What happens when your auto insurance company comes up short?
Every year, the average American auto insurance premium is nearly $1200 on auto insurance, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC). In some states, the average insurance rates can jump to almost $1800 a year. While it is illegal to be an uninsured driver, and drivers are required to have proof of insurance for every vehicle on the road, knowing that you have insurance coverage should give also you something priceless—peace of mind.
In the event of a car accident, paying your auto insurance premium should mean that have the insurance protection needed to cover the cost of repairs or medical treatment associated with an accident. But what happens when it is time to file an insurance claim, and your auto insurance company refuses to pay what you believe you're owed?
The cost of the blame game
Consider the case of Kaitlynn Fisher. In 2010, Fisher, known by her friends and family as Katie, was killed in a car accident. Katie, who had auto liability insurance through Progressive, had an auto insurance policy that was supposed to cover $100,000 for each person injured person in an accident, in addition to an underinsured motorist policy. The other driver in the accident, Ronald Kevin Hope III, was an underinsured motorist with $25,000 in liability coverage and a suspended license.
According to the Baltimore Sun, there were also conflicting reports about who was the fault driver. Some passengers claimed that Katie was at fault, while an eyewitness reported that it was Hope who ran the red light and hit Katie. There were also passengers in each car with medical costs.
These details were especially important because the accident took place in Maryland, where victims are not allowed to sue the insurance company to cover any additional expenses. It also one of a handful of states where an at-fault driver may not get a pay out from an underinsurance policy if they are at fault.
In the case of Fisher's family, because of the state's laws and the difference in auto policies, they found that their only recourse was to take legal action in order to recoup money from funeral expenses and outstanding debt. So, they took Hope to civil court to receive the difference from her underinsured motorist policy. Progressive, who found Katie at fault, joined the trial argue to the defendant's innocence.
Outraged, Katie Fisher's older brother, Matt, detailed the circumstances of their battle with Progressive in a Tumblr post entitled, “My Sister Paid Progressive Insurance to Defend Her Killer in Court." His post struck a chord with the public, going viral on social media and turning public opinion against the insurance carrier.
In the end, the jury ruled on the side of the Fishers. Due in large part to the publicity around the case, Progressive also paid an additional settlement to the family to avoid having to appear for a hearing before the state insurance commissioner. But the victory was hard-won, several years after Katie's death.
Don't take your insurance company's word for it
As we know, most victims of a car accidents will never be the focal point of a media scandal. Many cases just like Katie Fisher's fly under the radar every year. We also know that when accidents happen, one motorist may be driving with bare minimum coverage. Another might not have gap insurance when their vehicle is declared a total loss, while the other might even have a lapse in coverage and not even meet basic insurance requirements at all.
Many people make the mistake of assuming that because they pay their insurance provider to cover them in the event of an accident, an insurance carrier will look after their best interests in return. Most take for granted that when they make monthly payments, they will not have to worry about bodily injury coverage, medical payments coverage, motorist property damage coverage, uninsured motorist coverage, uninsured motorist property damage, or basic medical expenses. But this isn't always true.
In truth, it is common for insurance companies to pay as little as possible to their policyholders, regardless of the type of auto insurance coverage is at play. A car accident can create an enormous life-changing expense, decimate emergency savings, or even damage credit scores. The average claim payment doesn't always even cover the cost of damage in an auto collision. This can be true even when motorists decide to shell out higher auto insurance premiums for comprehensive coverage instead of opting for a cheaper policy.
Know your options, know your rights
Remember, insurance companies do not have final say as to who is the at-fault party in an accident. You are not at the mercy of an insurance adjuster. You always have the right to consult personal injury attorney to help you determine what you can seek in an injury claim.
Personal injury attorneys successfully help clients receive what they are owed from insurance carriers every day. If you feel that you may be entitled to payment from your auto insurance provider after your accident, contact Hagen Rosskopf Attorneys at Law today for a free consultation.