Farm Bureau Insurance Company makes No. 2 on my list of Michigan’s worst auto insurance companies. Our auto insurance lawyers believe Farm Bureau is a skunk because instead of protecting its own customer by agreeing to settle her serious personal injury claim, Farm Bureau did the opposite: exposing its customer to a verdict that could ruin her – by trying to make the jury believe she had no auto insurance and she would have to pay the verdict, not Farm Bureau.
In one of our cases called Mayher v. Martin, Farm Bureau insured the vehicle of an 18-year-old Lenawee County teenager who slammed into a man’s SUV while she was speeding illegally on the dirt shoulder, to avoid waiting a few extra seconds for traffic to clear. Mr. Mayher was seriously injured in the auto accident and had to be transported to the hospital by helicopter. He suffered a serious traumatic brain injury and shoulder injuries. Despite the seriousness of these personal injuries, the Farm Bureau insurance adjuster refused to make any meaningful attempts to settle this case (Farm Bureau insured the defendant teenager).
Instead, the Farm Bureau defense team wanted the jury to believe the teenage driver was the one who would be paying up instead of Farm Bureau itself. The claims adjuster told us that a jury would never return a significant verdict because they would feel sorry for her, thinking she would never be able to pay. In reality, the teen’s family had purchased Farm Bureau as insurance in case she ever caused an accident. Farm Bureau was counting on this jury to improperly use unfair, outside considerations to deliberately avoid responsibility for a catastrophic car accident injury its own customer caused.
Farm Bureau took the reason all of us purchase insurance and stood it on its head.
Why would an insurance company, in a very serious car accident case — where everyone agrees the teenager who caused the crash acted recklessly (she pled guilty to reckless driving in criminal court) – refuse to make any meaningful attempts to settle and instead force a case to trial?
Because, there’s a rule of evidence that’s been adopted by almost all states, that says juries cannot be informed whether a defendant in a car accident lawsuit has auto insurance, or whether an insurance company will be paying the verdict. Farm Bureau just took this one step farther – deliberately trying as a strategy to have the jury think it’s an individual, uninsured defendant who will be paying the auto verdict.
But in this case, Farm Bureau made an intentional calculation that turns the public policy of not telling juries about the existence of insurance on its head. Farm Bureau deliberately forced this catastrophic TBI case to trial, hoping to get off cheap.
Keep in mind, the teenage driver served 30 days in jail for felony reckless driving. But that was not disclosed to the jury either.
In addition to Mayer v. Martin, we’ve seen some anti-consumer changes Farm Bureau has recently made that harms its customers. Farm Bureau’s uninsured (UM) policy becomes worthless, because Farm Bureau claims adjusters are trying to force auto accident injury victims to trial with the negligent party’s insurance company that wants to settle and pay their full insurance policy limits.
Also, for Farm Bureau customers who had purchased important uninsured (UM) and underinsured motorist coverage (UIM), Farm Bureau shortened the normal 3-year period to bring a lawsuit to only one year. The state of Michigan was so concerned by what Farm Bureau was doing that it later issued an order making it illegal for Farm Bureau and other Michigan insurance companies to do this.
Way to go Farm Bureau – sticking it to a loyal, long-term customer and choosing to still apply a contractual term that was so anti-consumer that the insurance commissioner required you to change it.
Given the insurers’ disgraceful actions detailed above, it is no wonder that Farm Bureau General Insurance Company of Michigan was one of the top 5 most-complained-about auto insurers among the nearly 80 auto insurance companies doing business in Michigan two out of the last five years, according to data from the Michigan Office of Financial and Insurance Regulation (OFIR).
That means that during those years Farm Bureau General Insurance Company received more consumer complaints than any of the nearly 70 other auto insurers.