Marlo said she was injured in the accident. As her attorney, I believed her. But Allstate Insurance Company just knew that it could push her around. Allstate’s insured said that her car was barely moving when it hit Marlo’s. The only exterior damage to Marlo’s car were scratches on her rear bumper, without dents. Marlo claimed back pain, but she had complained about back pain a couple of months before the accident. Marlo had no medical expenses or lost wages. Her treating doctors largely dismissed her injuries and would not cooperate or testify at the Loudoun County, Virginia trial. Marlo went to a doctor outside her plan who told her that she would need some medical treatment — not now, but as she got older.
Allstate’s insured swore in writing that she had $100,000 of liabililty coverage. Marlo demanded settlement for the coverage limits. Allstate did not respond and made no offer.
Shortly before trial its insured swore in writing that her liability coverage was not $100,000 but only $25,000; and Allstate produced a declaration page verifying $25,000 in coverage. Marlo then demanded the $25,000 coverage, giving Allstate a short deadline by which to respond and stating that after the deadline she would not extend or respond to any settlement offers. Allstate did not respond and made no offer.
Marlo and I were offended by Allstate’s treatment. I told Marlo that if we could get a verdict of more than $25,000 she may have a case of Allstate’s bad-faith refusal to settle or to protect its insured’s personal assets, and that she (Marlo) may be able to recover the full amount of any award, even above Allstate’s contractual obligation of $25,000. We took the case to trial.
The jury did not take long, and returned to announce a verdict of $112,000.
Allstate filed an appeal, no doubt hoping that Marlo — she of modest means — would be scared of a still longer and more costly battle, and scared into accepting the policy limits. After trial Allstate offered its full $25,000 in coverage. We reminded Allstate that the deadline for negotiation had passed and that we expected full payment on the verdict, with interest.
I told Marlo that she was in the driver’s seat but that this time the Allstate vehicle was in front of her and that she was picking-up speed.
Allstate abandoned its appeal, never even filing a Petition for Appeal.
I received a call “out-of-the-blue” from the Allstate insured. I suggested she obtain personal counsel. She said that she wanted this over. She retained personal counsel, who said that she would assign her rights to sue Allstate (for bad-faith) to Marlo. On my advice, Marlo did not respond.
Shortly after the insured’s and Allstate’s counsel conferred, we received a letter from the insured’s counsel withdrawing the offer to assign rights to Marlo. On my advice, Marlo did not respond. I sensed that the insured was feeling more and more squeezed by the “good hands” of Allstate; that the Allstate and insured’s counsel were having “open and candid” discussions; that Allstate knew that it had “wrung its own neck;” and that Allstate probably had decided — depending on young Marlo’s strength — that it may have to pay more than its coverage in order to rid itself of Marlo and its own insured.
After a number of months, we received a request to negotiate. On my advice, Marlo responded that she had a judgment, that she expected full payment on the judgment, that Allstate was guilty of bad faith, and that she was in a position to execute on her judgment against the insured’s assets at any time.
Within days we received an unsolicited offer of $75,000. On my advice, Marlo indicated that she expected full payment on the judgment.
Within a week or so, I received a letter from Allstate’s counsel offering to pay $123,000 — the entire judgment of $112,000 and interest of $11,000. Marlo was not in much need of advice at this point, and immediately said yes. A few weeks ago we received full payment.
The moral of the story? There may be a number of morals here, but one is … if you are injured, and the insurance company is dismissive and arrogant … fight hard, be patient and let the behemoth trip over itself: arrogance makes mistakes.