No-Fault lawyer discusses the insurance company’s lawsuit against doctors and medical providers
Congratulations to my friends, Michigan lawyers Craig Romanzi and Heather Atnip, for standing up to Allstate Insurance Company’s deliberate decision to target Michigan doctors — much as Allstate has attacked doctors in many other states to intimidate or pressure them to stop providing treatment to auto accident victims.
Thanks to Craig and Heather’s fine work, Allstate Insurance Co.’s federal lawsuit against 24 medical service providers and doctors was recently dismissed in U.S. District Court.
The No-Fault lawyers in my own law firm do not do medical provider work. Instead, our law practice only focuses on helping injured auto accident victims in Michigan. But Craig and Heather’s victory against Allstate is an important win, not just for the doctors, but for all auto accident victims in Michigan.
This victory protects the rights of auto accident victims to receive the medical care they need. It stops, at least temporarily, the efforts of Allstate and other insurance companies from deliberately targeting certain doctors who treat car accident victims, and it preserves the promise of the Michigan No Fault Law – prompt payment of all reasonable and necessary medical expenses for auto accident victims.
How Allstate and other Michigan auto insurance companies attempt to ruin certain doctors
I’ve written about how many auto insurance companies in Michigan are deliberately targeting doctors who provide good care to car accident victims. These insurance companies are trying to drive doctors, who they believe are too much of a caring patient advocate, out of business to save money.
For example, there are only a small handful of private practice doctors who treat traumatic brain injury victims that are left in Michigan. If they target the ones who provide this expensive medical treatment out of business, they can save millions of dollars. It is deliberate, calculated and intentional. It is a war that has been going on for many years.
The Insurance Company’s war on doctors
Often, the war starts like this: the auto insurance company will suddenly refuse to pay outstanding medical bills – often without giving any reason. Adjusters will say they’re putting these doctors “under investigation.” They make wild accusations about fraud – without evidence, and they will even tell their own customers not to see these doctors. They are deliberately attacking reputations and attempting to ruin lives, and depriving auto accident victims from receiving necessary medical care – all to save money.
And why not? These insurance companies know they can save millions of dollars. How? Take the TBI doctors example I just mentioned. As there are only a small group of doctors that provide treatment for mild traumatic brain injury in Michigan, some insurance companies will attempt to starve these doctors and deter them from providing care and treatment to TBI car accident victims by refusing to pay medical bills, and otherwise attacking these doctor’s medical reputations.
Michigan courts reject aggressive tactics by auto insurance companies, but there’s still damage…
But unlike the jury in Arkansas (who awarded a doctor defamed by Allstate $21 million), Michigan doctors who have been wronged can’t sue these insurance companies for punitive damages, for unfairly targeting them and trying to destroy and sully reputations.
Craig Romanzi, in an interview with Michigan Lawyers Weekly, said it best: “It’s a major step by a court to reject the aggressive tactics by insurance companies to deny legitimate claims by injured parties and to intimidate medical providers who provide service to those injured parties.”
Even though Craig and Heather beat Allstate, his clients (the 19 doctors unfairly targeted by Allstate), still suffered horrible harm. “Even by filing the complaint, [Allstate] achieved a certain margin of success,” Romanzi said. “They lost in the courts, but during the last 14 months, they did substantial damage to these businesses.”
Heather Atnip, who also represented the 19 medical providers with Craig, said that Allstate was certainly “over-zealous” in targeting these doctors, going well beyond its role. One of the things that the court noted, in throwing out the lawsuit by Allstate, was that there are specific agencies authorized to pursue alleged criminal activity, such as the attorney general or the Michigan insurance commissioner.
In other words, Heather was saying that Allstate doesn’t get to play the role of attorney general to get out of paying legitimate medical bills that it validly owes. If there is legitimate fraud, there are several institutions authorized by the state to investigate insurance fraud.
An insurance company taking on these roles is an obvious conflict of interest. Such a blatant conflict of interest is why we have independent institutions that can protect the public. But having the same insurance company that has to pay these bills assume the authority of these independent institutions is begging for abuse.
The real reason Allstate picks on certain doctors
But auditing the bills of doctors it doesn’t like as a way to avoid paying for them was never the true aim here. The real purpose of the Allstate lawsuit was to cripple doctors that the insurance company doesn’t like — those who provide medical treatment and care for injuries that can be expensive to treat and slow to resolve, such as traumatic brain injury and spinal injuries.
Allstate filed its lawsuit on Dec. 23, 2009, a Wednesday, and issued a press release on the suit the same day, giving the story enough time to run for the entire holiday weekend. As a result, news sources in Metro Detroit and nationwide picked up the story, and linked Allstate’s allegations against these doctors with fraudulent activity. That lasted for 14 more months until the dismissal in Court last week.
Again, these actions were premeditated, and had more to do with generating pressure and negative publicity against these doctors than anything else. Heather nailed it when she told Michigan Lawyers Weekly: “It gives providers a bad name, makes the patients obviously not want to seek treatment.”
Congratulations once again to my friends Craig and Heather, both terrific and aggressive attorneys.
– Steve Gursten is recognized as one of the nation’s top No-Fault lawyers handling serious car accident and truck accident lawsuits. He routinely writes about insurance company abuse and the No-Fault laws in Michigan, and is available for comment.
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 to better serve you. Call (248) 353-7575 for a free consultation with one of our No-Fault lawyers.