President-elect Barack Obama inspired a nation to act as one voice; to collectively gather on the ground and in cyberspace so that the ultimate promise of a new direction became more than political rhetoric. A new and undeniable mandate by an engaged people was born; a collective movement, which can and should be used to create change at the state level regarding the out-of-control insurance industry.
The issues hurting Illinois consumers — who are required by law to maintain insurance coverage for personal property liability — are two fold; expensive, unregulated premiums and delay in payment tactics that await them when a claim is submitted.
Unlike California, who began an insurance overhaul twenty years ago and now regulates when an insurance company can raise rates (including malpractice rates for physicians) – actually rejecting a 9.3% rate hike by Allstate this summer because their claims Vs profit did not warrant the hike – legislators of Illinois continue to ignore the worsening tactics of insurance corporations rather than protect their constituency through laws and regulations that bite back.
Furthermore, despite those record revenues, the clients who seek our assistance each and every month are average families with average claims, many with medical bills of $10,000 or less due to an injury; bills they assumed would be paid by their policies as stated when the policy was purchased.
After families scale back on other needs, goods and services to the detriment of our economy in order to meet rising premium costs for a single industry, more and more, it takes legal assistance to ensure they recover the benefits they’ve paid for when a crisis arrives. This has to stop, now, and consumers have the power to push legislative change.
Two years ago we published the names of those insurance companies who, in our opinion, have lived up to the promises of their policies for our clients, and those who have not without the threat of a trial. While many simple won’t fulfill their policy obligations without some form of legal pressure, some companies require less attorney “punch back” than others.
Here’s how our list shapes up today based upon timeliness of claims paid and full benefits under the provisions of the policy without further legal action, including a lengthy court trial:
Good: Country Companies, Country Insurance, Geico, Met Life, Wassau Insurance
Average: Farmers (a reduced rating by our firm since 2006), Progressive
Declining: State Farm, Allstate
Failing: United Automobile, Safeway Insurance, Apollo, and Universal Casualty & Apollo
Some states, like Washington, have enacted new laws that impose harsh fines on insurance companies if they fail to meet the obligations of their policies in a timely manner, or deny a claim without legitimate reason. The message is clear: fulfill your obligation or face an additional fine to your policyholder.
If insurance companies lived up to the policies they sold, our services would not be necessary. As attorneys, we are the consumer’s last resort in Illinois, and far too often, their only course of action no matter how large or small the claim is.
The powerful pathways of voice created during the elections are available today to mandate new laws, better oversight and long-overdue regulation of the insurance industry.
Need a place to begin? Visit the Center for Justice and Democracy’s Illinois page at http://www.centerjd.org, or start your own local network of consumers for change movement on Obama’s “change” page, http://www.change.org.
Managing Partner and Lead Trial Attorney, Cliff Horwitz, welcomes your comments on this article and can be reached at (800)-985-1819.