We often times discuss here on our car accident blog how insurance companies have an obligation to act in good faith, meaning they have a duty to you (…as a policyholder) to investigate your claim and make a decision in a timely manner. As their customer, you have a legal right to expect your insurance company to defend your interests in the event of an accident.
The family of Katie Fisher found out that sometimes it just doesn’t work out that way. Most “bad faith” cases go unnoticed by the general public but not this one.
Describing the ordeal via a blog post entitled “My Sister Paid Progressive Insurance to Defend her Killer in Court,” Matt Fisher detailed the family’s ordeal in trying to secure a settlement from the at-fault driver. After posting his account, the well known auto insurer certainly felt the wrath of angry customers through its Facebook and Twitter accounts. Three days after Matt Fisher posted the family’s story, Progressive settled the case.
In June 2010, Katie Fisher lost her life when another driver in a SUV ran a red light and hit the young college grad’s car in the side…sadly, Katie was killed instantly.
The driver of the SUV was underinsured, meaning they didn’t have enough insurance coverage to pay Katie’s family. Part of Katie’s $100,000 policy included uninsured/underinsured coverage, meaning Progressive would pay the difference between what the offending driver could pay and her policy limits.
The offending driver’s policy limit was $25,000, which left a difference of $75,000.
In order to obtain this money to pay Katie’s debts and final expenses, the Fisher family had to sue the offending driver to establish fault in the accident. With this decision, the family could then force Progressive to pay the difference.
In Matt Fisher’s Tumblr post, he explains how Progressive actively participated in the offending driver’s defense in order to avoid having to pay the Fishers. If Katie was found at-fault then Progressive would be released from any financial obligation under Maryland law.
Once Matt told his emotional story online, it quickly went viral and spread around to literally thousands of people.
This set off a rash of complaints on the company’s social media channels… but Progressive’s reply was what really set off the PR firestorm. Replying to each complaint, the insurer issued the same, rigid statement – “We fully investigated this claim and relevant background, and feel we properly handled the claim within our contractual obligations.”
This canned response just fueled critics’ anger even more.
On August 9 though, a jury did find the driver of the SUV negligent and subsequently awarded Katie Fisher’s estate $760,000 plus legal fees. However, this verdict was against the driver, not Progressive, meaning the family was unlikely to actually collect any of that money.
According to Allen Cohen, the Fisher family’s attorney, the insurance company settled with the grieving family for an undisclosed amount well above the $75,000 the family was initially seeking. Explaining the settlement to CNN, Cohen said the payment “…is for their failure to exercise good faith toward their insured.”
Watch this CNN interview of Katie’s brother Matt for more on the story.
Stories like this should illustrate how it can sometimes be really difficult to obtain compensation for damages stemming from a car accident. It’s assumed that having a policy with good standing means your insurance carrier will be there for you. Sadly, this isn’t always the case.
If you’ve been involved in a car accident in Colorado and are experiencing similar roadblocks to what the Fishers have endured, it’s important you discuss your case with an attorney who specializes in both auto accidents and bad faith insurance as soon as possible.
The emotional scars of losing a loved one this way is difficult enough. But when it comes to the financial impact, know that you do have recourse for any negligence on the part of other driver(s) and bad faith practices on the part of your insurance carrier.