GEICO’s Valuation of a Wrongful Death Case

I have an unbelievably tragic wrongful death car accident case. A very good man with an unbelievably good family – here’s a clue: they were/are very concerned about injuries sustained by the man that caused the car accident – was rear-ended by another car at a high rate of speed in Prince George’s County.

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GEICO Adjusters See Cases Very Different Than I Do

At first, liability was in serious question. The police report took forever but, ultimately, the Prince George’s County Police got it right to the point where it would be virtually impossible to contend otherwise. Liability is clear.

The defendant has a minimum limits policy with Allstate. The decedent and his wife had a $300,000 underinsured motorist policy with GEICO that, while better than most personal car insurance policies, is still awful. GEICO wants us to jump through every single hoop: death certificate, medical records after the accident, and so forth. I’m cool with that actually. GEICO has auditors and they have to answer for the details of their file. I’m more than happy to do my job.

So I talk to the GEICO claims adjuster yesterday- who, by the way is a good claims adjuster and otherwise a nice person – who throws out a “So, ultimately, what do you think this case should settle for?”

Bracketing for just a second how insulting it is to think I might fall for this, I’m wondering: what if I had said, “I think it is worth $200,000.” Does the adjuster then extend a settlement offer – to its own policyholder – a value of the case that is certainly far less than it is worth?

2015 Update: This case did settled for the $300,000 policy limits without our having to file a lawsuit.

That question is boring. GEICO does that in a second. Let’s ask a better question: What would Warren Buffett do?”

I feel like I know Warren pretty well. Sure, we have never met. But I’ve seen at least 10 hours of interviews with the man. That puts him in the top 500 people I know best. Last time he was doing interviews with Becky Quick on CNBC, I hit pause and told my wife what he would say. I came pretty close.

I think Warren Buffett says pay these people their money. I think Warren Buffett says we have a good faith obligation to do so. I think Warren Buffett says that you have to put your customers first and you have to be fair with them even if the law did not impose such an obligation. I think Warren Buffett says this GEICO claims adjuster is fired. (Wait, I’m getting carried away with the “Warren Buffett says” rhetoric. I don’t think he says that and I wouldn’t ask him to if I had his ear.)

(If you have evidence that I’m wrong about this, keep it to yourself. I really do think Warren Buffett is a good man.)

Again, again this is not a third party tort feasor case. If Allstate wants to jerk me around – which they did for a while because I think its claims adjusters’ have to meet their jerk plaintiffs’ lawyers around quota – I’m fine with that. They have no obligation to this family. This is why we have lawsuits and lawyers. But GEICO has a very different obligation to the family in this case. It is not a fiduciary, but is close enough where offering less than the limits is just plain wrong.

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  • Tony

    How do you put a value on a life? Courts and juries answer this every day. I don’t have enough information here to determine whether something less than limits is in the range of reasonable. What if the decedent were 84 years old, no dependents, no income, and died instantly?

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