How far will an insurance company go to save money? Most people expect modern insurers to attempt to wiggle out of claims, use inferior parts to repair a car, or argue every possible technicality. How about defending in court the person who kills one of their insured clients, just to make sure they don’t have to come across with underinsured-motorist coverage?
Comedian Matt Fisher posted a blog yesterday detailing an extremely unfortunate progression of events.
On June 19, 2010, my sister was driving in Baltimore when her car was struck by another car and she was killed. The other driver had run a red light and hit my sister as she crossed the intersection on the green light.
…the other guy’s insurance company looked at the situation and settled with my sister’s estate basically immediately. Now, because the other driver was underinsured, that payment didn’t amount to much, but my sister carried a policy with Progressive against the possibility of an accident with an underinsured driver. So Progressive was now on the hook for the difference between the other guy’s insurance and the value of Katie’s policy.
…In hopes that a jury would hang or decide that the accident was her fault, [Progressive] refused to pay the policy to my sister’s estate.
…In Maryland, you may not sue an insurance company when they refuse to fork over your money. Instead, what they had to do was sue the guy who killed my sister, establish his negligence in court, and then leverage that decision to force Progressive to pay the policy.
Now my parents don’t harbor much venom for the guy who killed my sister. It was an accident, and kicking that guy around won’t bring Katie back. But kicking that guy around was the only way to get Progressive to pay. So they filed a civil suit against the other driver in hopes that, rather than going to court, Progressive would settle. Progressive did not. Progressive made a series of offers (never higher than 1/3 the amount they owe) and then let it go to a trial.
At the trial, the guy who killed my sister was defended by Progressive’s legal team.
If you are insured by Progressive, and they owe you money, they will defend your killer in court in order to not pay you your policy.
The trial was a real shitshow for my parents, and I did not love it either. As it happens, the jury did find that the other driver was negligent, which, if justice or decency are priorities for Progressive, will result in them finally honoring Katie’s policy. At this point, I hope you’ll forgive me if I wait for it to actually happen.
This makes my personal State Farm horror story (best summarized as “factory-ordered SRT-4 with 7,000 miles which had never so much as been through an automatic car wash is broken into, State Farm’s recommended bodyshop puts 260 miles on the car, paints the door the wrong color, scratches every other panel through the clearcoat, breaks the intercooler water sprayers, bends the seat frame, and curbs the Mille Miglia wheels, and then State Farm’s representative declares that ‘in the opinion of State Farm, the vehicle was returned in excellent condition’”) look like a good solid reason to choose State Farm.
Once upon a time, Progressive was widely viewed as one of the “good guys” in the insurance biz. They didn’t automatically penalize people for tickets. They insured young drivers who wanted to operate high-performance motorcycles and cars. Even their ad campaigns made a point of embracing different sexual and ethnic identities. Between this situation and the company’s “Snapshot” device, however, it looks like the good old days are long gone.