Based on the commercials, you’d think insurance companies are as friendly as the agents who represent them on TV. They claim they’ll always have your back in the event of an accident, but the reality is different.
Insurance companies are driven first and foremost by their bottom line, and they will do everything they can to limit the amount of money they have to pay out. After all, how will their shareholders get bonuses?
One headline-making example from Clearwater, Florida, highlights the lengths that insurance companies will go to look out for their own interests—not yours. Warning: this story will make you mad.
What Happened in Florida
Ricky Melendez was driving to work when, out of nowhere, an SUV came careening through a red light and rammed into his Toyota Camry. Not only was the SUV moving at a dangerous speed (112 mph) and driving through a red light, but the car itself had been stolen. The police report shows that four teenage boys spent the morning breaking into cars in order to go joyriding.
As a result of the accident, three of the boys in the SUV were killed, while another was thrown through the windshield. Investigators found that Melendez had unequivocally done nothing wrong. Despite all that, Geico, the insurance provider for Melendez’s car, agreed to pay the families of the boys a total of $20,000. Compare that to the $10,000 Melendez got from his personal injury protection coverage, which has been woefully inadequate to cover his six-figure medical bills.
Since the accident, Melendez has been unable to work and he’s spent most of his time in a wheelchair. He is trying to focus on rehab and physical therapy so that he can get back to work as soon as possible. Said Melendez, “”It’s very disheartening that a company you pay monthly to pretty much have your back is just stabbing you in the back.”
For Geico, the decision to pay the families of the at-fault party was purely a financial one. $20,000 is a small sum compared to fighting off multiple lawsuits, even frivolous ones. To add even more insult to injury, there’s a good chance Geico will try and raise the insurance rate for Melendez. According to his lawyer, “If there’s no fault attributed to him, they don’t have to raise them, period. But do they routinely attempt to do it? Yes.”
If anyone needed a reminder that insurance companies are really only interested in protecting themselves, this should get the message across loud and clear. Insurance companies don’t care about right or wrong. Or the true victims.
Here’s a More Common Insurance Scenario
Most scenarios are not as extreme as the above example, but the routine way many insurance companies operate is just as infuriating. CNN highlighted how insurance providers routinely fight to avoid paying billions in compensation by using hardball tactics with their customers.
For example, a car slams into you at an intersection and you’re hurt badly enough to go to the hospital. After an overnight stay, some physical therapy, and medication, your medical expenses come to $15,000. You missed months of work, so add another $10,000 in lost wages.
The police determined that the other driver is at fault, but when you file a claim with that driver’s insurance company, they offer to settle your accident for $15,000 and not a penny more. You have a choice—either accept the money, or try to fight them in court. Insurance companies know that most people will accept the money on the table, so they continue to get away with these cutthroat tactics.
When You Need a Lawyer
California has laws protecting consumers against bad-faith insurance companies, but they don’t always get enforced. This is because insurance companies have teams of high-priced lawyers working for them, and most drivers are on their own. That’s why you need an advocate who knows the law cold and will fight on your behalf.
Bad faith is defined as when an insurance company does not handle a policyholder’s claim in a reasonable manner. Every contract, including insurance policies, is governed by a tenet known as the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing. By willfully ignoring the facts of the case, as in the example above, and refusing to fully compensate victims, that insurance company has violated this covenant.
Further examples of insurance bad faith that would violate California law include:
- An unreasonable denial of a claim that should be covered based on the facts of the case.
- Underpaying a claim and refusing to offer full compensation.
- Choosing not to defend you, the policyholder, if you are sued after an accident even though you have liability coverage and a reasonable defense.
- An unreasonable delay in providing compensation for a claim.
- A refusal to authorize medical treatment that a doctor has determined is reasonable and necessary.
If you are dealing with the aftermath of an accident and you believe your insurance company or the insurance company of another driver is acting in bad faith, you need an experienced San Diego car accident attorney as soon as possible. Lucky for you, Jurewitz Law Group hates backhanded insurance tactics and likes to tackle misbehaving insurance companies for breakfast.
Don’t try and fight the insurance companies on your own. Call us for a free consultation at (888) 233-5020. If we take your case, you pay nothing until we get you a fair settlement, or drag the insurer to court and get you a jury verdict.
Ross Jurewitz is the founder and managing lawyer of the Jurewitz Law Group, a San Diego personal injury attorney law firm. These San Diego injury accident lawyers specialize in helping people seriously injured in a variety of accidents throughout San Diego County and California.
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