CNN has a good article online titled “Auto insurers play hardball in minor-crash claims.” The article provides some details about an industry-wide strategy of denying and delaying legitimate claims made by auto negligence victims.
Trial lawyers have been trying to inform the public about this reprehensible behavior for years. Perhaps this article will help. Here are a few excerpts:
If you are injured in a minor car crash, chances are good that you will be in the fight of your life to get the insurance company to pay all the medical costs you incur — even if the accident was no fault of your own.
That’s what CNN discovered in an 18-month investigation into minor-impact soft-tissue injury crashes around the country. Those are accidents in which there is little damage to the vehicle and the injuries to people are not easy to see by the naked eye or conventional medical tools like X-rays.
Since the mid-1990s, most of the major insurance companies — led by the two largest, Allstate and State Farm — have adopted a tough take-it-or-leave-it strategy when dealing with such cases.
The result has been billions in profits for insurance companies and little, if anything, for the public, according to University of Nevada insurance law professor Jeff Stempel.
“We can see that policyholders individually are getting hurt by being dragged through the court on fender-bender claims, and yet we don’t see any collateral benefit in the form of reduced premiums even for the other policyholders,” Stempel said.
“So I think now we can say to continue this kind of program is in my view institutionalized bad faith.”
If you have never heard of the strategy, it’s because insurance companies don’t want you to know that they are paying out less and less for minor crashes even while their profits soar and your premiums continue to rise.
But after a review of more than 6,000 company documents and court records, interviews with a dozen people nationwide, including former company insiders, and conversations with accident victims, the picture is clear: If you challenge the offer by some insurance companies you will be left with no option but to go to court, where you will be dragged through the wringer.
In an affidavit in a New Mexico case where Allstate is being sued, one of the company’s former attorneys said the strategy is to make fighting the company “so expensive and so time-consuming that lawyers would start refusing to help clients.”
The cases, CNN found, illustrate a carefully developed strategy to make the victims look like they are trying to defraud the insurers.
But documents CNN obtained indicate profit, not fraud, is the reason companies decided to play hardball in small accidents.