In throwing out case for auto No-Fault PIP benefits, pain and suffering, Kalamazoo judge relied heavily on evidence that didn’t say what State Farm claimed
A car crash victim almost lost his case because State Farm hoodwinked a Kalamazoo County trial judge into believing the insurer’s evidence “proved” something far different from what the reports actually said.
This kind of deceitful and intentionally fraudulent behavior by an auto insurance company, especially one of State Farm’s size and power, makes my blood boil. A car crash victim could have lost everything – including his legal rights to No Fault insurance benefits like getting his medical bills and wage loss – because an insurance company and defense lawyer intentionally misrepresented evidence to a trial court judge.
It’s also illustrative of why State Farm so frequently tops our own Michigan Auto Law auto accident attorneys’ lists of the Worst Auto Insurance Companies.
Additionally, it’s a perfect example of why I support the creation of a Michigan Automobile Insurance Fraud Authority that would help to stop this kind of fraudulent conduct and the unfair claims and adjusting practices that is so rampant among Michigan’s No-Fault auto insurance companies.
State Farm’s reports didn’t tell the whole story
Here’s what State Farm did in the case of Poulsen v. Visser & State Farm.
To get Jack Poulsen’s lawsuit for unpaid auto No-Fault insurance benefits and pain and suffering compensation dismissed, State Farm told a judge Poulsen’s injuries weren’t caused by the rear-end car crash he’d been involved in at a Kalamazoo County intersection.
State Farm based its claim on “an accident reconstruction report prepared by State Farm and … reports from State Farm’s medical examiners …”
“Rely[ing] heavily” on State Farm’s reports, the judge “determined” the reports “negated the essential element of causation” and, thus, threw out Poulsen’s case.
So, why’s that so outrageous?
Because State Farm’s reports didn’t say that at all.
And, significantly, they didn’t say what State Farm misled the Kalamazoo County trial judge into believing they said.
Bottom line: The State Farm reports that the insurer was using didn’t “negate” causation at all for this car crash victim.
In fact, the reports proved causation.
They proved this Kalamazoo man was in fact injured in this very same car crash!
Michigan Court of Appeals corrects what’s become a common adjusting practice
The Michigan Court of Appeals in its ruling in Poulsen v. Visser & State Farm took care to draw attention to this very important point:
“[N]either the accident reconstruction reports nor the reports submitted by State Farm’s medical examiners preclude the existence of an issue of material fact on the issue of causation, and so they do not negate an essential element of plaintiff’s claim.”
The same reports that State Farm was falsely using to “negate” causation actually strengthened Poulsen’s claim that his injuries were caused by the car crash!
It’s really quite stunning:
- One State Farm IME doctor concluded “it is likely that the motor vehicle accident resulted in a whiplash, post-concussive syndrome …”
- Another State Farm IME doctor said Poulsen’s neck, knee and head injury were “caused by this accident …”
- And, yet another State Farm IME doctor found that the auto accident victim’s knee, back, neck and head injuries were “caused by the December 11, 2013 accident.”
Sadly, what happened in the Poulsen case is not uncommon. It happens all the time — by State Farm and others. Our attorneys see this happening constantly.
Fortunately, the Court of Appeals was there – this time – to hold State Farm accountable for its misconduct.
How State Farm’s own IME reports helped a car crash victim’s Kalamazoo County lawsuit
In contrast to State Farm’s claims that its experts’ reports disproved causation, here’s what the reports really said about causation:
- “[I]t is likely that the motor vehicle accident resulted in a whiplash, post-concussive syndrome” and that the auto accident victim’s “current symptomatology of headaches, neck pain, and cognitive issues may be considered to cause a temporary impairment as a result of the December 11, 2013 accident.”
- The car crash victim had “‘cervical strain, left knee contusion, myofascial pain, closed head injury/concussion’ that ‘was caused by this accident …’”
- The motor vehicle accident victim “had left knee strain/sprain, lumbar and thoracic strains and sprains, cervical strain and sprain, and a history of traumatic brain injury and that his condition was caused by the December 11, 2013 accident.”
State Farm’s accident reconstructionist had nothing to say about causation
With regard to the report from State Farm’s accident reconstructionist, the Court of Appeals noted:
“[C]ontrary to the claims of defendants and the trial court, the accident reconstruction report did not say anything about the cause of plaintiff’s injuries.”