Wednesday, October 21, 2009

M&W Press Release: Re GEICO claim practices

M&W today issued a press release for general media distribution regarding the unfair claim practices of GEICO. The body of the release is included below:


TO: Mobile Area Media Outlets
FROM: Moore & Wolfe, Attorneys
DATE: October 21, 2009
RE: GEICO Unfair Claims Practices

[NOTE: Because of pending litigation, the name of the client has been omitted.]

83 Year Old Great Grandmother has to File Lawsuit Because of GEICO’s Unfair Claim Practices.

On November 21, 2008 Mrs. Beatrice XXXX was rear ended as she drove her car in Mobile County, Alabama. She was at a complete stop when the driver of the car behind her drove his car into the back of her car. The Mobile Police Department, who investigated the collision, determined the other driver to be at-fault and determined that Ms. XXXX did nothing to cause or contribute to the collision. According to her attorney, Karlos Finley of Moore & Wolfe, Ms. XXXX received soft-tissue injuries which required a trip to the emergency room and some additional follow-up care for soft-tissue injuries. Her total medical bills were a little over $7,200.00. These bills were paid by her health insurance company and her own insurance carrier under the medical payments provisions of her automobile policy. According to Finley, these companies have asserted a subrogation claim for a refund for their payments from any monies recovered by Ms. XXXX in her liability claim against the at-fault driver who is insured by GEICO.

In an attempt to avoid the time and expenses of litigation, after Mrs. XXXX had completed her treatment and was released from her healthcare providers, Mr. Finley prepared a settlement package which consisted of $7,207.50 in total medical charges and began pre-litigation settlement negotiations with GEICO. Those negotiations broke off with GEICO making a best and final offer of $4,700.00 on behalf of their insured with full knowledge that Ms. XXXX’s own insurance company was asserting a subrogation lien of $5,000.00 for Medical Payment benefits afforded her through her automobile insurance policy. Even worse for his client reports Mr. Finley is that it took GEICO over 8 weeks to even begin negotiations after the claim material was submitted.

According to her lawyer, GEICO’s unreasonable settlement offer left his client with no option but to seek full restitution through the legal system and a lawsuit has now been filed against the at-fault driver for his negligence in causing the collision. In Alabama, even though the insurance company may be the one controlling the settlement offers, its their insured who has to be sued in Court. Mr. Finley went on to say, “This pattern of unfair claims handling is nothing new for GEICO. Over the past year we have seen this same pattern time and time again with GEICO. Their offers to settle claims without litigation are so low, that victims must either take a financial loss or proceed with a lawsuit.” In their recent law firm newsletter, Legally Speaking, Moore & Wolfe reported this problem was not just local but apparently a nationwide trend. The newsletter also explained why Alabama law favors insurance companies and allows them to get away with these type of unfair actions.

“I think GEICO assumed Ms. XXXX would not want to suffer the anxiety and stress of litigation and tried to use that to force her to accept an unreasonable settlement offer,” said Finley. He also reports that, “Ms. XXXX has never been in an automobile collision of any kind and has not injured her spine at anytime prior to the collision which brought about this legal action. She is a widow and native of Mobile, Alabama who graduated from Mobile County Training School in 1943. She is a great grandmother and has been a law abiding citizen who lives a very wholesome life.” He also said while his client is in fairly good health, he hopes the stress and strain of litigation does not cause her any medical consequences.

In closing Mr. Finley noted that GEICO’s unfair claims practices have seemed to coincide with GEICO’s significant increase in advertising for their insurance products. “You can’t watch TV for 10 minutes without seeing a Caveman or a stack of money promoting GEICO products.” He summarized this observation as follows: “Maybe GEICO should re-direct some of their advertising dollars to fair claim payments so an 83 year old great grandmother who gets rear-ended by a GEICO insured can avoid having to be in the middle of a lawsuit.”

NOTE: Because of pending litigation, the name of the client has been omitted.

For general release: October 21, 2009

For more information on this matter, please contact Mr. Karlos Finley at 251 433-7766, or the GEICO claims representative on this matter: Rachel Collins at 478 621-1564, GEICO claim number:020816433010105003.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Ford Recalls Additional 4.5M Vehicles.

The AP (10/13, Krisher, Manning) reported, "Ford Motor Co. said Tuesday it will add 4.5 million older-model vehicles to the long list of those recalled because a defective cruise control switch could cause a fire. The latest voluntary action pushes Ford's total recall due to faulty switches to 14.3 million registered vehicles over 10 years, capping the company's largest cumulative recall in history involving a single problem." Ford "has struggled for a decade with the problem, which has prompted hundreds of complaints and dozens of lawsuits over fires allegedly caused by faulty switches."

Bloomberg News (10/14) reports, "The voluntary recall affects models of vans and trucks including Windstars, Rangers, and Explorers. The switch, made by Texas Instruments Inc., can leak and then overheat, smoke, or burn." No "deaths or injuries are linked to the defect."

Read more about this recall and the involved vehicles.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Thousands of Chinese drywall claims and lawsuits expected.

The Biloxi (MS) Sun Herald (10/3, Newsom) reported, "It's believed enough Chinese drywall to build 100,000 houses was shipped to the United States as the Coast was rebuilding from Hurricane Katrina, and South Mississippi attorneys and others expect thousands of lawsuits over those products to emerge in the coming months." James R. Reeves Jr., "a Biloxi attorney representing about 90 Mississippi homeowners in the lawsuits," said that "as many as 16 companies making the drywall are owned by the Chinese government," and that he "is unaware of a legal judgment ever being enforced against that government. Reeves said most Mississippians may be a little more fortunate, though, because it appears about 90 percent of the suspected drywall here was made in Chinese factories by KPT, a subsidiary of the German-based company Knauf International GmbH, which is not owned by a government and has assets."
Lawmakers seek to hold Chinese drywall manufacturers accountable.

The New Orleans Times-Picayune (10/4, Mowbray) reported, "With estimates of $3 billion of damage in Louisiana and as many as 40,000 households nationwide facing financial ruin because of toxic homes they can't afford to fix, members of Congress, officials at the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and the parties to the national litigation in New Orleans are scrambling to find ways to hold about 20 foreign drywall manufacturers accountable. A bill in the U.S. Senate, the Foreign Manufacturers Legal Accountability Act of 2009, sponsored by Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., and Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., would require foreign companies doing business in the United States to agree to participate in litigation in U.S. courts." Another tool "that groups such as the Consumer Federation of America think could help limit defective or dangerous foreign products would be to require overseas manufacturers to post bonds when they sell products in the United States so consumers could collect against them in the event of problems."

The Sarasota (FL) Herald Tribune (10/4, Kessler) reported on Jim and Joan Norton of Manatee County, FL, who "could very well turn out to be among the first owners to be sold a home built using Chinese drywall in Southwest Florida, and possibly anywhere." The discovery of Chinese drywall in the Nortons' 2002 home in WCI's Waterlefe Golf & River Club "could stretch out the timeline of the drywall problem, previously considered to have started in 2004, to a full seven years." WCI "has publicly claimed it did not use imported drywall prior to 2004."
Virginia congressman tours some affected homes. WAVY-TV Portsmouth, VA (10/4, Marks) on its website reported that on Saturday, Rep. Glenn Nye (D-VA) met with Virginia Beach residents affected by Chinese drywall, toured some of their homes, and said that "he has legislation proposed to speed up the process to get money for those affected."