Personal injury lawyers helping people injured in car and truck accidents deal with auto insurance companies every day. Many will tell you that auto insurance companies make a lot of money by not paying out on legitimate claims.
They will also say that accident victims have been limping away from hundreds of millions of dollars in valid and deserving claims that insurance companies are required to pay. Why? Many of these auto insurance companies believe you won't wait, you won't hire a lawyer to file a lawsuit, and you will eventually become so fed up that you'll take a low-ball settlement offer. This is called the "3 Ds" strategy: insurance companies will delay your claim, deny you were hurt and defend aggressively.
1. Dairyland Insurance - My Worst Insurance Company in Michigan Award
I've never seen any insurance company send a release to its own injured customers extinguishing all of their legal rights, past, present and future, just SEVEN days after a crash - until Dairyland Insurance did just this. The accident victim signed this release, and lost all future No-Fault insurance benefits and claims. Accident victims usually receive this release after the case has closed.
2. Farm Bureau Insurance - My Winner of the Insurance Company Skunk Award
A lawyer is not supposed to stand up in court and intentionally mislead a jury. But Farm Bureau is doing this in serious auto accident injury cases every day. In a Michigan Auto Law case, Farm Bureau insured the vehicle of an 18-year-old girl, who slammed into a man's SUV while she was speeding on the dirt shoulder. The car accident victim had to be transported to the hospital by helicopter. But instead of taking responsibility or making any meaningful attempts to settle this case, Farm Bureau's defense strategy was to hang its customer out to dry, hoping the jury would believe the at-fault teenage driver was the one who would be paying up - instead of Farm Bureau. Because of this case, and anti-consumer changes that Farm Bureau has in its own underinsured motorist coverage (UIM) policy, Farm Bureau wins my Skunk Award in 2011.
(TIE) 3. & 4. Allstate Insurance Company and State Farm Insurance - Winner, my Repeat Offender Award
Allstate didn't seem to have any problem growing its bottom line, even in this tough Michigan economy. The insurance giant posted an almost 10 percent increase in national profits compared to 2008. It pulled in national earnings of $518 million, and generated a nearly 23 percent boost in total revenues1. What our insurance attorneys don't like is how Allstate pulled it off: Documents made public in 2008 describe a two-pronged strategy for how Allstate cut payments to its own customers as a way to boost profits. First, the company evaluates claims with a computer program designed to reduce claims payouts. Second, Allstate pushes injury victims to accept quick but very low settlements.
1"How a get-tough policy lifted Allstate's profits" -- Herald Tribune, April 6, 2008
State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company is the No. 1 provider of auto insurance in the country. In 2009, State Farm managed a $777 million profit nationally2. We don't begrudge State Farm for making a profit. But our No-Fault insurance attorneys do blame State Farm for overcharging Michigan drivers, who pay the second-highest premiums in the country. Our insurance lawyers can also say from our own first-hand experience that State Farm is now the most aggressive in accusing its own customers of fraud, putting them under "investigation," and fighting payment of their No-Fault insurance benefits.
2"Where Auto Insurance Is Most Expensive" -- The New York Times, April 14, 2010
5. Progressive Insurance - Winner, My Worthless Coverage Award
What is buried in the fine print? How about completely worthless auto insurance that you paid a lot of money for. This tough lesson was exemplified by one of my cases where my client was struck nearly head-on at age 28. She had 13 surgeries, spent almost a month in the hospital and suffered a traumatic brain injury. The driver who hit her did not have auto insurance. But the victim had purchased uninsured motorist coverage (UM) from Progressive, which is supposed to protect someone if she's injured in a car accident by an uninsured driver. Too bad Progressive's uninsured motorist coverage was worthless and completely failed to protect her because of what Progressive buries in its policy.
6. Daimler Chrysler Insurance Company -- "This Isn't Even Insurance!" Award
Want an example of outrageous and deplorable conduct by an insurance company? In a case last year, a kind mother of three daughters was killed when a drunken, cocaine-using defendant crashed into her vehicle. Her estate sued the defendant and won a $3.5 million jury verdict. But her family was unable to collect anything because Daimler Chrysler Insurance Company's No-Fault insurance coverage STOPS its own customers from collecting if they are seriously injured, or killed, in car accidents!
Additional resources provided by the author
The links below provide valuable additional resources to help you find the right insurance company for your auto needs, as well as understanding Michigan's No Fault Auto Law.
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