that his claim was being denied because Connecticut, he was advised in writing, follows the law of contributory negligence which holds that if you are even one percent liable for your injury then, the insurance company claimed, you could not recover anything. The caller asked me if I could help by representing him.
At first I was astonished; a large respectable national insurance company sent this unrepresented injured party a letter denying his claim with an outright misrepresentation as to the law in the State of Connecticut. I have experienced firsthand the oppressive and unethical conduct that is sometimes perpetuated by insurance companies, especially when dealing with claimants not represented by attorneys, but, this has reached an all time low.
In negligence actions, for example those involving accident and medical malpractice cases, the law in the State of Connecticut is clear; contributory negligence shall not harm recovery if the negligence was not greater than the contributed negligence of the person or person against whom recovery is sought. This is set forth in Connecticut General Statute Section 52-572 (b).
Connecticut follows what is known as the modified comparative negligence rule which means that an injured party can recover so long as his or her fault is 50% or less. If an injured party is more than 50% liable then the injured party recovers nothing. However, if the injured party is found to be 50% or less at fault than that person’s recovery is reduced by their at fault percentage.
In other words, if an injured party is found to be 40% at fault and the total award is $1,000,000 then the injured party’s recovery will be reduced to $600,000 which reduces their award by their percentage fault of $400,000 or 40%.
The conduct of this insurance company, which is negligent at best or fraudulent at worst, underscores the need for claimants and/or injured parties to obtain the advice of an attorney at the earliest possible moment so that they can be educated about their rights. Most attorneys offer free consultations or are happy to answer questions over the phone so there is no cost or obligation to obtain this important information. To proceed without knowing your rights, especially when they are being misrepresented to you by the insurance company, will certainly prejudice you and can negatively affect how you proceed.
Remember the business model employed by insurance companies is to pay out the least amount of money possible. You should not underestimate this fact because some insurance carriers will go to extraordinary means to increase their bottom line.
Richard P. Hastings is a Connecticut personal injury lawyer at Hastings, Cohan & Walsh, LLP, with offices throughout the state. He has been named a Connecticut and New England Super Lawyer and is the author of the books: "The Crash Course on Child Injury Claims"; "The Crash Course on Personal Injury Claims in Connecticut"; and "The Crash Course on Motorcycle Accidents." He can be reached at 1(888)CTLAW-00 or by visiting www.hcwlaw.com.