Auto insurance could be no longer cheap cause of internet rants against the niggardly insurers


Let’s look into a case of individual injustice. In June 2010, Kaitlynn Fisher went through stop lights on green. Halfway across the junction, an SUV came through the red light and smashed into her car. She was killed. The driver of the SUV was underinsured. Kaitlynn was insured by Progressive and one of the terms was a duty to pay up to $100,000 if an uninsured or underinsured driver caused injury or death. Except the law of Maryland is a nightmare. The insurance company is not obliged to pay out if its insured was in any way to blame for the accident. Hence, if a court was to find one driver 99% to blame, the 1% fault attached to the other driver would defeat her claim. This is an amazing law. To make it worse, there’s no right to sue the insurance company directly. The relatives of the deceased has to sue the other driver and get a ruling the deceased was not even 1% to blame for the accident. So that’s just what they did.

What makes this story remarkable is that Progressive sent a lawyer to the trial who addressed the judge and jury, and sat beside the defendant, offering advice. According to Progressive, this lawyer was protecting its interests and not representing the defendant. The fact the lawyer was protecting Progressive’s interests by arguing Progressive’s policyholder was to blame is irrelevant.

Not surprisingly given the adverse publicity, Progressive has now reached a settlement with the family of the deceased. However, consider the potential effects of this publicity. Progressive was able to provide cheap auto insurance as it used every possible trick in the book to avoid paying out. If it now feels the glare of the public’s attention, it may well change that business model. This would mean more generous settlements to avoid going to court and, if court action cannot be avoided, always arguing in favor of its policyholders. This means paying out a lot more money to all those insured and represents the end of cheap auto insurance rates . A mildly ironic outcome for those fighting an injustice.

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