CNN Expose "Auto Insurers Play Hardball in Minor-Crash Claims"
Posted by Alex Miller on Feb 10, 2007
CNN has released a new expose on the insurance claims handling by State Farm and Allstate, titled "Auto Insurers Play Hardball in Minor-Crash Claims. The article covers the topic in Trial Guides' book From Good Hands to Boxing Gloves.
The beginning of the article notes:
"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.
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." In the report the professor goes on to call Allstate and State Farm's practice of denying or making lowball offers "institutionalized bad faith" by insurers.
CNN notes "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."
That is, without a lawyer who knows how to take a case to trial or an insurance bad faith lawyer to bring a resulting claim against the insurer for the lowball offer.
CNN cites former Allstate claims adjustors as confirming the practice of institutionally underpaying claims;
"Shannon Kmatz, a police officer and former Allstate claims agent, said company employees were encouraged to get rid of claims quickly and cheaply and even offered accident victims as little as $50, telling them to take it or leave it.
Both Roxanne Martinez of Santa Fe, New Mexico, and Ann Taylor of West Lafayette, Indiana, saw the practice firsthand."
CNN found that this strategy illustrates "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.
For Allstate and State Farm, according to documents obtained by CNN, the strategy was developed in the mid-1990s with the assistance of consulting giant McKinsey & Co.
Looking for a way to boost profits, McKinsey focused on soft-tissue injuries incurred in minor crashes."
To learn more about these auto bad faith claims practices and how these spread throughout the insurance industry, read From Good Hands to Boxing Gloves: How Allstate Changed Casualty Insurance in America.