$18 Million – What Happens When They Really AREN’T On Your Side

The next time that you hear one of the multitude of commercials on television, where the kindly spokesperson tells you that their insurance company wants to be your friend and that they are there to help you like your best buddy, feel free to yell back at the TV, because you won’t want to believe this.

After a 16 year fight, and 2 trials, a Judge in Pennsylvania ruled that Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company had violated the Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law, and had acted in Bad Faith, when it, get this, dragged out a vehicle property damage claim, for 18 YEARS, and spent $2.5 Million in legal fees to avoid paying a claim of LESS THAN $25,000.00.  No this is not one of those “made up Stella award” cases.  This is the result in the case of Berg v. Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co., PICS No. 14-0999, in the Berks County Court of Common Pleas in Pennsylvania, issued recently.

BELIEVE IT!!!

A couple, who were Nationwide policyholders, took their damaged 1996 Jeep Cherokee to a facility which participated in Nationwide’s “Blue Ribbon Repair Program”, and the appraiser told them that the frame was too bent to repair and the jeep should be totaled.  Evidence showed that Nationwide reversed that decision and sent the car to another shop where, despite four months of work, the vehicle was returned to the couple with a structurally defective frame.  Nationwide refused to make good under the policy, and the couple fought for 18 years over a claim that should have been ended with a small check.

Judge Jeffrey K. Sprecher, in his decision, said, “Nationwide strong-armed its own policyholder rather than negotiating in good faith to compensate the plaintiff for the loss suffered in the automobile collision.”  Nationwide spent millions to litigate the case.  Why? TO STOP OTHER PEOPLE FROM MAKING CLAIMS!

The Judge stated, “Simply put, what plaintiff and more importantly, what lawyer in his right  mind, will compete with a conglomerate insurance company if the insurance company can drag the case out 18 years and is willing to spend $3 million in defense expenses to keep the policyholder from getting just compensation under the contract?  It’s (Nationwide’s) message is:

(1)  that it is a defense-minded carrier

(2)  do not mess with us if you know what is good for you

(3)  you cannot run with the big dogs

(4)  there is no level  playing field to be had in your case

(5)  you cannot afford it and what client will pay thousands of dollars to fight the battle

(6)  so we can get away with anything we want to

(7)  you cannot stop us

And by the way, the next time someone wants to blame plaintiff’s attorneys for the “litigation crisis”, show  them the tab for Nationwide’s  lawyers of $2.5 Million to defend a $25,000 claim for 18 years.

Isn’t that just what you want in your insurance company.  And the philosophy, in my opinion, having litigated and negotiated against most of the carriers that issue auto policies in this region, is that you will find this attitude as an institutional business policy.  It is the same attitude that prevents you from settling a reasonable injury claim, even when the insured ADMITS FAULT and even when it is YOUR COMPANY to whom you have paid premiums for many years.

They are NOT on your side, you are NOT in good hands, you DON’T NEED neighbors like this and don’t get me started on the lizard!  Remember that the business model for an insurance company is to take in as much in premiums as it can, and pay out the least it can get away with.

PREMIUMS  –  CLAIMS  =  PROFIT

and in the insurance industry the mantra seems to be:

PROFITS OVER PEOPLE

Now, how  many of you believe that even with an $18  Million Punitive Judgment Award against them that anything will change? Email me or comment with “Change” or “NO Change”, I am curious just how much faith you have in that industry.

Be Careful Out There.

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