Be Careful When Buying Auto Insurance!

Consumer Protection AttorneyImagine the horror of being rear-ended at a high rate of speed by an uninsured/underinsured  motorist. Luckily, you were smart enough to carry uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. So now you think everything will be taken care of. WRONG. If you elect the wrong insurance company, that insurance company may fight you instead of help you. Be careful when buying insurance!!

This is a true story that happened in Connecticut. On March 27, 2006, Ronald Rawls was involved in such a rear-end collision. Ronald was stopped at a red traffic light. There was another vehicle in front of him. As he waited for the light to change, almost fifteen seconds, he heard something and then he blacked out after being hit from behind by another vehicle. Apparently when Ronald woke up a few minutes later, he found his head was injured and glass covered him completely. He had been rear-ended and his vehicle had been propelled into the front car. The owner of the vehicle that struck his vehicle was Bailey. He did not have insurance. However, Ronald had an uninsured/underinsured  policy with Progressive.

Ronald did not see Bailey’s vehicle prior to the collision, did not know where Bailey was looking, did not know Bailey’s speed at the time of the collision, and could not state if Bailey put on the brakes or tried to avoid the accident. However, Ronald was able to get out of the car and see that the back of his vehicle was destroyed. He also noticed the car behind him, Bailey’s car, had sustained severe front damage. The officer at the scene spoke with all three drivers but did not take a statement from Bailey. However, the officer did note severe damage to the front of Bailey’s car and to the back of Ronald’s vehicle. The officer also testified the road was straight, flat, and wide.

So, it seems like a clear cut case. An uninsured/underinsured  driver hit Ronald’s vehicle. Ronald has an uninsured/underinsured  policy with Progressive, and thus Progressive should pay for the injuries caused by the uninsured/underinsured  driver. However, that did not happen. Progressive was happy to collect Ronald’s uninsured/underinsured  premium, but when it was time to protect him, Progressive elected to fight Ronald.

Progressive argued that Ronald had not submitted any evidence that Bailey was negligent and that Bailey’s negligence cause the damage to Ronald. In other words, although any logical person, can determine what occurred, Progressive elected to play games. They elected not to pay because Progressive argued that there was no specific evidence that Bailey was in fact negligent since Ronald did not see Bailey driving.

The trial judge did not buy the argument. The jury did not buy the argument either. They awarded Ronald over $51,113. However, did Progressive pay? No. Instead, they fought him on the amount awarded. Progressive convince the trial court to reduce the award to $31,115. Did Progressive pay the lower amount? No. They appealed the matter to the Appellate Court. Progressive argued that negligence was not shown. The Appellate Court unfortunately agreed with Progressive and the matter had to be appealed to the Connecticut Supreme Court. Recently, on January 7, 2014, the Supreme Court correctly reversed the decision of the Appellate Court. The Supreme Court stated that there was enough circumstantial evidence for a jury to find that Bailey was negligent. The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the trial court. Watch the video here.

Almost eight (8) years after the accident, Progressive again is required to pay for damages. Will they now pay it? I am not sure since the Connecticut Supreme Court decision just came down. However, what I am sure of is that when I look for an insurance company to cover me, I will not be buying from an insurance refuses to help me in my time of need and is just looking for ways to avoid paying on claims. I do not want an insurance company that will delay payment of a claim for almost eight (8) years.

Insurance companies make a lot of money from the collection of premiums. These premiums should be used to pay for injuries in the event you are involved in an auto accident. Premiums should not be used to hire attorneys and to prevent the payment of damages in hopes of making more money. The lesson: Avoid companies that are only there to make money and do not adequately protect you when you need them. Cheap insurance is not always the best insurance.

For more information on the case, please refer to Ronald Rawls v. Progressive N. Ins. Co., Connecticut Supreme Court (SC 18855). Opinion date: January 7, 2014 or watch the video here.