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Progressive’s betrayal of woman after fatal car crash could happen to you

Paying auto insurance  premiums is no guarantee that Progressive Insurance keep its promises after you’ve  been injured

Progressive Insurance could betray you in the same way it betrayed comedian Matt Fisher’s sister, Kaitlynn Fisher, after her car crash.  Sadly, this is the same way Progressive has been betraying people I’ve been helping for years.

After years of accepting, cashing and depositing Ms. Fisher’s dutifully paid premiums for “Underinsurance Motorist Benefits,” Progressive Insurance used Ms. Fisher’s premium dollars to hire a lawyer to contest her “underinsurance” claim by “defending” the truly at-fault driver and blaming Ms. Fisher for the car crash that took her life, despite overwhelming evidence that the other driver had caused the crash that took Ms. Fisher’s life.

“Underinsurance Motorist Benefits (UIM)” apply when an at-fault driver does not have enough insurance to cover the damages he caused. The UIM benefits are paid by the victim’s auto insurance company.

In Ms. Fisher’s case, the driver that killed her when he ran a red light carried only $25,000 in liability insurance. However, Ms. Fisher had a UIM policy for $100,000. As such, her estate was seeking the $75,000 difference from Progressive.

Rather than pay what the evidence supported, Progressive denied the UIM claim by Ms. Fisher’s estate and forced the case to trial.   Progressive chose to do this to try to save $75,000 instead of doing the right thing and paying the ridiculously inadequate amount to the estate of their own customer and insured.  Progressive chose to try to blame its own customer to avoid paying her what Progressive had contracted and promised to pay her if she had been seriously injured or killed.

In statements on its website, Progressive tried to justify its betrayal of its insured, Ms. Fisher, by claiming:

“There was a question as to who was at fault … [T]here were credible conflicting eyewitness accounts as to who was at fault.”

And, what was the “credible” evidence that Progressive neglected to mention?

It was the testimony of “a passenger in Kaitlynn Fisher’s car, who suffered brain damage in the accident and was unable to give a statement until two months later,” according to an Associated Press article by Matthew Barakat which was posted by the Huffington Post. The article noted that the witness also “suffered memory problems and other injuries that made her testimony unreliable.”

Significantly, nowhere in Progressive’s flimsy excuses for breaking its promises and turning on Ms. Fisher and her estate in their time of greatest need did the auto insurer concede the existence of the compelling evidence confirming the absence of fault on Ms. Fisher’s part:

  • An independent witness at the crash scene said the other driver caused the fatal crash by running a red light.
  • The other driver’s auto insurance company did not dispute that he was “at fault” in causing the crash.
  • The other driver’s auto insurance company paid his $25,000 liability policy limits to Ms. Fisher’s estate in settlement of its claim. (See AP Writer Matthew Barakat’s article, “Progressive insurance on defense after court case,” posted on the Huffington Post.)

Instead, Progressive charged forward at trial with its lawyer doing all he could to cast Ms. Fisher at the “bad guy” in bringing about her own death.

According to the blog post by her brother, comedian Matt Fisher, Progressive’s lawyer did the following:

“He … sat next to the [other driver whom Ms. Fisher’s estate was suing for causing Ms. Fisher’s death]. … [H]e conferred with the defendant. He gave an opening statement to the jury, in which he proposed the idea that the defendant should not be found negligent in the case. He cross-examined [the] witnesses [called by Ms. Fisher’s estate]. On direct examination, he questioned all of the defense’s witnesses. He made objections on behalf of the defendant, and he was a party to the argument of all of the objections heard in the case. After all of the witnesses had been called, he stood before the jury and gave a closing argument, in which he argued that my sister was responsible for the accident that killed her, and that the jury should not decide that the defendant was negligent.”

In the end, the truth won out. Progressive’s betrayal failed to pay off.  But the disturbing part is that they tried. They chose to do this.

On August 9, 2012, a jury returned a verdict confirming what everyone involved already knew or should have known: “[T]he other driver was at fault in the accident involving Ms. Fisher.”

We send our sincere condolences to the Fisher family.

– Steve Gursten is an experienced insurance lawyer specializing in serious automobile accidents. Steve wrote the book, Protecting Your Legal Rights After a Car Accident.

Michigan Auto Law is the largest law firm exclusively handling car accident, truck accident and motorcycle accident cases throughout the entire state. We have offices in Farmington Hills, Detroit, Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids and Sterling Heights. Call (800) 777-0028 to speak with one of our lawyers.

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