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Silver Lake Legal

Construction, Insurance & Business Attorney Boston

Emotional distress ≠ bodily injury. Mass auto choice of law.

Emotional distress of spouse from witnessing spouses’ fatal injury was not “bodily injury” for purposes of collecting from Massachusetts car insurer.

Mass Appeals Court case Liberty Mutual Insurance v Correia (Mass App Ct 2022)

Per person limits in car accident coverage selection pages for Massachusetts automobile insurance covering Massachusetts owners/drivers limits purely emotional distress claim.  


Rhode Island motorcycle accident with Massachusetts insured car was fatal to the cyclist and witnessed by the cyclist’s husband. Widow’s claim against the Massachusetts automobile insurance of the other driver was limited by insurance policy terms.


Can a widow who saw her husband’s fatal car accident recover even though she was not in the accident?


No recovery for emotional distress of witness under Massachusetts car policy.


Massachusetts precedent has determined the question. (McNeill v Metropolitan (1995)) Triggering the higher bodily injury coverage limits, for emotional distress caused by observing a loved one’s car accident, requires physical injury from the accident to the claimant.


What law applies in Interpreting a standard Massachusetts auto insurance policy in a dispute between the Insurer and the insured?


Even though the accident happened in Rhode Island, as between the insured and the insurer, the insurance agreement stated that Massachusetts law applies to the interpretation of the meaning of covered person’s injury.

Typically, liability insurance policies apply the law of the place where the principal insured underwritten risk was located.

COBB COMMENT – Premiums would jump if the Court opened the door to expanded claimant recovery. Any other ruling would expose insurers to multiple times the exposure they agreed to underwrite for the premiums. 

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Charles W. Cobb

Attorney at Law


320 Nevada Street Ste 301,

Newton MA 02460




(978) 979-1223

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