An insurance bad faith case that had earned national attention was recently resolved when a federal jury in Montana ordered Geico – one of the largest auto insurance providers in the nation – to pay $200,000 in contract damages and $2.5 million in punitive damages for refusing to pay a woman whose husband was killed by an uninsured driver.
The case stemmed from a tragic accident that claimed the life of Louise King’s husband. The drugged driver who killed King’s husband was uninsured. Because Mrs. King had uninsured motorist coverage, she filed a claim with Geico, her insurance provider. The company later attempted to pay only half of what it owed according to the policy in exchange for a release of its claims. After Mrs. King refused to sign the release, Geico withheld payment and refused to pay any of the coverage it lawfully owed her.
A Montana jury ruled that the release was a violation of state law and ordered the insurance provider to pay the full claim immediately in December 2013. Despite claims that Geico breached its insurance policy, the company argued at trial that it handled the claim in good faith. The jury however, did not agree and awarded Mrs. King $200,000 in contract damages. Because the jury found Geico’s actions against Mrs. King to be malicious and / or fraudulent under Montana Law, it further awarded Mrs. King $2.5 in punitive damages.
Insurance Companies Are Not Always on Your Side: Insurance Bad Faith
The ruling against Geico is a victory for auto insurance policy holders, as well as victims and families who suffer damages in auto accidents they did not cause. At Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, our firm has handled many car accident cases, often against powerful insurance companies who were reluctant to pay victims what they rightfully deserved. Insurance companies, after all, are in business to collect premiums, not pay victims.
In one of our firm’s notable recent cases, Partner Joseph Cammarata was able to secure a $1.9 million verdict in a case where State Farm Insurance did not protect their own insured, and subjected her to an excess verdict. The wrongdoer was insured by State Farm and only had a $100,000 insurance policy. We believed that State Farm should have paid our client the full insurance policy of $100,000 to settle the case. State Farm refused, and only offered $20,500.
Accordingly, Mr. Cammarata went to trial and won a $1,934,369 verdict– nearly 95 times the offered settlement. State Farm’s failure to pay their $100,000 policy before trial can lead to a different kind of bad faith claim. In this situation, the insured, who caused the accident, can make a bad faith claim against her insurance company for not protecting her assets. In other words, State Farm subjected this woman to over $1.8 million in personal exposure. They exposed her assets, her house, her wages to collection by our client. Instead of facing a bad faith action, and being potentially held liable for the full verdict, plus potentially punitive damages, State Farm paid the full verdict.
Our firm is proud to fight back against insurance companies and wants to remind local residents throughout Maryland, Northern Virginia, and Washington, DC that insurance providers are not always on your side. If you or your loved one has been injured in a car accident in Northern Virginia or the DC Metro area, always speak with an experienced personal injury attorney before accepting any offers the insurance company makes.
To learn more about uninsured motorist claims, car accidents, and how our Northern Virginia car accident attorneys can help, call (888) 887-4128 for a FREE consultation.