Two days ago GBTV’s Matt Fisher posted an article on his Tumblr page entitled, “My Sister Paid Progressive Insurance to Defend Her Killer In Court.” He’s been dominating the headlines ever since. We have all seemingly had insurance nightmares, but this case illustrates just how bad it can get and it poses interesting questions about how we view capitalism.
Progressive touts its auto and home insurance as having “concierge level of claims service,” but it seems that statement might be far from the truth.
Fisher wrote on his Tumblr page about his sister, Katie, her 2010 auto accident and resulting death. The accident, he claims, had clear and obvious fault as it involved a driver running a red light and fatally striking Katie’s car. A settlement was made quickly after her death, but it wasn’t much as the driver was under insured.
Katie had a policy covering such a happenstance. Katie’s policy, would have required that Progressive, her insurer, pay the difference. She had selected and paid for a policy that would cover her in the case of an under or uninsured driver hitting her. She paid for the policy and the policy was designed to cover the exact kind of accident she had, so what went wrong? Fisher explains:
At which point we learned the first surprising thing about Progressive: Carrying Progressive insurance and getting into an accident does not entitle you to the value of your insurance policy. It just pisses off Progressive’s lawyers. Here I address you, Prospective Progressive Insurance Customer: someday when you have your accident, I promise that there will be enough wiggle room for Progressive’s bottomless stack of in-house attorneys to make a court case out of it and to hammer at that court case until you or your surviving loved ones run out of money.
Which is what Progressive decided to do to my family. In hopes that a jury would hang or decide that the accident was her fault, they refused to pay the policy to my sister’s estate.
Out of a sense of honor, and out of a sense of the cost of my sister’s outstanding student loans, my folks opted to try to go after the money through legal channels. At which point they learned another delightful thing. In Maryland, you may not sue an insurance company when they refuse to fork over your money. Instead, what they had to do was sue the guy who killed my sister, establish his negligence in court, and then leverage that decision to force Progressive to pay the policy.
Katie Fisher’s parents were not interested in going after the other driver, realizing that the accident was just that — an accident, but they were forced to do so to fight for proper compensation.
After failing to get Progressive to settle for a reasonable sum, the case went to trial. That’s where Progressive’s actions became truly appalling:
At the trial, the guy who killed my sister was defended by Progressive’s legal team.
If you are insured by Progressive, and they owe you money, they will defend your killer in court in order to not pay you your policy.
Progressive quickly went into PR saving mode this week, starting with a slew of tweets, quickly followed by an official statement:
— Progressive (@Progressive) August 13, 2012
— Progressive (@Progressive) August 16, 2012
I’d like to take this opportunity to explain Progressive’s role in this complex case. First and foremost, our deepest sympathies go out to Kaitlynn Fisher’s family.
To be very clear, Progressive did not serve as the attorney for the defendant in this case. He was defended by his insurance company, Nationwide.
There was a question as to who was at fault, and a jury decided in the Fisher family’s favor just last week. We respect the verdict and now can continue to work with the Fisher family to reach a resolution.
Claims General Manager
Ok, so they didn’t serve as the attorney. Despite the denial, a simple search for court documentation shows that Progressive was given permission to participate on the side of the defense, as the representative attorney or not:
It is this 19th day of May, 2011, by the Circuit Court For Baltimore City, hereby ORDERED
1. That Progressive Advance Insurance Company be and is hereby allowed to intervene as a party Defendant.
2. That Progressive Insurance Company is GRANTED all rights to participate in this proceeding as if it were an original party to this case.
Maryland law uses “contributory negligence” to settle civil suits, which means that if you are even 1 percent at fault for the accident you are barred from any recovery. This is likely what Progressive was arguing for, that in some small way Katie contributed to the accident. In the end, however, the other driver was found negligent. While the victory gives Fisher some hope that Progressive will finally honor his sister’s policy, he seems skeptical to say the least.
Was Progressive in the wrong? They are a corporation and their intention is to make money after all. A certain party is running a large majority of their presidential campaign on the ideals of true unregulated capitalism. The idea of unregulated capitalism unfortunately makes no room for the human element.
Under the guise of capitalism, Progressive defending a policy holders killer makes perfect sense. They avoid costly settlements and thus can keep prices low, keep a money pool for other policy holder’s settlements, hire more employees and/or inflate executive salaries. Sounds good right?
Well, it sounds good until you realize that capitalism often requires shitting on one person to make a buck.