Progressive Insurance settled with the family of a deceased policyholder after the brother’s complaint that Progressive had defended her killer in court went viral.
Background of the Incident
The incident started when Progressive refused to pay 24-year-old Kaitlynn Fisher’s policy after her death in a car accident in 2010, news outlets reported. A viral upheaval against Progressive accelerated after news outlets and the victim’s brother, Matt Fisher, reported on how the insurance company defended Kaitlynn’s killer in court.
There were a few eye-witness accounts about what happened in the accident. According to multiple news outlets and Matt Fisher, one witness at the scene claimed Kaitlynn Fisher had the green light, and it was the other driver’s fault. However, according to Progressive, there were conflicting accounts as to who was at fault.
Understanding Underinsured Coverage
The insurance company of the driver who hit Kaitlynn paid for the damages. However, because the other driver was carrying minimal insurance, his policy only covered a small portion of the damages. This situation often happens, and as a result, insurance companies allow their policyholders to purchase UM/UIM insurance coverage.
- UM/UIM stands for Uninsured/Underinsured motorist coverage.
- UM/UIM coverage is 1st party liability coverage, meaning that the insurance company covers its insured for any damages not covered by the driver at fault’s insurer.
- In other words, when the other driver is at fault and his/her 3rd party liability coverage is not enough to cover all of the damages, the victim’s insurance company pays the remaining damages via 1st party UM/UIM coverage.
Progressive Disputes Paying Underinsured Coverage
Kaitlynn Fisher carried UM/UIM coverage in her policy with Progressive. Yet, Progressive did not want to pay the remaining damages – relying on the theory that Kaitlynn was the one at fault, news outlets reported.
Kaitlynn’s parents could not sue Progressive because insurance law in Maryland (as well as other states) does not allow a private party to sue an insurance company if the insurer refuses to pay on a policy. Instead, the Fishers had to sue the other driver (who had no money) in order to prove his negligence, thereby forcing Progressive to pay.
Progressive Defends Other Driver in Court
- Progressive filed to intervene as a defendant in the proceedings, attempting to disprove the negligence theory so they would not have to pay on the policy.
- Although it is standard practice for insurance companies to defend themselves in a UM/UIM liability claim, Progressive actively defended the other driver in court, according to news outlets.
- After the trial, Matt Fisher, Kaitlynn’s brother, wrote, “…the guy who killed my sister was defended by Progressive’s legal team,” in his now well-known blog entry, “My Sister Paid Progressive Insurance to Defend Her Killer In Court.”
- A representative from Progressive responded that it did not serve as the attorney for the defendant, but only defended itself in the case.
- Matt Fisher responded by detailing one of Progressive’s in-house lawyer’s actions, which included conferring with the defendant, questioning witnesses, and giving opening and closing statements that argued the defendant was not negligent.
Progressive Offers Settlement
Various news outlets reported on Progressive’s actions, creating a PR disaster for Progressive’s Flo-faced public image.
A jury found in favor of the Fishers and awarded them $760,000. Progressive reached a settlement with the Fishers and paid its $75,000 portion, plus “tens of thousands” based on the way it handled the claim, news outlets reported.
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