After a comprehensive investigation of thousands of legal documents, the American Association for Justice recently compiled a list of the worst insurance companies in America. Each of these companies writes auto insurance policies in Michigan. For Michigan automobile accident lawyers, the 2008 list is no surprise.
Deny, Delay, Defend
Topping the list as the worst insurance company in America is Allstate. Car accident victims in Michigan have been experiencing Allstate’s “good hands” for years as the insurer has denied and delayed payments, and then defended legitimate cases after forcing a lawsuit to be filed. Following close behind Allstate was Unum, AIG, State Farm, Conseco health insurance, WellPoint, Farmers, UnitedHealth, Torchmark and Liberty Mutual.
AIG, the insurer for many of the more serious truck accident cases in Michigan as they write many excess and umbrella layers of insurance coverage, is well-known among Michigan truck accident lawyers for its notorious bad faith approach to settlement negotiations until the eve of trial, and for refusing to make good faith offers to resolve serious truck accident cases early on. It is no accident that many of the better truck accident defense lawyers in Michigan refuse to defend AIG cases.
The consensus among most no fault insurance lawyers is that State Farm has become the worst first party auto insurance company in Michigan. State Farm puts many of its own insureds, who paid valuable premiums for protection if they were ever injured in an automobile accident, “under investigation” which has become the excuse for simply stopping all payment of medical bills and wage loss and refusing to disclose any reason to their own insured, forcing these people to hire a lawyer to sue for benefits that State Farm is legally obligated to pay.
Michigan accident and personal injury attorneys have become very familiar with Allstate’s “Deny, Delay, Defend” strategy, which has made national news and has been the subject of many news stories by organizations such as CNN. Allstate’s tactics have lately been copied many other automobile insurance companies on the list like State Farm and Farmers insurance. Insurers use this tactic to maximize profits for their shareholders and CEOs at the expense of policyholders. And the strategy works: The CEOs of the top 10 property/casualty firms earned an average of $8.9 million in 2007, and Allstate alone raked in a profit of $4.6 billion last year by collecting premiums and aggressively denying payments to policyholders.
Michigan Residents Are No Exception
These aggressive tactics have been especially prevalent here in Michigan, due in no small part to the Michigan Supreme Court, which has consistently favored auto insurance companies and made recovery for victims injured in car accidents in Michigan increasingly difficult. Without bad faith insurance laws, and devastating opinions like Devillers barring injured victims from recovery, insurance companies have few reasons not to deny, delay and defend in our state.
Still, Michigan lawyers do have some tools that can be used to hold at least some of these insurance companies accountable. By taking a claim to trial and proving that it is “overdue,” a lawyer is entitled to statutory interest and attorney fees. In the meantime, as groups like AAJand the Michigan Association for Justice expose the bad insurance companies greed, we hope public support builds for legislative reforms to help curb practices that put profits ahead of policyholders.