Check That Insurance!

If you have State Farm automobile insurance, check your policy.  A recent investigation by a Louisville, Kentucky television station revealed alarming concerns: multiple policyholders are finding that they coverage they thought they had and thought they paid for was not in fact included on their policy. And subsequently, when the policyholders questioned State Farm about this discrepancy and demanded to see their policy documents State Farm claimed they signed, the policyholders found their signatures were forged.

Across television, radio and the internet, Illinois headquartered State Farm claims that “like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.”  But this is a story where actions speak louder than words.  If the allegations raised by WAVE3 News and a parallel lawsuit are true, the actions of Chicago’s corporate neighbor are anything but good.

WAVE3 News recently reported on an accident involving Megan Whiteside.  Ms. Whiteside was involved in an accident in which her foot was run over by a driver who fled the scene.  In most cases, if you are the victim of a hit and run, your own auto insurance policy provides coverage from any injuries through uninsured motorist coverage. This coverage generally carries the same limits as your bodily injury coverage and protects you in the event that you are involved in an accident, through no fault of your own, and the at fault driver either has no insurance or inadequate insurance to cover your claim.

Under Illinois law section 215 ILCS 5/143a-2, all drivers are required to carry both uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage unless the policyholder specifically waives, in writing, such coverage.  A similar law applied in Kentucky for Ms. Whiteside who assumed her uninsured motorist coverage would kick to help with her medical bills following the hit and run.  Yet State Farm denied her claim arguing that Ms. Whiteside had waived the coverage.  Like a good policyholder, Ms. Whiteside requested a copy of the waiver, which State Farm provided.  On the document, her signature was clearly forged.  Had Ms. Whiteside not demanded a copy of the waiver and discovered the forgery, State Farm could have unjustly denied a perfectly valid claim.

Here is the scary part.  Ms. Whiteside is not alone.  Louisville attorneys Jasper Ward, Sam Aguiar and Abby Green are part of a team that has discovered a number of other forgeries in counties across the state. Based on allegations filed in a recent lawsuit by the attorneys, the number of policyholders affected is simply staggering. Ms. Green stated to WAVE3 that, “we have evidence that shows that up to 10 percent of all policies issued in Kentucky may have forged documents in the file.”  Green went on to note that this is no coincidence stating, “we think that this is calculated and intended to inflate their bottom line.”  Such a practice, if true, flies in the face of the purpose of insurance.  Or, in the words of Jasper Ward, “they [State Farm] say they’re a good neighbor, but they’re not acting like it.”  The attorneys are currently seeking class action status for the clients.

So, what can you do to ensure you are protected and properly covered?  First, check your policy.  Make sure you in fact have all the coverages you believe you are paying for.  We wrote about these coverages in a previous blog post and at a minimum, most Illinois drivers should carry property damage or collision coverage, bodily injury coverage and uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. Second, keep a copy of all of your policy documents and anything you have ever signed or sent to your insurance company.  If you do not have a copy of these documents, it may be a good idea to call your agent and ask for them.

Third, if you are involved in an accident, even if it appears minor, call an attorney just to be safe.  At Leopold & Associates, we never charge anyone for an initial consultation; advice is always free.  But we think it is a good idea to have peace of mind and make sure you are being treated fairly.  No matter how friendly an insurance agent or insurance adjuster may seem, State Farm’s alleged actions, in this case, show the lengths a large insurance company will go to deny perfectly legitimate claims.

Finally, if you do have a claim, work with an attorney to make sure your rights are being protected and you are receiving the coverage and compensation that you are legally entitled to.  Never sign a release or other document without speaking with an attorney and letting them review the document because these documents can be legally binding and affect your rights.  No matter how good a neighbor your insurance company may seem, you need someone on your side.