Insurance company sends full no-fault release seven days after car accident
Wow, I’ve seen a lot of dirty tricks pulled by Michigan auto insurance companies over the past 16 years I’ve been helping people injured in car accidents. But what Dairyland Insurance just did to a group of unsuspecting accident victims may actually top my list for dirty tricks. In fact, I’ve never, ever seen a Michigan auto insurance company pull a stunt this outrageous before.
Here’s what happened:
Three people were injured in a car accident on March 1, 2010. They contact their insurance company, which happens to be Dairyland. Dairyland sends on March 8, 2010 a full release to the injured people of all of their Michigan no-fault insurance claims – including the right to future no-fault insurance benefits. This is a legal contract that extinguishes all future rights and claims. And it was sent seven days after the car accident! People usually don’t even get an application for benefits within seven days of contacting their own insurance companies. But a legal release? A legal release is almost always sent at the end of a case, after a lawsuit has been filed.
As a personal injury lawyer, I’ve helped hundreds of people injured in automobile accidents; the other 17 lawyers at Michigan Auto Law have probably helped thousands. Never have we seen a release being sent within days of an accident. It is, as I said, probably 99 percent of the time, sent after a contested lawsuit has been resolved, either through settlement or verdict.
What did the Dairyland Insurance company customers do once they received the release? You guessed it. They signed, potentially extinguishing their ability to receive all future no-fault insurance benefits.
Take a look at the releases from Dairyland.
Dairyland deserves a place smack dab at the top of my Insurance Company Hall of Shame. What responsible auto insurance company would even think about sending to their own insureds a release of all legal rights – past, present, and future – seven days after a car accident?
I’ve told this group to promptly file a complaint with the Michigan Insurance Commissioner. I intend to send a letter as well to hopefully quash this type of insurance abuse as well.
A recipe for disaster
In a sense, what Dairyland did isn’t surprising. It is the logical extension of an insurance company taking advantage of the legal state in Michigan, a state without bad faith laws, punitive damages, or a consumer protection act to protect Michigan residents. If ever there was an episode that screams out to why Michigan residents need better protection from auto insurance companies, it is this. Already, Michigan insurance companies lead the nation in profitability, and Michigan is one of the few states without an insurance commissioner who can regulate how much profit these insurance companies can make, even though its residents are required by law to purchase no-fault insurance.
There is so much wrong here with what Dairyland Insurance company did, that it’s difficult to know where to begin. But I’ll take a stab: This is the most predatory, dirty thing I have ever seen an insurance company pull on its own customers.
If these Dairyland insurance customers now need wage loss, or medical treatment or an expensive surgery, arguably, this release completely absolves Dairyland of any responsibility to provide the benefits that by Michigan law, it must provide.
– Steven M. Gursten is recognized as one of the nation’s top experts in serious car and truck accident injury cases and automobile insurance no-fault litigation. Michigan Auto Law has received the largest reported jury verdict for an automobile accident case in Michigan in seven of the past 10 years, including 2009, according to published year-end verdicts and settlements reports.
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