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Appeals Court Says Insurance Company’s Bad Faith Could Prove Costly

Charlotte Personal Injury Attorney Matt Arnold answers the question: “The insurance company wants to send me to their own doctor for a second opinion. Do I have to go?”


Anyone who has ever been involved in a car accident likely understands how frustrating it can be dealing with an insurance company. The adjusters understand that their job is to settle any claim for as little money as possible. This is why so many injured individuals turn to personal injury attorneys for assistance, discovering that attempts to resolve their issue alone often go nowhere. A recent case in Florida demonstrates just how difficult insurance companies can be. Unlike many examples, this one has a slight silver lining, with the insurance company now facing serious potential liability due to its poor treatment of the injured victim.


Crashed-car-Charlotte-Personal-Injury-Mooresville-Accident-Attorney-300x242The case began back in June of 2009 when Ethel Cousins and her husband were injured in a car accident. The driver of the other vehicle was found at fault and, though she had insurance, the insurance was minimal coverage, not nearly enough to compensate Ethel for the serious harm she suffered. According to medical records, the accident led to serious injuries to Ethel’s legs, knees, neck, back and shoulder. These problems involved epidural injections to her back as well as extensive surgery.


Ethel thankfully did not wait long to bring her claim to an experienced personal injury attorney. The attorney did what he was supposed to do and reached out to the insurance company involved in the case. GEICO was responsible for insuring not only Ethel, but also the underinsured motorist. Ethel’s attorney asked for payment of the underinsured driver’s $10,000 bodily injury policy and, after supplying a number of records and statements, also requested payment of the full $100,000 under Ethel’s underinsured motorist policy. Though GEICO paid the $10,000, they refused to take steps to compensate Ethel under her underinsured motorist policy.


This refusal persisted even after Ethel underwent extensive back surgery to deal with bulging and herniated discs. The procedure cost approximately $27,000, but led to thousands more in lost wages and other out-of-pocket expenses. These bills were also submitted to GEICO, further justifying the need to payout the full $100,000 underinsured motorist policy given her extensive injuries. GEICO still refused and responded saying they believed the $27,000 back surgery was “excessive and not reasonable”.


This refusal led Ethel’s attorney to give up settlement efforts and bring the case to a jury. Ethel, unsurprisingly, prevailed in court, with the jury awarding her $1.3 million in damages. Unfortunately, this award was reduced down to $100,000, the limit of her underinsured motorist policy. Ethel’s attorney did not stop there; he filed a new claim against GEICO for bad faith, claiming that their bad behavior in handling her claim subjected the company to liability for the full amount of the jury award.


The bad faith claim was initially dismissed at the trial court level, but was appealed all the way up to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. Recently the 11th Circuit issued a decision agreeing with Ethel and her attorney that there were facts in dispute that a jury should decide regarding the question of bad faith. That means the case will soon return to a jury for a full hearing. The moral of the story for GEICO is that by fighting over a reasonable surgical bill they may have cost themselves around $1 million. Sometimes insurance companies need to learn lessons the hard way.


If you or someone close to you has been injured, contact an experienced personal injury attorney today who can help you receive the compensation to which you may be entitled. Contact Arnold & Smith, PLLC for a free consultation, call at 704-370-2828 or click here for additional resources.







The skilled personal injury attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC are dedicated to maximizing the financial recovery and obtaining justice for every personal injury client injured by another party’s negligence. The issues our personal injury clients may be facing include, but are not limited to, slip and fall injuries, wrongful death, product liability, catastrophic injuries, dog bite claims, car and truck accident injuries, motorcycle injuries, traumatic brain injury (TBI), nursing home negligence, spinal cord injury, boating accidents, and defective medical device injury. Our personal injury attorneys understand the devastating impact such an injury can have on a person’s life, and that the effects so often go beyond physical pain and suffering. The personal injury attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC are dedicated to helping clients determine the strength of their claims, and to aggressively pursuing the means necessary to achieve the best possible end result for each client’s particular situation.





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