Who are the good and bad automobile insurance companies?
She had been a customer of good standing for years; paid her premiums on time, had a great driving record without blemishes and was considered a low-risk insured. Having taken her auto insurance agent’s advice, she had full coverage that included medical for her and others, as well as uninsured motorist protection. She had done everything right and was protected from the unexpected actions of “the other guy”.
But when an uninsured drunk driver slammed into the back of the motorcycle she was a passenger on at a speed in excess of 85 mph on the freeway, it was as if she had no protection at all.
A year and a half after her recovery from acute injuries, all the while battling creditors due to her inability to pay hospital and out-patient medical charges and recoup three months of lost wages, her insurance company had yet to obtain the accident report from the police, let alone make good on her policy coverage. She would have to sue for just compensation, which ultimately satisfied her overwhelming debt, but it would take years to recover from the scars of bad credit…about as long as those on her legs and arms.
The story is a common one reflected in the number of Illinois consumers who are forced into lawsuits they never imagined, or to settle for less than adequate compensation out of financial desperation due to the failure of their insurance company to provide, in good faith, the benefits bought and paid for on a monthly, semi-annually, or annual basis.
That our law firm, or any other in the state, should have to engage representatives of insurance companies in pitiful games of hoop-gymnastics, deferral marathons, or blatant disregard for the law — a large portion of our practice — suggests an industry in dire need of oversight that appears to be ‘out of sight’.
On behalf of injured clients with every right to expect swift and appropriate compensation after purchasing insurance for the sole purpose of protection, each day begins and ends in our office with unnecessary and costly demands for policy compensation from an industry that would have consumers believe it is trial lawyers that cripple and degrade the system.
I would argue that it has become the role of trial lawyers (one, I might add that they didn’t ask for) to hold accountable an industry for which the state has failed to properly manage. Trial lawyers have become the only advocate available to consumers when they have been fraudulently sold a product that a company has no intention on delivering. And it is on the backs of injured consumers with paid-for policies that insurance lobbyists gain their strength, both financially and politically.
We’ve compiled a list of those insurance companies that frequently negotiate in good faith and treat our client’s with a modicum of dignity, and those that don’t.
While conditions may vary depending on the circumstances of the injury and the evidence available, on average, the following companies can be expected to treat their injured customers reasonably well.
- Country Company
- Country Insurance
- Farmers Insurance
- Met Life
In our opinion, the companies listed below unreasonably delay policy benefits, and/or decline benefits without just explanation, both of which burden our clients with undue financial hardships that force them into the bowels of a lengthy lawsuit. In our opinion, their goal appears to be to run you down and delay while earning interest on their money. In our opinion, they should be avoided at all costs.
- United Automobile
- Safeway Insurance
- Unique Insurance
- Universal Casualty
Note: In recent history, State Farm has increasingly performed in a manner that we will term, inconsistent. While they don’t quite meet the standards of our poor performance list, we feel compelled, nonetheless, to caution potential buyers.
The Illinois Department of Insurance has been taking heavy criticism from consumers, independent insurance agents and brokers, and department insiders citing that insurance companies are flagrantly ignoring the regulations that govern them.
Empowered by staff cut-backs and severe budget reductions at the Division of Insurance, there isn’t the manpower or the funds to hold insurance companies accountable. That reality is not lost on the insurance companies themselves, who understand that a dog might be barking, but it’s on a chain too short to cause them any real harm.
Insurance companies are so wealthy and powerful that through their lobbying efforts they have convinced the government to prevent their insured’s from suing them for punitive damages. Since there is no significant risk, insurance companies are rewarded by engaging in delay tactics. While attorneys have the power to confront insurance companies, their power to punish them was removed long ago by our legislature.
The best protection is to purchase large amounts of Underinsured (Uninsured) Motorist coverage, which is very inexpensive, and to avoid the substandard carriers.
Cliff Horwitz welcomes your comments on this article and can be reached at (800)-985-1819.