Progressive—Sent a Lawyer to Defend its Policyholder’s Killer

This story came to light because the deceased woman was the sister of famous comedian Matt Fisher who used his twitter and tumblr accounts to decry Progressive’s actions.  It quickly went viral and the company was involved in a nasty PR scandal.  However, it begs the question of how often Progressive and other insurance companies employ similar tactics and get away with it.  It is clear that even in the case of death, insurance companies are focused on the bottom line, and not their policy holders.

In July 2010, Kaitlyn Fisher was killed when another vehicle ran a red light and T-boned her car while she was legally crossing the intersection.  The other driver only had $25,000 of insurance coverage for the accident which his insurance company, Nationwide, paid immediately to her family.   However, this was a small amount to compensate Ms. Fisher’s family for her death.  Thankfully, she had $100,000 in underinsured motorist coverage through Progressive.  Thus, under the terms of the policy and Maryland law, Progressive should have paid her family the remaining $75,000. That is not what occurred.  Instead, Progressive blamed Kaitlyn for the accident and refused to pay.  Under Maryland law, Kaitlyn’s family could not sue Progressive directly.  Instead, they had to sue the other driver to prove that he was negligent and the cause of the accident.  Only then could they require Progressive to pay the claim.  Although Ms. Fisher’s family felt bad about dragging the other driver into court in what appeared to be an accident, they proceeded with the lawsuit.  Imagine their surprise when they arrived at court to find that the other driver was being defended by Progressive! Although the defendant’s attorney of record was a representative of his insurance company, Progressive’s attorney appeared as special counsel.  He took a lead role in the case and even told the jury that Ms. Fisher was at fault! Clearly, Progressive was motivated to help find the other driver not guilty so that Progressive would not have to compensate Ms. Fisher’s family. Thankfully, the jury found the defendant was negligent and Progressive was forced to pay the Fisher family.  Moreover, thanks to Mr. Fisher’s web comments, the company’s poor actions were exposed.   It is amazing the lengths that an insurance provider will go to in order to deny a claim.  Even the death of a young woman in an open and shut case did not alter their desire to avoid paying claims at all costs.

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