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Insurer faces outcry over handling of Baltimore car accident case

A major insurance company is facing a public outcry over its handling of a claim arising out of the death of one of its policyholders. The case arose out of an auto accident in Baltimore that killed a woman who was insured by the company. The woman's family believed the other driver was at fault. The other driver's liability insurer paid the family $25,000, which represented the limits of its coverage.

Because $25,000 was not enough to compensate the family for their loss, they asked the victim's insurance company to pay them $75,000 since the woman's policy covered "the actions of an uninsured or underinsured driver that caused injury or death up to $100,000." Rather than paying the underinsured motorist benefits, however, the deceased woman's insurance company took the position that she, not the other driver, was at fault in the accident.

In order to get a jury verdict that the other driver was at fault and to compel their insurance company to pay, the family sued the other driver. At trial, the insurance company's lawyer took the side of the other driver against its own client in an effort to avoid paying the underinsured motorist benefits. The company continued to argue at trial that the deceased woman should be found at fault. An independent witness testified, however, that the other driver had run a red light and caused the accident. The jury ultimately found the other driver at fault.

The woman's family was outraged that the insurance company treated them this way. The woman's brother made a blog post about the case and received so many supportive comments online that the company felt compelled to issue a public statement saying they respected the jury's decision.

Although the actions of the insurance company in this case may have been unusual, its attitude, unfortunately, was not. Car accidents victims need to be aware that their own insurance company will typically not have their best interests at heart. An attorney experienced in personal injury law and insurance coverage issues can help a family get the compensation they are entitled to.

Source: ABC News, "Progressive Insurance on Defense After Court Case," Matthew Barakat, Aug. 16, 2012

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