Case Conclusion Date: 01.01.2009
Practice Area: Personal injury
Outcome: Law penalizing insurance companies for not settling uninsured motorist claims applies when the insurance company tries to trick insured customers into signing premature releases of their claims
Description: Plaintiff, a Spanish speaking women who had never had car insurance before, was involved in a hit and run accident that left her and her family members injured. Before she could even get medical treatment, various adjusters from her insurance company, Farmer's, called her and pressured her. One agent was going to help her obtain medical treatment under her policy, the other was actually trying to limit any exposure Farmer's Insurance had under the uninsured motorist provision of the policy. Not understanding her rights, she believed she had to accept a very low offer of $800.00 and sign a form before she could get medical treatment when she could have gotten treatment without these conditions under her PIP coverage, which was also part of her policy, and settled later when the actual extent of her injuries where known. At arbitration the arbitrator threw out the release she had signed and awarded her the proper damages she was entitled to after undergoing several months of chiropractic treatment. The remaining issue was whether the insurance company had failed to properly assess and pay her claim within a time period of six months from when they learned of her claim and whether this exposed Farmer's insurance to paying her attorney fees under a special law meant to penalize insurance companies. Farmer's argued that since they had accepted that the accident was covered, the only issue was about damages, they were safe from any penalty. We) argued that there was much more going on then determining damages - they had put up this road block by trying to trick Ms. Cardenas in to signing a release prematurely and then fighting that the release was valid and blocked any further claim to damages. The Oregon Court of Appeals agreed with Plaintiff and awarded the Plaintiff attorney fees for the case. The case clarified for attorneys statewide that these circumstances would justify an award of attorney fees.