How many people would have the stamina to stay after an insurance company for almost 18 years in an effort to make the company treat them fairly? I have to admit that I was extremely impressed with the determinations shown by Daniel and Sherri Berg of Reading, Pennsylvania, and their $18 million lawsuit against Nationwide Insurance that was recently tried to verdict up in Pennsylvania. The insurancejournal.com reported that the $18 million bad faith judgment against Nationwide is likely the largest damage award in Pennsylvania history involving an insurance companies wrongful conduct. The dispute started back in 1996 when Sherry Berg was involved in a car accident involving her Jeep. She took her Jeep to a local repair shop where the initial mechanic recommended that the Berg’s Jeep be considered a total loss. Unbeknownst to the Bergs, Nationwide rejected this initial appraisal, and asked the mechanic to issue a new appraisal recommending repairs, allowing Nationwide to save about half the cost of a total loss. Not knowing anything different, the Bergs approved the repairs. Of course, the Bergs did not realize that this meant that they were driving a vehicle that was likely very unsafe and not crashworthy had the Bergs been involved in another crash. The Bergs testified that their vehicle never seem right after the repairs. Nobody would have been the wiser except that an employee of the car dealership secretly called the Bergs several months later and related to them what happened with their vehicle. The Bergs consequently asked Nationwide to do the right thing, consider their vehicle a total loss, and pay them money for the total loss. Nationwide refused, and a lawsuit ensued. Well, almost 20 years later, the Bergs have secured an $18 million punitive damages award against Nationwide Insurance. In his ruling, the trial judge noted that Nationwide spent approximately $3 million in attorneys’ fees just to defend its actions on a claim that could have been resolved for $25,000 or less 18 years before. The judge found that Nationwide and its handling of the Berg’s collision claim demonstrated a reckless indifference to its customer. As much as we would all like to think so, insurance companies don’t always have our best interests in mind — and especially our own insurance companies that we pay valuable premiums to every month. Unfortunately, as a Winter Park personal injury attorney who deals with insurance companies and insurance issues all of the time, I am fortunately see this all the time. In Florida, if an insurance company does not attempt to resolve claims in good faith, the company can be made to pay damages plus the claimants attorneys’ fees and court costs. If you have any questions regarding an insurance company’s handling of an automobile accident claim, or if you think an insurance company failed to deal with you in good faith, call Winter Park...Read More »
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