The deaths and serious illnesses inflicted upon the United States and the World by the Covid-19 virus has rivaled even the great Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918. Automobile Insurance carriers across the country are using the veil of an international pandemic to hoard cash from premiums and claims reserves and are in a seemingly all out claims-settlement freeze. Insurance Business America posted an article in — September 2020 bragging about how some carriers in the industry had given partial premium refunds because of the reduction in driving during the first few months of the Covid-19 pandemic. The article quotes a principal at Deloitte Consulting, LLP as stating the net-net in Q2 was that the industry actually had better results than they had before COVID and that although there was a return of premium, the reduction in losses was greater than the premium returned.
The U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) countered the insurance industries engagement in self-flattery and puffery stating that customers have not benefited as much as they should have. The PIRG released a state by state / company by company analysis of how much various insurance companies actually used their billions of dollars of profits realized during the pandemic in genuinely helping their insureds in the form of premium refunds. Car and Driver published an article by Sebastian Blanco in December 2019 that quotes the PIRG with stating that for the 10 largest insurers of personal vehicles in each state it found that only 18 of them returned at least 50 percent of one month's premium to its customers. Just eight returned at least a full month's premium payment.
As personal injury lawyers in the trenches fighting for justice for our clients, most publications, both pro insurance and not, have ignored the real elephant in the room and the real reason for large insurance carrier profits. What is the elephant, you ask? There has not been a civil, personal injury jury trial in the State of Georgia since the beginning of March 2020 and only a handful anywhere else in the country. The Courts are closed! What does this mean and why does it matter? While injury lawsuits may be filed, discovery performed and motions argued, there is no available outlet for an injured party to ultimately hold an insurance company accountable and obtain recovery for their claims.
All of this has not been lost on the Property and Casualty insurance industry. How they adjust personal injury claims brought in good faith against their insureds as well as how they adjust claims brought against them by their own insureds has become a new low, even for the insurance industry. Insurance companies have always engaged in a “wear them down” battle of attrition with injury claimants as well as their insureds in UM / UIM claims. This is done to break the will of the injured party and get them to accept less than the actual value of their claim. The Covid-19 pandemic and the cessation of civil jury trials has been simply magical for the automobile insurance industry. Not only are there no trials, by the time the courts re-open the back log and delay for personal injury plaintiffs will be years long.
Some automobile insurance companies are now at times offering less than medical bills to claimants who are involved in car accidents that are high impact, total loss wrecks where the insured negligent party was clearly liable. In some cases, the carriers are offering nothing at all. This is happening in cases where there are serious injuries and extensive medical treatment. Why? Without a means for an injured person to present his or her claims to the Court and ask to be made whole again, the insurance companies don’t have to do anything. Many state bars have held roundtable webinars with judges, plaintiff’s personal injury attorneys and insurance defense attorneys exploring the possibility of conducting jury trials by Zoom or virtually. The message is clear. Insurance companies continue to resist virtual jury trials and the Courts, it seems, cannot force them to agree to participate in them.
A feature in the Associated Press indicates that Auto Insurance Companies are expected to rake in over one hundred billion dollars in profits in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. While there was a reduction of claims through August of 2020, it is the continued restriction of an individual’s access to a jury trial as guaranteed by the Seventh Amendment of the United States Constitution that I surmise is the true catalyst for insurance companies sky high profits. When will claims be heard? For now, we can do nothing but wait.
About Windham Law:
Ben has been a lawyer in Henry County for almost twenty years, starting in McDonough and having offices in Stockbridge until moving to Locust Grove on the south side of the county in 2013. Ben F. Windham and the attorneys of Ben F. Windham, P.C., serve personal injury clients throughout Clayton County and all counties in Georgia. They specialize in seeking justice for individuals who have been injured by the negligence of others and litigate against all insurance companies providing tenacious and honest representation. Their approach is hands-on and much different from the high-volume TV and billboard lawyers. Clients of Ben F. Windham, P.C. work directly with an attorney during all phases of their case. At Ben F. Windham, P.C. expect a collaborative team with an entrepreneurial mindset determined to meet and exceed their client’s expectations each step of the way towards obtaining justice.
To learn more about Ben F. Windham P.C. Trial Attorneys, or for a free case evaluation please visit https://windhamlaw.com or call 833-236-9467.
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