An Act To Provide for Prompt Resolution of Insurance Claims by Providing for a Direct Remedy by Consumers
Sec. 1. 24-A MRSA §2164-D, sub-§8, as enacted by PL 1997, c. 634, Pt. A, §1, is amended to read:
Sec. 2. 24-A MRSA §2164-D, sub-§10 is enacted to read:
(1) At least 30 days prior to the filing of any such action, a written demand for relief must be mailed or delivered to any prospective respondent. The demand must identify the claimant and reasonably describe the unfair claim practice and the injury suffered by the claimant. The demand requirements of this paragraph do not apply if the claim is asserted by way of counterclaim or cross-claim, or if the prospective respondent does not maintain a place of business or does not keep assets within this State; however, that respondent may otherwise employ the provisions of this section by making a written offer of relief and paying the rejected tender to the court as soon as practicable after receiving notice of an action commenced under this subsection.
(2) If a respondent receiving a demand for relief makes a written tender of settlement within 30 days of the mailing or delivery of the demand for relief, and that tender of settlement is rejected by the claimant, the respondent may in any subsequent action file the written tender and an affidavit concerning its rejection and thereby limit any recovery to the relief tendered if the court finds that the relief tendered was reasonable in relation to the injury actually suffered by the claimant.
(3) Except as provided in subparagraph (2), if the court finds for the claimant, recovery is limited to the amount of actual damages or $25, whichever is greater. If the court finds that the use or employment of the act or practice was a willful or knowing violation by the respondent or that the refusal to grant relief upon demand was made in bad faith with knowledge or reason to know that the act or practice complained of violated this section, the court shall award not less than 2 times the actual damages nor more than 3 times the actual damages. For the purposes of this paragraph, the amount of actual damages to be multiplied by the court is the amount of the judgment on all claims arising out of the same and underlying transaction or occurrence, regardless of the existence or nonexistence of insurance coverage available in payment of the claim.
(4) In addition to the award under subparagraph (2) or (3), the court shall award such other equitable relief, including an injunction, as the court considers necessary and proper.
If the court finds in an action commenced under this subsection that there has been a violation of this section, the court shall award the claimant, in addition to other relief provided for by this subsection and irrespective of the amount in controversy, reasonable attorney's fees and costs incurred in connection with the action, except that the court shall deny recovery of attorney's fees and costs that are incurred after the rejection of a reasonable written offer of settlement made within 30 days of the mailing or delivery of the written demand for relief required by this subsection.
A person entitled to bring an action under this subsection is not required to initiate, pursue or exhaust a remedy established by regulation, administrative procedure, local, state or federal law or statute or the common law in order to bring an action under this section or to obtain injunctive relief or recover damages or attorney's fees or costs or other relief as provided in this subsection and the failure to exhaust administrative remedies is not a defense to a proceeding under this subsection.
Sec. 3. 24-A MRSA §2454 is enacted to read:
§ 2454. Direct action against insurer
This right of direct action granted pursuant to this subsection exists regardless of whether the policy of insurance sued upon was written or delivered in this State and regardless of whether that policy contains a provision forbidding such direct action as long as the accident or injury occurred within this State.
This bill provides a private remedy for consumers who are victims of an unfair claim practice. This bill also allows an injured party to bring a direct action against an insurer under certain circumstances.