“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 from State Farm on the East Coast.
“It was about 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 admitted his fault , but my old employer, State Farm, 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? »
New motto for State Farm: The company that sues you!
To recap, college student Allison Ashbrook was offered $1,700 by State Farm for the total of her car which had a current value of nearly $5,000. Claims adjuster Ahron Espino sent a letter here 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 get his lawyer and tell State Farm to settle the case so he wouldn’t be sued. Apparently that never happened.
On the way to small claims court
If I cause an accident, my insurance company is obligated 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 State Farm cared about Patrick’s reputation as a driving school owner and instructor?
Allison filed a small claims court action as well as a complaint with the Missouri Department of Insurance. They contacted State Farm, 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 complaint!
Although State Farm admitted that their insured was 100% at fault, Allison received a letter from Gilfoy’s attorney, Theodore G. Hughes – who works for a law firm that represents State Farm: “Patrick denies all claims in the small claims filing, and I would like it 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 State Farm refused to pay it!
“Finally, I located their Corporate Responsibility Officer in Missouri and sent him a copy of the judgment. I received their check a few days later.
Failed in his 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.
“State Farm’s attorney was hired to represent the best interests of his client, the insured, and not the best interests of State Farm, 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 State Farm paid the claim, it will still show on a credit report and a Missouri case.net search that it had a judgment against it and could potentially cause problems for its business, future customers, etc. .
“Shame on State Farm for allowing it to go this far. Shame on them for letting low judgment in when it all could have been avoided. They paid a lawyer to appear, they should have used the funds better for the attorney and just 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.