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Deny, Delay, Defend

April 1, 2008

Auto insurers play hardball in minor-crash claims

ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) — If you are injured in a minor car crash, chances are good that you will be in the fight of your life to get the insurance company to pay all the medical costs you incur — even if the accident was no fault of your own.

That’s what CNN discovered in an 18-month investigation into minor-impact soft-tissue injury crashes around the country. Those are accidents in which there is little damage to the vehicle and the injuries to people are not easy to see by the naked eye or conventional medical tools like X-rays.

Since the mid-1990s, most of the major insurance companies — led by the two largest, Allstate and State Farm — have adopted a tough take-it-or-leave-it strategy when dealing with such cases.

The result has been billions in profits for insurance companies and little, if anything, for the public, according to University of Nevada insurance law professor Jeff Stempel.

“We can see that policyholders individually are getting hurt by being dragged through the court on fender-bender claims, and yet we don’t see any collateral benefit in the form of reduced premiums even for the other policyholders,” Stempel said.

“So I think now we can say to continue this kind of program is in my view institutionalized bad faith.”

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