“In June 2021, you had a hysterical story about a parking lot accident at a Jack in the Box in St. Louis, Missouri, which involved a cast of characters suitable for Saturday Night Live,” an email from began. Eddie”, a retired insurance claims manager on the East Coast.
“It involved the owner of a driving school who, without looking, backed out of a parking space and entered a car belonging to a 21-year-old university student. The driving instructor acknowledged her fault, but my old employer jerked that poor girl off for months.
“Your story has provided excellent consumer education on how an insurance company should not act, and has circulated widely among my former colleagues who are embarrassed by what happened.
“You indicated that the student was going to sue the driving instructor in Small Claims Court for property damage and promised to keep us informed. What was the end result? »
The company suing you!
To recap, college student Allison Ashbrook was offered $1,700 by the insurance company for the total of her car, which had a current value of almost $5,000. Claims adjuster Ahron Espino sent her a letter saying she was 25% liable, for “inattention and failure to take evasive action”, even though their policyholder admitted fault.
Strangely, Espino referred to California insurance regulations, even though the accident happened 2,000 miles away in Missouri! This led Allison to find my column and contact me.
I left voicemails for the driving instructor, Patrick Gilfoy, urging him to call his lawyer and tell the insurer to settle the matter so he wouldn’t be sued. Apparently that never happened.
Head to Small Claims Court
If I cause an accident, my insurance company is required to settle the claim – or at least try in good faith – so that I don’t end up in court. Especially if I own a driving school, it doesn’t sound too good for me to be sued for causing an accident, does it? Do you think the insurance company cared about Patrick’s reputation as a driving school owner and instructor?
Allison filed a lawsuit in Small Claims Court along with a complaint to the Missouri Department of Insurance. They contacted the insurer, and guess what? She receives a letter saying, “We have reconsidered and you are zero percent at fault!”
Don’t confuse me with the Facts Just Dismiss Your Suit!
Even though the insurance company has admitted that their insured was 100% at fault, Allison receives a letter from Gilfoy’s attorney, Theodore G. Hughes – who works for a law firm that represents the insurance company. : “Patrick denies all the claims in the small claims file, and I would like to be dismissed.
“He also phoned, was condescending and didn’t offer to compensate me at all! (At least he’s consistent he hung up on me when I tried to discuss the case.) But in court, he admitted the accident was not my fault and said i should only get $2300 if i keep my car.
The Small Claims Court judge awarded him $4,300 plus court costs. But the insurance company refused to pay her! “Finally, I located their social accountability officer in Missouri and sent them a copy of the judgment. I received their check a few days later.
Failed in their duty to Patrick
St. Louis attorney Cassie Bulgaski, who handles insurance bad faith cases, was happy that Allison was finally paid and has observations on the case that anyone with car insurance should. to know.
“The (company) attorney was hired to represent the best interests of his client, the insured, not the best interests of (the company), and that is something Patrick should be upset about.
“His client’s best interest would have been to pay the damsel so that there was no possibility of judgment against him. Although (the company) paid the claim, it will still show on a credit report and a Missouri Case.Net search that he had a judgment against him and could potentially cause problems for his business, future customers, etc
“Shame on (the company) for allowing him to go this far. Shame on them for letting in a low judgment when everything could have been avoided. They paid a lawyer to appear, they should have used better the funds spent on the lawyer and simply pay the claim.On the contrary, they were more interested in being litigious.
What my reader took away from this experience
I asked Allison, “What did you learn from all of this?”
“Insurance companies don’t care about the public, regardless of their TV ads. I learned how to assemble my case and put it on. By running your column, newspapers provide invaluable value to their readers with such useful information! Thank you, Mr Beaver.
Thank you Allison for contacting me.
Dennis Beaver practices law in Bakersfield and welcomes comments and questions from readers, which can be faxed to (661) 323-7993 or emailed to [email protected] Also visit dennisbeaver.com.