Articles Posted in Insurance Companies

This quote leads off an article in Property and Casualty 360:

To me, a claims man is a surgeon. That desk is an operating table. And those pencils are scalpels and bone chisels. And those papers are not just forms and statistics and claims for compensation, they’re alive, they’re packed with drama, with twisted hopes and crooked dreams. A claims man, Walter, is a doctor and a bloodhound…and a cop and a judge and a jury and a father confessor all in one.

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“Self Portrait” – Insurance Adjuster

In my particular line of work, it is pretty easy to take pot shots at insurance adjusters and stereotype them as disciples of Darth Vader who combine the giddy good humor of the Syrian army with a willingness to shoot their own parents in the head if that meant underpaying on a honest claim. I know these stereotypes are easy because I do it all the time on this blog and it is great fun. But, gun to my head, I think that at their core, insurance claims adjusters are no better or worse than doctors, lawyers, or Indian chiefs. Most stereotypes of professions fail.

Still the stereotypes exist. So if I’ve been falsely accused of vandalism recently, I’m going to take down the M-80 casings on the desk and put away my baseball bat with red paint on it because I want to make sure that any false stereotypes about me are not perpetuated or reinforced.

This quote does just the opposite. First, the arrogance is loud and clear. It has the whole “Alec Baldwin in Malice, I am the ultimate power” vibe to it. The reality, pal, is that you are not a surgeon, you are a claims adjuster.

(Look, I’m not a surgeon either but I’m not pretending to be as important as one. A lot of lawyers do. I’m a guy that tries to get his clients as much money as possible, treat his clients well, and hope that all of that equals justice and I’m a useful cog in the circle of life. Gerry Spence said a few years ago that lawyers are the most important people in world. And I think he is nuts unless your name is Thurgood Marshall or something like that.) Continue reading

You can call it a sad but true fact if you want: the value of a personal injury case in Maryland might double (or be cut in half) based on where the case is tried. I provide here our thoughts on where each Maryland county and Baltimore City ranks on the food chain of preferability when it comes to venue in personal injury cases.courtroom

Defense lawyers want to go back to olden days when plaintiffs did not forum shop, they just filed where it was most convenient and advantageous to plaintiff. Defense lawyers are big into restoring traditions that never existed in the first place. I’ve never seen a stitch of evidence to suggest that venue has not been a battlefield since the Industrial Revolution. There are, of course, more opportunities where reasonable minds can differ as to the appropriate venue in 2012 because we are so much more cosmopolitan today. Just about every tort that arose 150 years ago was on some guy’s farm. So while the analysis is more complex now, there have always been different communities that had different values and this has an impact on the lens with which they view personal injury claims. Continue reading

I just had a great talk on settlement with a State Farm claims adjuster. No, really. It is true. I am not kidding.

I made a demand. She said she asked for authority that was right about what I was asking for but the settlement authority she has is “X”. The adjuster wryly adjusterpointed out that she did not own the company and suggested I take the offer back to my client and find out whether he wants to file suit or settle the case.

I’ll recommend to the client that we file suit. He has a serious injury and will make an unbelievable plaintiff at trial. But I appreciate a reasonable State Farm adjuster who did not swallow the Kool-Aid and just lays it out straight.

These small independent claims adjusters are absolutely the worst. I just hung up with an adjuster from Love, Barnes & McKew, who does rent-an-adjuster work in “the Washington-Baltimore Corridor, Northern Virginia, Southern Maryland and Maryland’s Eastern Shore.” Why I send a demand package to these people is beyond me. I just hung up with the most irrational adjuster who I’m thisclose to naming, who told me that my 66 year-old client, with no prior injuries, whose car was totaled by a tractor trailer should not have gotten diagnostic testing or worn a back brace after the accident. I really can’t remember a more irrational insurance adjuster in my career.clipboard

She refused to claim that this woman is faking her injuries, but pointed out that her pain levels increased about the same time she started talking about a workers’ compensation claim. Now the woman retired from the National Cancer Institute years ago, but don’t let that interrupt the conspiracy. Now look, I realize that citing insurance adjusters for unreasonable offers is like giving out speeding tickets at the Daytona 500. But even in a business that a certain level of insanity is the norm (for plaintiffs’ lawyers, too), this is just insane.

Not for nothing, this adjuster confided in me that she had been a serious car accident. You would think this is a sign that an insurance adjuster is a sympathetic person who can feel better feel the pain of another human being. But, I’m telling you, it has the reverse effect on many of these adjuster. “My pain was so great. Yours was not.” I don’t want to get carried away, but it can’t help but remind you of the whole “abused are more likely to are more likely to abuse” adage. Continue reading

I got a lot of interesting comments from a lot of difference perspectives on the “Progressive let a uninsured motorist wrongful death case go to trial so they must be evil” case. Some of the comments don’t even call me any names, which was cool. You can find them here.

By the way, I keep making a “raise your offer or I’m going to sick the Internet on you” to every Progressive adjuster I’m dealing with on settlement. Some laugh, some don’t but I think it is hysterical every time.

Here is the email I got from Progressive’s PR people today:

In response to your story involving Progressive Insurance, please see the below updated statement on behalf of Progressive:

For the past week, Progressive has been in active settlement discussions with the family of Kaitlynn Fisher. Though there was considerable public interest in this case and we know many of you saw mentions of it on social media and news outlets, we also believed it was inappropriate to share further details while those discussions were ongoing. As of this morning, an agreement has been reached with the Fisher family to settle the claim. Prior to that, we were cautious with our responses, but now that the agreement has been reached, we’d like to further clarify Progressive’s role in the trial.

Ms. Fisher held a policy with Progressive that included Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist coverage, which protects drivers in the event they’re struck by an at-fault driver who’s either uninsured or doesn’t have enough coverage.

Under Maryland law, in order to receive the benefits of an underinsured driver claim, the other driver must be at fault. Sometimes this can be proven without the need for a trial, but in Ms. Fisher’s case, there were credible conflicting eyewitness accounts as to who was at fault.

A trial was necessary so that a jury could review all of the evidence and come to a decision. In those circumstances, under Maryland law, the insurance company providing the Underinsured Motorist coverage is considered a defendant. As a defendant in this case, Progressive participated in the trial procedures on our own behalf while Nationwide represented the other driver.

On Thursday, August 9, a jury determined that the other driver was at fault in the accident involving Ms. Fisher. In accordance with that decision, Progressive worked with the Fisher family and their legal representative to resolve the claim.

This was a tragic accident and our sympathies go out to the Fisher family.
Statement posted here: http://www.progressive.com/understanding-insurance/entries/2012/8/16/update_on_the_kaitl.aspx
————————————————–
[name deleted] | Account Manager
Allison+Partners for Progressive
71 Fifth Avenue, 7th Floor | New York, NY 10003
Direct: [deleted]
Mobile: [deleted]
[more personal information deleted]

Continue reading

I have gotten a lot of interesting comments on the “Progressive did not tender policy limits in wrongful death case in Baltimore” Internet firestorm. One fascinating idea set forth from one commenter is that this becomes the insurance industry’s McDonald’s coffee case. The commenter dismisses the notion but it is interesting. Could anyone have predicted that case would still have legs 17 years later?angrycomputer

Is it okay to frame the whole insurance industry for this? They are guilt of plenty. Wouldn’t the ends justify the means? Not for nothing, I think Martin Luther King would disagree that the ends would justify the means. He attacks the issue in a lot more serious context than uninsured motorist coverage, I’ll tell ya that.

The Internet is hammering Progressive Insurance for defending an uninsured motorist wrongful death case. Just hammering. It’s wild. And I’m really enjoying it. Should I? Progressive has committed many crimes against humanity . But in this case that has caused the Internet to explode, Progressive is being framed for a crime it did not commit, at least on the facts on which Progressive is being hung by the mob.

Update #1: Progressive’s PR people sent me an email explaining themselves further.

Update #2:  It is 2014.  Who is still talking about this case?   Absolutely no one.  It is amazing to me how these social media storms blow over as quickly as they come.

Baltimore Progressive Verdict

Did Progressive defend an indefensible case?

Before I defend them, let’s talk about why I don’t like Progressive. Because I don’t.  I talk about this here where I both rant and explain how to beat them at trial.

I feel a little bad saying that I don’t like them because I really do like some of their adjusters, many of which are really nice people. But it is an awful company to deal with on car accident claims. They generally write pathetically small policies that are unlikely to meaningfully compensate anyone who is seriously injured. They write a lot of $30,000/$60,000 polices which are the minimum in Maryland – the exact reason they are able to brag about their pricing. Yes, practically no coverage at all is pretty cheap.

Just as annoying, Progressive gives awful settlement offers until you file suit, because they can always pony up their piddly little policies at the last minute and avoid exposure. (I complain about this here.) Because they can always pony up their piddly little policies at the last minute and avoid exposure. Thankfully, Progressive has a small in-house counsel’s office in Maryland hich means once a lawsuit is filed, they dramatically change their tune. I’ve had Progressive claims adjusters tell me to file suit so they can increase their offer.

Anyway, the thing that is causing this hubbub is a case where a beautiful young woman – a Progressive insured – is tragically killed in a car accident in Baltimore. Nationwide Insurance, the at-fault carrier, at some point tenders their policy limits. Progressive refuses to waive it subrogation rights against the at-fault driver. So it claimed that it was not obligated to pay because the young woman was at-fault for the accident. Her brother wrote a really well written piece, underscoring his anger and frustration with Progressive, and then the Internet did what the Internet does.

Was this a good faith belief? Certainly, I have my doubts. Progressive most likely only had a $100,000 policy. So it had nothing to lose in rolling the dice and trying the case. This is the kind of garbage they do all of the time (which is why Maryland needs a first party bad faith law with real teeth). We have had plenty of verdicts against insurance companies in uninsured motorist cases because they were not motivated to settle because they knew no matter what the jury awarded, they would only have to pay the policy limits. Continue reading

I sent State Farm a demand package on March 29th. Now, admittedly, I don’t have State Farm “good neighbor” posters in my room, but I’ll give credit where credit is due: State Farm turns demand letters into offers pretty quickly. I’ll tell clients to expect an offer with 60 days, but I’m underpromising and overdelivering – I expect to get an offer much sooner.

Well, it is now almost five months later and we have gotten nothing but the run around. So, I got a supervisor on the phone today. He pretty much admits the original adjuster is a problem child. To the supervisor’s credit, he read the file in a few hours and called me to argue about it. Usual stuff, he had degenerative changes prior to the accident (setting aside that he never had any problems or needed, ah, surgery which he needed after the accident). I’m cool with that; I don’t mind the “your case sucks” banter. The game is the game. Continue reading

The purpose of uninsured motorist coverage – which most of us blindly have because our state requires it – is for protection in the event that we get hit by a driver with no insurance or not enough insurance to provide compensation for our injuries. Most uninsured motorist policies compensate the victim for any amount, within the policy limits, that would have been recoverable from the at fault driver as money damages resulting from a car collision.

What happens when your client is on a motorcycle that is not listed on your insurance policy? Does your uninsured motorist coverage kick in? This issue is usually framed by breaking down the language of the uninsured motorist agreement that considers a motorcycle to be an excluded vehicle. But the analysis does motorcycle2not end there. Some states – Maryland is a prime example that I will get to in a second – are willing to rewrite the terms of an insurance policy to meet public policy objectives. This is done either by judicial fiat or by the state’s uninsured motorist statutory scheme.

So outside of Maryland, Plaintiffs’ lawyer in these cases argue that the state uninsured motorist laws provides protection that extends not just to the vehicle but to the person. Accordingly, this argument goes, UM coverage is broadly construed to cover all motor vehicle accidents. The insurance companies, argue, on the other hand, that its insured should not be able to have their cake and eat it too by doing someone inherently unsafe while not paying for the coverage. There is merit to both arguments. Continue reading

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