Re: Could we please get nationalized car insurance, while we're at it?

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Could we please get nationalized car insurance, while we're at it?

Gaah good lord no.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-14-12 7:41 AM
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Not that I'm strongly attached to it, but why not?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 08-14-12 7:42 AM
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Well, I mean, I was thinking something like single-payer or mandated car insurance. If it isn't that, my objections are more inchoate, and based mostly on the premise that the government is already far, far too involved in the "making car ownership easy and comfortable" business.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-14-12 7:44 AM
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Ah, good point. Well then, let's better regulate car insurance to avoid these kinds of abuses. And regulate the pony insurance for our new ponies.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 08-14-12 7:47 AM
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4: comity!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-14-12 7:48 AM
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Well, that was a quick thread.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 08-14-12 7:49 AM
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Car insurance is mandated, no?


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 08-14-12 7:51 AM
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Manitoba has province-run car insurance; it works really well there. I think that Manitoba generally has well-run government. Even the conservatives seem to think that the NDP party runs things well.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 08-14-12 7:51 AM
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3. In other countries insurance is mandatory but the government doesn't pick up the tab. This means that if you're dirt poor you either don't drive or you risk going to jail for driving uninsured if you're involved in an accident. Which is tough if you're dirt poor AND you need a car for your job.

On the other hand Pareto whispers in my ear that overwhelmingly this leads to accident victims getting compensated (not that I couldn't tell you stories matching the one in the link.)


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 08-14-12 7:53 AM
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Those tweets appear to have been deleted.


Posted by: Barry Freed | Link to this comment | 08-14-12 8:02 AM
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9 reminds me that I should clarify. You do need to pay for the insurance. It's just that the insurer--and it may be a separately chartered corporation--is government run.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 08-14-12 8:05 AM
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Insurance is mandated (but not subsidized) in every US State.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 08-14-12 8:06 AM
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And it's a little hard to figure out what's going on, but it sounds like bad faith law isn't very well developed in Maryland.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 08-14-12 8:08 AM
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The problem here is too much insurance, not too little.

Car insurance is mandatory in most states in the U.S., and the article says that the killer did have insurance and it paid. But the deceased also paid extra for something called "underinsured" coverage, she was also entitle to additional payment from her own insurance company if she were hurt by another driver,if that driver's insurance was insufficient to pay the full liability. With that coverage, her insurance company covers damage to the extent the other driver is liable but unable to pay. Progressive defended her killer because she had paid extra so it would do that.

One dumb aspect is that a childless adult would have "underinsured" coverage for wrongful death (unless she actually financially supported her parents). It was a waste of money, allowing her parents a windfall in the event of her death. Childless Unfoggedtarians, take a look at your own insurance policies.


Posted by: unimaginative | Link to this comment | 08-14-12 8:13 AM
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The system in 9 is the system that is in every US state, though there are significant differences between the states.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 08-14-12 8:15 AM
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12: I thought that there were a few places where you could go bare. I think that you can also post a bond. That may be for corporations with fleets who choose to self-insure.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 08-14-12 8:15 AM
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Insurance is mandated (but not subsidized) in every US State.

New Hampshire?

Also, only if you drive. I think the objection in 3 was to something akin to the healthcare mandate.


Posted by: Criminally Bulgur | Link to this comment | 08-14-12 8:22 AM
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In Ohio, drivers can put up a bond in lieu of insurance, but I don't see how the numbers would make sense there for individuals.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 08-14-12 8:25 AM
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Progressive defended her killer because she had paid extra so it would do that.

I think she actually paid it extra so it would pay her extra, not so that it would defend her killer.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 08-14-12 8:26 AM
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Oh right in NH I think you can still post a bond. I wonder if anyone does.

Anyhow, 14 gets it right. In some states, the parents could have sued Progressive directly depending on the facts, I think, which would have been more seemly, but the economics are the same; she bought a policy under which Progressive could be on the hook for the other guy's interest, and they're entitled to a determination of what the other guy's interest is. You'd have to know more to know whether or not Progressive was in fact acting in bad faith.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 08-14-12 8:28 AM
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I was confused by that guy's post and his complaint that "[c]arrying Progressive insurance and getting into an accident does not entitle you to the value of your insurance policy." He seems to think that when you buy car insurance you're buying a kind of life insurance, with a fixed payout owed by the insurer in the event of death by car accident; as opposed to a policy that pays out damages up to the policy limit. Do people actually think that? (Or is that in fact correct and I'm the idiot? I don't even own a car insurance.)


Posted by: potchkeh | Link to this comment | 08-14-12 8:29 AM
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"Interest" s/b "tort liability for causing the accident" if that's not clear.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 08-14-12 8:30 AM
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One dumb aspect is that a childless adult would have "underinsured" coverage for wrongful death (unless she actually financially supported her parents). It was a waste of money, allowing her parents a windfall in the event of her death.

Also, I thought part of why it made sense to have the extra coverage was that she had a lot of student loan debt, which apparently (this seems a bit crazy to me, but I guess that's how it works) her parents are now on the hook for. So if your parents are going to suddenly have huge debts if you die, it makes sense to hope for coverage sufficient at least to take care of those debts.


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 08-14-12 8:31 AM
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The guy does seem confused about the point in 21. Which isn't to say that insurers aren't bastards; of course they are. But it's not clear that he established bastard-dom here from what he's said.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 08-14-12 8:33 AM
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14/20: It seems weird, if fault had already been determined sufficiently that the other guy's insurance was paying up to the limit of his policy. At that point, it seems like your underinsurance coverage should kick in automatically, no questions asked.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 08-14-12 8:33 AM
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Because I'm putting off going over to my friend's place to exercise, I'm going to basically repeat myself: how awful would it be to have to pay off your debt child's student debt? Apparently it's a real thing! Not for federal student loans, but for private ones. Gruesome.


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 08-14-12 8:35 AM
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24: what Urple said in 25. It really seems like the Maryland regulations should handle this sort of case better.


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 08-14-12 8:36 AM
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I also didn't understand the point about student loans. Surely your heirs aren't personally liable for paying your student loans if you die before they're repaid? I think he just meant that absent a big tort payment from the other driver (which Progressive would now be on the hook for) the daughter's estate would be wiped out by the student loans, so the parents wouldn't recover much. Or maybe the parents co-signed on the loans.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 08-14-12 8:38 AM
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21/24: see, maybe I'm confused about it as well, but I would have thought that a policy agrees to (1) pay your medical bills, up to the policy limit, and (2) have a defined amount (whether the policy limit or some smaller amount) payable in the event of death. But maybe that's not how these policies work.

Regardless, it's unseemly for Progressive to be hiring a legal team to defend the guy (to minimize their own exposure). They should just settle with the family of the policyholder.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 08-14-12 8:38 AM
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23: I didn't know that (can't access the tumblr from my office). That would be a reason for wrongful death coverage, although it would be smarter to have life insurance independent of vehicle insurance. Parents are on the hook for student loans if they cosigned for them.


Posted by: unimaginative | Link to this comment | 08-14-12 8:40 AM
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Right, 25 is why it might be bad faith (and, depending on the facts, would permit a direct bad faith suit in California). But you'd have to know more about the facts and the damages claimed in the underlying lawsuit and the policy limits and Progressive's settlement offers to the family of the insured.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 08-14-12 8:41 AM
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Yeah, I guess they were thinking the underinsurance policy worked more like a life insurance policy than it really does.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 08-14-12 8:43 AM
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23, 28: that confused me, too--most student loan debt discharges upon the debtor's death (even with a co-signer, I think), so it wouldn't even wipe out the estate. Could have been private student loans that they co-signed for, I guess.


Posted by: potchkeh | Link to this comment | 08-14-12 8:44 AM
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Regardless, if something like 32 is what happened (which seems likely), a succinct explanation of the reason this worked the way it did and why they were in the position they were in, would have been much better response from Progressive than the robot spam. But their own privacy policies probably prevent that sort of response.

I wonder if any companies have carveouts in their privacy policies, saying that if you publicly attack the company (in social media or otherwise), they are able to publicly reveal details of your circumstances as necessary to defend themselves? Privacy experts: would that even be legal? (Not under HIPAA, I'm sure. But in other contexts?)


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 08-14-12 8:49 AM
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They should just settle with the family of the policyholder.

They offered to settle, but, according the tumblr post, "never higher than 1/3 the amount they owe." Which again I think reflects a misconception about the nature of car insurance. This was a dispute about the value of the wrongful death claim. Maybe progressive was undervaluing it in bad faith. But he seems to think there shouldn't be a valuation, it should just be whatever the policy limit is.


Posted by: potchkeh | Link to this comment | 08-14-12 8:49 AM
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26 can't be right, can it?


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 08-14-12 8:53 AM
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Oh, I see. The parents co-signed on the loan.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 08-14-12 8:54 AM
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At least the first six links in 26 specify that the parents co-signed on a private loan.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 08-14-12 8:55 AM
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This was a dispute about the value of the wrongful death claim. Maybe progressive was undervaluing it in bad faith. But he seems to think there shouldn't be a valuation, it should just be whatever the policy limit is.

Now that I'm better understanding the situation, I don't really disagree with this as a technical point, but it still seems weird that there wouldn't be a defined death benefit in the policy, or, alternatively, a very clear understanding that the policy covers hard expenses like medical bills but not general tort liability for wrongful death, pain and suffering, etc. Because otherwise you'd very often be in the situation Progressive was in here, which seems like terrible PR.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 08-14-12 8:58 AM
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34: Lawyers can violate attorney-client privilege to defend themselves against attacks by their former clients:

Model Rules for Profesional Conduct 1.6(c)(4): "A lawyer shall not reveal information relating to representation of a client. . . except . . . to establish a claim or defense on behalf of the lawyer in a controversy between the lawyer and the client . . ."

Does a hostile web post constitute a "controversy"? Interesting question. This is the Pennsylvania version, some states may be different.


Posted by: unimaginative | Link to this comment | 08-14-12 9:00 AM
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40: I'm fairly certain a lawyer could not reveal confidential client information in order to defend himself in the court of public opinion.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 08-14-12 9:03 AM
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This was a dispute about the value of the wrongful death claim. Maybe progressive was undervaluing it in bad faith. But he seems to think there shouldn't be a valuation, it should just be whatever the policy limit is.

He may be more reasonable than you're thinking. I don't really see what there is to dispute, mostly, about the amount of wrongful death damages: I'm not sure exactly how they're calculated, but once fault is determined, so it's clear that the death was wrongful, it's going to be a matter of the actuarially expected lifespan, expected salary, so on and so forth -- matters that aren't going to be in a lot of dispute.

Progressive wasn't litigating, so far as I can tell, over the amount of damages, they were litigating the issue of whether the other driver was at fault at all, after his insurance company had already settled. Haggling about the proper value of wrongful death damages would be one, perfectly acceptable thing. Trying to get out of it completely by arguing that Progressive's own insured was at fault when the other driver had already agreed they weren't, and making lowball settlement offers based on the chance that Progressive would be able to get out without paying anything? That's worse.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-14-12 9:08 AM
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42: But (a) it's not clear fault was determined (his insurer settled for the full value of his policy but if that was low that's not very meaningful)--in fact in the tumblr post he says he doesn't discount the possibility that his sister was at fault; (b) there would be a dispute if the actuarial calculations came out to something lower than the policy limit, but the family insisted--as they appear to believe--that they were entitled to the policy limit and (c) I'm assuming, perhaps wrongly, that degree of fault would impact the value of the wrongful death claim (I think that varies by state, doesn't it? I really ought to remember that stuff).

I guess I should add that I hope it's clear that I wouldn't be at all surprised to learn that progressive was acting in bad faith. All I'm saying is that from the tumblr post this seems to be a combination of a misunderstanding about the nature of the policy, and a (perfectly understandable) frustration with the resort to litigation that is largely inevitable given the system we have.


Posted by: potchkeh | Link to this comment | 08-14-12 9:15 AM
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Well, he sort of doesn't discount the possibility she was at fault, but this is what he says about it:

Now, I don't discount the possibility that Katie was at fault in the accident, but it never really looked that way. The only witness who gave a statement on the day said that Katie had the light, etc.

If there was a good-faith dispute about fault, that's one thing. If Progressive was just throwing out lowball settlement numbers in the hopes the family wouldn't litigate, that's lousier: your own insurance company shouldn't be making you sue them to pay a claim where the facts are pretty clear. From the Tumblr post (which is obviously one-sided) the facts as to fault look pretty clear.

With fault clear, the family's entitled to the lesser of whatever the properly calculated wrongful death amount is or the full value of the policy. If they were complaining about the stingy value Progressive placed on her life, and arguing that they should have gotten the whole policy value rather than the stingy wrongful death value, I'd think they were confused (they might have a point about the proper amount of wrongful death calculation, but they'd never be entitled to the policy value over and above the proper wrongful death calculation).
But that doesn't seem to be the dispute at all -- the dispute is all about fault, and that looks at a first glance like bad faith on Progressive's part.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-14-12 9:24 AM
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43.2 is my sense as well. If I had to bet, I'd guess that Progressive was acting in bad faith, particularly as MD doesn't (from 5 seconds of Google searching, it's not like I'm an expert) permit independent bad faith tort cases against insurance companies; I suspect that the outcome would have been very different in California. But its difficult to tell just from the linked post alone.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 08-14-12 9:26 AM
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I'd be shocked if there wasn't at least a reasonable basis for disputing fault. You'd really need to know what the policy limits are, and what Progressive's settlement offers were, and what the value of the claim was to determine bad faith.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 08-14-12 9:30 AM
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I'd be shocked if there wasn't at least a reasonable basis for disputing fault.

That's really what it comes down to: the outrage in the tumblr post only really makes sense if there was no serious issue as to fault. If that's right, I basically agree that Progressive behaved very badly. If there was a serious issue, then that's quite different.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-14-12 9:35 AM
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I don't know if MD is a comparative fault state or how it works there, but the degree of fault could also be very significant to the value of the claim, e.g. the difference between the jury finding her 0% vs. 15% vs. 45% responsible; it's likely not an all or nothing determination.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 08-14-12 9:40 AM
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43.2 to 44. I agree, if that's what progressive is doing, it's absolutely wrong, and if Maryland law protects them in doing so, that's outrageous.

But even without a dispute about fault there's still room for a dispute about the value of the claim if the family thinks it should simply be the limit of the policy. I don't know enough about wrongful death claims but as 14 suggests unless she was supporting her parents it seems not at all beyond the realm of possibility that a good-faith valuation of the claim would be lower than the policy limit (is it really actuarily expected earnings, or is it expected economic support for the plaintiffs? I thought the latter, and that would make a huge difference when there aren't any dependents).


Posted by: potchkeh | Link to this comment | 08-14-12 9:41 AM
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I stand by 39.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 08-14-12 9:43 AM
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Maryland is (sfaik) still a contributory negligence state. No idea whether that plays into the situation here, but if Progressive has some insight or additional information that the other fellow's carrier didn't have, one wouldn't be surprised to see it acting differently.

My guess, though, is that what he have here is a failure to appreciate modern communication. I would imagine that carriers make lowball offers all the time, and expect people either take them or not, but that they don't end up taking much of a PR hit. It's still totally random what is going to go viral these days -- and here the hook is a deliberate misunderstanding of how third party litigation has to work -- so maybe, in a business sense, Progressive isn't being as foolish as it appears at this moment.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 08-14-12 9:44 AM
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I mean, if this is how these policies generally work, shouldn't this situation happen very frequently? (Does it?) That's an obvious PR nightmare.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 08-14-12 9:44 AM
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Ah. A little Googling reveals the answer -- MD is a traditional contributory negligence state. So if she was in any way negligently responsible for the accident, she's entitled to nothing (and Progressive is obligated to pay nothing) regardless of the other guy's fault. Presumably Progressive thought they had a shot at showing contributory negligence, and their settlement offers and strategy reflected that.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 08-14-12 9:44 AM
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Or maybe they're going to lose some serious business over this. Too soon to tell.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 08-14-12 9:45 AM
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So if she was in any way negligently responsible for the accident, she's entitled to nothing

Could you give some examples of things that might qualify as negligent responsibility?


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 08-14-12 9:48 AM
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So if she was in any way negligently responsible for the accident, she's entitled to nothing (and Progressive is obligated to pay nothing) regardless of the other guy's fault.

Wouldn't her own comprehensive coverage (assuming she had it) have some benefit in that scenario?

I sort of assume that if I get into an accident, bills will get paid, whether by my insurance company or the other party's insurance company, at least up to the limits of the respective policies. Maybe that's wrong. Or maybe that's basically right, but the problem here is that they're looking for a wrongful death benefit that's over and above a medical bill that needs to be paid. I'm not sure.

You can tell I don't pay close attention to the details of my auto insurance policies. I don't think that's unusual.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 08-14-12 9:50 AM
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(is it really actuarily expected earnings, or is it expected economic support for the plaintiffs? I thought the latter, and that would make a huge difference when there aren't any dependents)

I don't actually have any idea how this works when you have a wrongful death policy on yourself -- whether the value is calculated as your value to whoever happens to be the ultimate beneficiary, or whether it's your value to yourself, if you see what I mean.

But still, there's nothing in the tumblr indicating that the meat of the dispute was over the valuation of the wrongful death benefit, even though the post does mention the 'full value' of the policy. Everything the poster is outraged about is the litigation over fault; he doesn't mention any disagreement about what the wrongful death benefit was worth in the absence of a dispute over fault.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-14-12 9:50 AM
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An example would be -- he is driving at 90 miles an hour around a blind curve in a 35 zone on a two lane highway while texting but she is somewhat distracted by a phone call and lets her car wander a few feet over the dividing line in the curve. He's obviously more at fault (since both parties could have avoided the accident) but she was also negligent in her driving and somewhat responsible for the accident. The traditional rule was that under those circumstances she takes absolutely nothing. That's still the rule in MD, but most states have what's called "comparative fault" where the jury assigns damages based on a comparison of responsibility; there are a number of variations of comparative fault.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 08-14-12 9:54 AM
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58 to 55

56 -- sure, when I said "pay nothing" I meant Progressive would have to pay nothing under the excess UIM coverage at issue if it could show she was partially at fault for the accident.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 08-14-12 9:56 AM
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The fact that MD is a contributory negligence state, which hadn't occurred to me to consider, does change my sense of what a legitimate dispute over fault is -- given that they only had to show that she was at fault at all, that's a much broader range of what's legitimate to argue about.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-14-12 9:59 AM
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From the link, the guy implies that the totality of the evidence left room to doubt whether she might have had some responsibility. Which is why this would have gone to trial, rather than going out on summary judgment. And then the jury decided she didn't. Which is pretty much their job: to resolve the factual issues that preclude summary judgment.

He doesn't say anything at all about a damages award, which is kind of odd, but leads me to think it wasn't even at issue in the trial. Which isn't all that surprising either.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 08-14-12 9:59 AM
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I'm no expert is this area of law, but it would seem to me that denial of the parents motion for summary judgment on a contributory negligence defense would itself be pretty strong evidence in favor of Progressive in a bad faith case. If one was made and denied . . .


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 08-14-12 10:02 AM
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(It may be that there was enough evidence that the parents didn't even try to have the defense stricken, or that there was some obstacle to doing so that I'm not thinking of. In which case, 'fault' for being put through the experience of a trial would be shared . . .)


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 08-14-12 10:05 AM
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62 -- I'm not an "expert" either but in California the bad faith would depend heavily on the amount Progressive offered to settle the claim. If the settlement offers were extreme low-balls, then you'd have a bad faith claim even if the comparative negligence issue got past summary judgment.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 08-14-12 10:09 AM
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Watching an experienced plaintiffs' or defense lawyer value a wrongful death case is a thing of beauty. I used to work with a guy who had done them all the time, and with about 10 questions he could tell you within a few ten thousand dollars how much any car accident death was worth as a claim.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 08-14-12 10:17 AM
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Our mathematician/logician friends can demonstrate exactly how it is that this would work differently in a comparative state -- with sliding yet roughly ascertainable exposure -- and a contributory state with binary exposure.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 08-14-12 10:17 AM
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Progressive now has a weird-ish response.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 08-14-12 2:30 PM
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A complicated situation. Suppose the other driver had assets. Who is second in line to pay after the other driver's insurance company, the other driver or progressive? The linked post claims the other driver's insurance company settled immediately but can they do this without obtaining a release from further liability for the other driver?


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 08-14-12 7:38 PM
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14: One dumb aspect is that a childless adult would have "underinsured" coverage for wrongful death (unless she actually financially supported her parents). It was a waste of money, allowing her parents a windfall in the event of her death.

Just a quick note - I'm not sure if things work differently in Maryland, but here in California, the un/under-insured motorist coverage I carry is the exact same coverage that would pay me should I become permanently disabled by an un/under-insured motorist, or pay my estate, should the damage be fatal instead. The damages of the former can be substantially more than the latter, depending on circumstances. So it makes sense to carry a reasonably high value of the coverage, even if you don't have direct dependents.

A (now-deceased) friend of my wife's was left quadriplegic many years ago when her disabled vehicle was rear-ended by another car. As it turned out, the other driver was driving commercially for a company with sufficiently deep pockets to pay the full amount of the damages, which made the difference between being able to live in her own home with 24-hour attendants for the rest of her life, vs. a much worse living situation. If she had been hit by a private driver with minimum liability coverage, it wouldn't have come within an order of magnitude of covering the need.


Posted by: Dave W. | Link to this comment | 08-15-12 12:54 AM
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When you purchase UM/UIM coverage, you are indeed basically buying an insurance policy for your killer in this case. The alternatives seem to be no recovery at all or tort reform.


Posted by: Disingenuous Bastard | Link to this comment | 08-15-12 8:26 AM
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43: (his insurer settled for the full value of his policy but if that was low that's not very meaningful)

I realize this post is so yesterday, but I have some curiosity with regard to the legal standing of what seems to be the underlying principle of this statement--the relevance (or lack thereof) of a an earlier remedy or determination of relatively low value/cost to a later one of significant value/cost arising from essentially the same set of facts. An example might be a short-term vs. long-term disability claim (with the same qualifying terms); how controlling would an insurance company's* relatively quick determination on the first be on the second (so maybe $15K for 3 months vs. a potential of $500K for 10 years)**? On the one hand it seems to be that consistency should be enforced, yet on the other it does not seem that you would want a society where you chill relatively quick, efficient redress of relatively small harms under the threat that it potentially locks you in to further significant liability.

*Presumably this is at least somewhat related to the case where two different companies are making the determination.

**This is loosely based on something that occurred in my extended family. But, as with all actual events, the facts matter, and in the event there were new facts that became discoverable (in addition to much greater scrutiny of prior facts) between the granting of short and the denial of long. I might argue that no germane new facts came out, but there is no doubt that a re-review was warranted, even if not a different outcome. Anyway, the actual thing was mired in the specific details, but it did leave me thinking about the more general principle which potchkeh's parenthetical brought to mind.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-15-12 12:03 PM
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70

When you purchase UM/UIM coverage, you are indeed basically buying an insurance policy for your killer in this case. The alternatives seem to be no recovery at all or tort reform.

Well you could just buy a life insurance policy on yourself which seems much more sensible.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 08-15-12 5:43 PM
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72: If you just want to insure against your death, certainly (since in that case, you presumably don't care about the cause). But that would pay nothing at all in the event you are injured by an at-fault driver who is un/underinsured. Disability insurance is quite expensive, and typically only pays (some fraction of) lost wages, not the other expenses that come with injury.


Posted by: Dave W. | Link to this comment | 08-15-12 7:25 PM
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73

72: If you just want to insure against your death, certainly (since in that case, you presumably don't care about the cause). But that would pay nothing at all in the event you are injured by an at-fault driver who is un/underinsured. Disability insurance is quite expensive, and typically only pays (some fraction of) lost wages, not the other expenses that come with injury.

It generally doesn't make sense to insure against part of a risk (for example insurance against death from cancer). If you buy uninsured motorist insurance you won't be covered if you fall asleep and run into a tree. Why just worry about a small part of your risk?

And suppose the other driver is underinsured and rich. Why should you be bailing them out by buying them insurance?


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 08-15-12 7:49 PM
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That doesn't happen often. Uninsured motorist coverage is something I find very cheap considering the number of people I know who got hit by motorists without enough insurance.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-15-12 7:54 PM
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I wouldn't be surprised if a UM insurer had a right of subrogation to go after the driver's assets, if any. If the UM insurer had to pay at all.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 08-15-12 8:26 PM
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73: And suppose the other driver is underinsured and rich. Why should you be bailing them out by buying them insurance?

I like how James has so internalized the politics of ressentiment that even on as small a point as this he's ready with the framing. Imagine if the other driver were an illegal immigrant! Or didn't get good grades at Columbia after being admitted through Affirmative Action!


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-15-12 8:33 PM
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If the underinsured driver is rich then the insurance company can go after his assets and you don't have to worry about it.


Posted by: disingenuous bastard | Link to this comment | 08-15-12 8:43 PM
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I feel reasonably confident in the assertion that most injured parties do not settle with an underinsured motorist for the policy limits of the inadequate policy if the motorist was really rich. Indeed, because you can go after assets, most really rich people don't like to be underinsured.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 08-15-12 8:45 PM
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Columbia? Pfft. Safety school.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-15-12 8:46 PM
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Moby channeling Flip.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-15-12 8:50 PM
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I went to land grant schools, but I try not to let it go to my head.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-15-12 8:52 PM
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Actually, I had the wrong Ivy "C" school.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-15-12 8:58 PM
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79

I feel reasonably confident in the assertion that most injured parties do not settle with an underinsured motorist for the policy limits of the inadequate policy if the motorist was really rich. ...

But if you do sue them it appears that your insurance company will defend them and if you win your insurance company will pay. At least if the post is to be believed.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 08-15-12 9:02 PM
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All last spring at school drop-off I saw a car with a sticker reading "Ithaca is Gorges" and every day I'd think of that.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-15-12 9:03 PM
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85 to 83.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-15-12 9:04 PM
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77

I like how James has so internalized the politics of ressentiment that even on as small a point as this he's ready with the framing. ...

Whereas you guys will defend insurance company ripoffs rather than agree with me.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 08-15-12 9:05 PM
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87: Good analysis! How'd you catch on?


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-15-12 9:14 PM
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71: It's probably more complicated in specialized areas like insurance, and I have no idea about your short-term vs. long-term disability question. But in general an offer to settle a claim says precisely nothing binding about the the claim. Defendants settle all the time if the nuisance value of even a clearly winnable suit is high enough, or, e.g., to try to extinguish the claims of individual plaintiffs who want to bring a class action. And yes, the law is structured so as not to chill such efforts (including things like evidentiary protections for settlement discussions that don't work out). So when I said a low settlement wasn't very meaningful, I meant as a valuation of the underlying merits, rather than in terms of legally binding anyone.

The kind of consistency you're talking about is generally only enforced when the issue has been fully litigated--for example, now that a court has determined that the other driver was at fault after Progressive had a full incentive and fair opportunity to argue the contrary, Progressive might not be able to try that argument again even in a separate proceeding arising from the same incident (the relevant rules are complicated and vary from state to state).

That said, something I read yesterday suggested that in MD, if Progressive accepted the other insurer's payout, that would have amounted to accepting that he was at fault--so if Progressive wanted to preserve a dispute about fault it would have had to itself front what the other insurer would have paid. I.e., Progressive can't sit by and let the other drivers' insurance reduce its own potential exposure, and then turn around and claim the other driver wasn't at fault (and thus shouldn't have owed anything in the first place). No idea if that's right and I can't remember where I read it to double-check. Also no idea if that's what happened (possibly obscurely from the family's point of view) in this case.


Posted by: potchkeh | Link to this comment | 08-15-12 9:52 PM
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Another bad (at least if you aren't a lawyer) thing about this sort of policy is that it can generate a lot of complicated and expensive litigation. Whereas with a life insurance policy on yourself for a stated amount things are usually pretty simple.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 08-16-12 5:48 AM
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89: Thanks, potchkeh. And yeah, knew that the disability example was not just mired in the specific facts, but also in the very specific specifics of relevant law.

And on the general principle, I think that some of the pop law, "OMG how litigious we are!" rhetoric imagines a world ensnared in a very different framework: "If a kid skins their knee playing in your yard, don't give them a lollipop to make it better because then you've already admitted guilt and when they develop MRSA and get their leg amputated you'll get sued and lose everything. You can thank the lawyers for that."


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-16-12 2:31 PM
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Thanks for sharing. i really appreciate it that you shared with us such a informative post..
car insurance


Posted by: car insurance | Link to this comment | 08-17-12 10:05 AM
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I think we could all learn a lesson in staying on topic from commenter "car insurance".


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-17-12 2:22 PM
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Well, it was a informative post.


Posted by: AWB | Link to this comment | 08-17-12 2:24 PM
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The NYT has an article about this case with numerous additional details. There apparently was enough evidence that the sister had run the red light that Progressive had already paid out settlements on her behalf (including to a passenger in her car who claimed she was at fault). Unwisely as it turned out.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 08-17-12 10:26 PM
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The NYT article also notes that the other driver's insurance was only 25k, which explains that company's tender of the policy limits, regardless of what they thought of the merits.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 08-18-12 2:06 AM
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96: regardless of what they thought of the merits.

Yeah, that's one side of the dynamic that I think can be hard for people not in the law game to get their heads around--despite their acting similarly all the time in their own lives and jobs. Material issues receive material attention; non-material ones are given little time or attention. If something changes from the latter to the former its treatment changes.

I do think the high-minded grade school rhetoric of "justice" gets in the way of people seeing clearly on things like this. I know it certainly does for me at times.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 08-18-12 8:22 AM
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97 was me. On a "new"* computer.

*Actually an old laptop with a broken display and broken keypad re-purposed as desktop for its awesome lame but adequate processing power.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-18-12 8:28 AM
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