Robert Bilodeau of Framingham was awarded $42,500 for loss of consortium arising from injuries his wife suffered in a 1977 auto accident.
The court rejected arguments by the Lumbermans Mutual Casualty Co. that a $100,000 payment to Bilodeau's wife, Mina, for her injuries exhausted the coverage available under their policy. The couple was involved in an auto accident with a driver insured by Lumbermans.
Loss of consortium is a legal remedy that allows the spouses and children of injured persons to collect money in addition to the sum paid to the injured.
Associate Justice Ruth I. Abrams wrote: "A loss of consortium claimant is a separate person' entitled to an independent per person' recovery within the per accident' limit" of insurance p olicies. The Lumbermans policy provided optional coverage for bodily injury to others of $100,000 per person and $300,000 per accident, court records show.
Abrams said in a footnote to her opinion that state law regarding consortium claims is unclear. "Action by the Legislature to amend the statute, or permission of the commissioner of insurance to clarify the extent of coverage for consortium claims, would be beneficial to insurers as well as policyholders," she wrote.
The state and insurance industry officials said the decision may affect insurance rates.
Victor Fanikos of the Massachusetts Division of Insurance said: "It's not going to have a momentous impact on the rates, but it will have some impact."
Arthur F. Licata, Bilodeau's attorney, said the ruling yesterday favors insurance buyers. "This decision says you're covered, no ifs, ands or buts," he said. "It'll change the way people do business with insurance companies."
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