Allstate and State Farm Intimidate, Frustrate in Minor-Crash Personal Injury Claims
By Gerri Elder
A recent CNN.com story detailing how insurance companies developed a specific strategy to play hardball on minor car crash claims to the tunes of billions of dollars provides another example of why you should be aware of insurance companies during personal injury claims and may want an injury lawyer in your corner.
Specifically, CNN conducted an 18-month investigation into minor-impact soft-tissue injury crashes, or instances in which there is little visible evidence of vehicle damage and individual personal injuries. CNN learned that major insurance companies Allstate and State Farm worked with powerhouse consulting firm McKinsey & Co. in the mid-1990s and identified these types of injury claims as a means to boost profits.
According to former Allstate and State Farm employee Jim Mathis in the story, both companies developed a strategy focusing on three D's - denying soft-tissue personal injury claims, delaying settlement of these claims, and defending against the claim in court. These insurance companies especially stressed the importance of dragging out these types of cases in order to break the spirits and pockets of personal injury attorneys and victims.
Another former Allstate employee, Shannon Kmatz, detailed in the story how the company urged claims agents to try to settle claims as quickly as possible with "take-it-or-leave-it" offers of as little as $50. If personal injury victims refused to take such insulting offers, Allstate was more than glad to use its vast resources to drag out court cases.
The CNN story detailed several examples, one of which specifically stood out. Ann Taylor suffered a herniated disc and muscle tears when she was rear-ended by a State Farm employee driving a State Farm car. According to the story, this nurse from West Lafayette, Indiana racked up nearly $15,000 in combined medical bills and lost wages.
After State Farm offered Taylor a paltry $2,000 for her injuries, she sued. The lawsuit dragged on for three years before a jury awarded Taylor only $1,500. Three jurors in the case told CNN how State Farm's massive legal resources helped make their decision.
Specifically, State Farm defense lawyers blew up and prominently displayed photos of the two cars in the accident and convinced them that Taylor could not have been hurt in such a car accident. The jury agreed with the State Farm assertion that Taylor had already been compensated and was just trying to milk more money out of the case despite her very real injuries!
According to the story, similar practices have led to insurance companies sustaining billions of dollars while personal injury victims were awarded little if anything at all. Allstate and State Farm declined interview requests for the CNN story. An Allstate e-mail said that the company did not feel the story would be a balanced report. A State Farm spokesman admitted in an email that the company did work with McKinsey & Co. to improve claims handling but stopped using the program in 1999.
This CNN story further demonstrates why insurance companies are not your friends during personal injury cases. While insurance companies may try to take a friendly and soothing approach, remember that they primarily work to protect their own bottom line, as this CNN story clearly demonstrates.
Thus, if you've suffered personal injuries due to someone else's negligence and hear from an insurance company in the ensuing days, don't be intimidated or forced into a decision. Speak with a local personal injury lawyer as soon as possible. An experienced personal injury attorney will know all about insurance company tactics, stand up to this bully, and fight for your personal injury rights.