The insurance industry in this country has done a remarkably good job in its advertising campaigns to try to convince Americans that the insurance company is on their side and is going to be fair with them. Some insurance companies, particularly Allstate, State Farm, Farmers, and Liberty Mutual Insurance, ran plenty of ads over the years to try to convince people that when they have a loss, whether they cause it or somebody else is at fault, their insurance company is going to stand behind them and take care of everything. They have made America believe that if they have the right insurance company, everything will work out.
Ironically, the companies that seem to advertise the most and make the most promises actually tend to be the companies that are the worst; they do not provide good coverage and they do not pay the claims and do get their insureds sued. In Montana, they are not supposed to get their insured sued and when liability is reasonably clear, the insurance carrier for the at-fault party is supposed to make the payments and even pay the policy limits to protect their insured.
That is what people pay for when people buy an insurance contract. They expect, rightly so, that their insurance company will show up and pay the loss. If someone makes a mistake and there is damage to property or someone is hurt, then the entire purpose of buying an insurance policy is so that anyone who you negligently or otherwise injured will be taken care of. It is simple civic responsibility. We have mandatory insurance laws in Montana, and in almost every state that requires people to have an insurance policy on their auto, they are required by law to carry liability coverage, and if they do not have it, they get a substantial ticket. Folk’s pay good money for that coverage, and they have a right to expect their insurance to pay their claims.
So, when they have a loss, whether they hit a deer and they need to use their medical payments coverage and have their vehicle repaired, or they hit a deer and hit another vehicle and somebody gets hurt or they get hit by somebody else who does not have insurance in a wreck. Folk’s reasonably expect their insurance company to do what the TV commercials say the Insurance will do promptly return their phone calls and return their correspondence, make payments, and not make it worse but make it better. The Insurance should provide coverage so that the individual does not get sued ultimately, but also so that they do not have to feel bad. We are not here to hurt other people, we are here to help. If we make a bad decision or exercise poor judgment and if someone suffers a property loss or an injury, we have a duty to make it right.
That is why we buy insurance- so the insurance company can show up and pay the bills and fix the property and make up for the mistakes and make the other person whole as much as humanly possible. Unfortunately, it does not happen this way a lot of the time, but it is in our civil justice system. That is really all we can do. We cannot put people in a time machine and make them not hurt anymore. So, all we can do is try to put them back to make them whole again so they can move forward with their lives. When your insurance company does not pay the claim, the other person suffers because they are not getting their bills paid, they are not getting better, and their family suffers.
Then they have to sue you. That is hard on them and hard on you, and that is why you buy insurance so you do not get sued so that person does not have to sue you. That is the whole point and in Montana, the law requires the insurance company, when liability is reasonably clear, to make those payments without a release. Litigation is discouraged. We have a public policy favoring settlements, because in Montana, we have bad roads and high speeds. When I say we have bad roads, it is not that the Montana Department of Transportation does not work hard or do a good job, it is simply a fact. We are a very large state and not a lot of people. This is the fourth largest state and we only have one congressman because we have such a small population. Bad weather comes into play as well.
Another factor is that we have one of the highest drunk driving rates and fatalities in the country. We have been in the top five, unfortunately; it is very sad. It has improved, but we still have, obviously, way too much driving under the influence in this state. Therefore, there are a lot of terrible wrecks. The other issue is that Montana is a beautiful state that a lot of people come and visit and where we live in Flathead County and Glacier Park area, our population practically doubles during tourist season, which is the summer time, which can be anywhere from May to the middle of September. We also have a very active winter, sports and recreation season with the Whitefish Mountain Resort nearby and lots of other recreational opportunities and people get hurt with those activities.
They also get hurt coming and going and our road system here has a hard time keeping up with the increased traffic that we have in the summer time. It is hard for local residents to manage the difference between what it is like here in the summer and in the winter. It is challenging for us because this is a relatively rural quiet community and when there are twice as many cars on the road in the summer time because of vacation and people who are unfamiliar with the area are without a care in the world and perhaps an open beer in the car can escalate the situation. There are a lot of injuries. A lot of people get hurt. People do not expect that their insurance company is going to not respond to them or that the other insurance company will tell them, “Well, we can’t do anything. We can’t get your rental car, we can’t pay your bills, we can’t do anything until we talk to our insured about it and our insured hasn’t responded to our phone calls.” It is not appropriate.
We have a requirement here that when liability is reasonably clear, the insurance company must start making payments so that people do not suffer lost wages and they do not suffer getting their medical bills paid. A lot of insurance companies that do not handle a claim in Montana do not understand that and even once they do, they do not follow the laws all the time. We wish that they did, but they do not and so we are here to help folks. But the bottom line is that like most things on television, the more they advertise, the more we should wonder about whether or not they are going to keep those promises and hold them accountable when they do not. In Montana, that is an unfair claims settlement practice to make promises and advertising dear insureds and then not live up to them.
That is something that we pursue, i.e. holding insurers accountable for the promises they make to their insureds and then not living up to them, which is unfortunately all too common.
For more information on Misconceptions About Personal Injury Recovery, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (406) 755-6828 today.