As a New York car accident lawyer, I have been on the other side of car insurance adjusters for decades now. So I know the score. I know our respective jobs. They are supposed to try to pay a little as possible to save their employer money. I am supposed to get as much for my injured client as possible. I get that.
But what I don’t get is why a few of the auto insurance carriers — not all — seem to believe that offering my client an unreasonably small amount of money to settle actually saves their employer money. Most of them understand that, if they offer me something on the short side of reasonable, but still within the range of reasonable, my client will probably take it to avoid having to go through protracted litigation and a stressful trial. This saves the insurance carrier money because they don’t have to pay a lawyer to defend a lawsuit and because they don’t have to risk a big verdict at trial.
But a few “bad” car insurance companies don’t get that. Instead, they feel that unless they make my client settle for 1/2 or even 1/3 the value of the case, they have not done their job. That just makes me sue them, and then they have to pay their lawyer to defend the case, and on top of that they have to pay my client the reasonable verdict the jury will likely give my client and which they should have offered me to begin with! So they end up making their employer pay more, not less.
Here are the three carriers who are the most unreasonable, at least in New York car accident injury claims, and at least in my personal experience. They are the Axis of Evil of New York auto insurance carriers. I have included my personal insights/comments about each of them just for the hell of it:
#1 New York Central Mutual
These guys are not only cheap (they never want to pay anything close to the value of an injury), they are, in my opinion, bordering on unethical. The best I can say about them is that they are equal opportunity jerks: They treat their own insured (no-fault claimants claiming lost income and medical bills) as badly as they treat the injured victim of their insured’s careless driving. They often refuse to pay no-fault benefits (medical expenses and lost wages) based on bogus examinations by doctors they hire to say their insured is either not hurt, or if he is hurt, needs no medical treatment. I have nothing good to say about these guys. They should not be issuing insurance because they clearly only want to take in their insureds’ premiums and not pay anything out on claims.
If a GEICO-insured driver runs into you and you bring a claim against them, put on your seat belt. You are in for a long ride. They will almost never offer a fair settlement. They low-ball you, and if you don’t like it, well, see you in court. They don’t even come close to giving a reasonable settlement offer in most cases.
GEICO’s policies also tend to be small. $25,000 in coverage is the minimum in New York, and most GEICO insureds have just that, no more. This means you will have not only a long, hard, fight, but you will be fighting over a small pot of money.
Are you surprised? After all, they have such cute ads, with that little lizard guy and all. Well, that’s part of the problem. Their business model seems to be this: “Hey, let’s sell the cheapest insurance possible, with really lousy coverage, and instead of using the money we make to compensate injured victims, let’s just blow it all on more of those cute little ads”.
Progressive is often an insurer of last resort. They take drivers that most insurance companies won’t take because they have such bad driving records. So even though there aren’t that many Progressive policies out there, you are more likely to be injured by a Progressive driver. Progressive policies are almost always minimal ($25,000). Since the policies are generally so small, Progressive has little to lose by going to trial. So like the other two insurers on my “Axis of Evil” list, they tend to make crappy offers knowing that most lawyers are not going to want to go to the ropes and fight like hell at trial for such a skimpy amount. But guess what. Some of us do. So bring it on Progressive.
Thanks for listening to my rant.
By the way, there are two runners up. I won’t go into detail, but State Farm is not “like a good neighbor“. Allstate used to be the worst carrier on the planet (10 years ago they would have been in my “Axis of Evil“) but recently they have been a comparatively fairer (compared to horrible that is).
Do I have anything good to say about some insurers? No. But I can say some not-so-bad things about some: Nationwide is OK, but I would not say they are “on your side”. AIG, Erie, GMAC, Liberty Mutual and Nationwide are all OK, but they won’t throw money at you. No surprise. Remember what I said in the beginning of this post: Their job is to pay you as little as possible. My job is to make them pay you what is reasonable.
Email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org I’d love to hear from you!
Michael G. Bersani, Esq.