CORONAVIRUS UPDATE: What We Are Doing to Protect Our Clients

MetLife Insurance

metlife insurance snoopyThe company that would eventually become MetLife Insurance was founded in the 1860s in New York City to provide disability insurance for soldiers and sailors during the American Civil War.  Its business changed within a few years after the war ended, and it adopted its more familiar name of Metropolitan Life Insurance Company.  By the early 1900s, it had become the largest U.S. life insurance company and had been experimenting with other services such as an early form of workers' disability insurance.

Operating for much of its existence as a “mutual” insurance company, Metropolitan Life became a for-profit stock company in 2000 and adopted its current name, MetLife Inc.

MetLife is probably best recognized in advertising through its long-term association with the characters from the Peanuts cartoons, especially Snoopy, who was featured prominently on their sporting event blimps for the last few decades.  The company also sponsors numerous sports, including professional and college football, horse racing events, and pro golf tournaments.  Both of New York City’s professional football teams play in MetLife Stadium.

Who is MetLife Insurance?

MetLife remains the largest life insurance company in the United States.  In addition, it offers a variety of financial services and other insurance products, such as dental and disability insurance.  Automobile and homeowners insurance are relatively recent additions to the company product line, being added in the 1970s.  MetLife sells its personal auto and home insurance nationwide, with about 3 million policyholders across the country.

Having been in business as long as it has – and with “asset-heavy” products such as life insurance – MetLife has accumulated assets of approximately three-quarters of a trillion dollars.  It had annual revenues of about $68 billion in 2018, and its stock is traded on the New York Stock Exchange.  As a diverse company that included life insurance, liability insurance, banking services, and mortgage servicing, along with its large assets in mortgages, it was one of the companies to which the “too big to fail” label was applied during the economic crisis of 2008 to 2010. It had to sell off its banking and mortgage servicing businesses.

What Are Some Claims Practices of MetLife Insurance?

With its significant amount of business in life and disability insurance products, MetLife has long been targeted with bad faith lawsuits alleging the company has too frequently denied life and disability claims that it should not have.  Simply denying a claim when the insurer thinks there is an argument to be made for doing so – even an extremely thin argument – is one of their favorite starting tactics in claims handling.  Some claimants will simply give up on denied claims; even when a denied claimant seeks representation from an attorney who pushes back on the denial, the insurer has achieved a delay in final payment.

Juries have often expressed their extreme displeasure with insurance companies that don’t act in good faith in resolving insurance claims.  MetLife got itself in trouble with an auto insurance coverage claim a few years ago in Arizona. The insured vehicle was stolen and subsequently recovered but had sustained significant damage in the meantime.  When the vehicle’s owner presented the damage claim to MetLife under his comprehensive insurance coverage, MetLife insisted the vehicle was repairable when it clearly was not.  Eventually, MetLife adopted a “take it or leave it” stance over the check it issued for about $11,000 in repairs to a vehicle that should have totaled for about three times that amount.  In the bad faith lawsuit that the MetLife policyholder brought against the company, the jury awarded the policyholder $55 million in punitive damages against MetLife.  Unfortunately, most states in the U.S. have limitations on the amount of punitive damages that can be awarded in the types of cases, so this portion of the verdict ended up being reduced to a mere $620,000. Folks do not like it when they are treated unfairly by their insurance companies.

Autoaccident.com Cases, Settlements & Verdicts Against MetLife Insurance

The Law Offices of Edward A. Smith (Autoaccident.com) represented a gentleman in his early 40s whose personal injury claim against MetLife Insurance was recently resolved.  The claim resulted from a “t-bone” automobile collision in which MetLife’s policyholder pulled out from a side street and impacted the driver’s side of our client’s vehicle.  The impact caused about $5,000 in damage to our client’s car and left him with a bloody gash in his forehead after having struck his head on the steering wheel at impact.

The traffic collision report prepared by the California Highway Patrol was thorough and accurate – it squarely placed blame for the collision on the MetLife insured driver. It accurately noted the visible injury to our client’s head.  Liability for the collision was never seriously argued by the MetLife adjusters and the defense attorney they later hired.

Our client visited a local hospital emergency room immediately after the collision.  He reported both head and neck pain, and the hospital performed a CT scan of his head to check for any major bleeding within his skull, and none was found.

Not All Radiology Scans are Equal

Unfortunately, many significant brain injuries may not be visible on CT scans. These scans perform multiple X-rays and compile them into a single result, but they are best at checking for larger-scale injuries.  If, for example, a blood vessel in the brain ruptures due to trauma, a CT scan can detect and identify the area where blood may be collecting.  CT scans are not as effective, however, at detecting finer level details of injured tissues – often the level of injury involved in many types of traumatic brain injury.  For these types of injuries, high-resolution MRI imaging is the “gold standard” for diagnostic work.

After the collision, our client exhibited more and more symptoms of traumatic brain injury (TBI), including blurred vision, nausea, head pain, and even a loss of consciousness in a “fainting” event.  After being sent back to the emergency by his personal physician for a brain MRI scan, our client was diagnosed with a TBI with symptoms of concussion and “post-concussive syndrome” -- a set of symptoms that can include chronic headaches, cognitive problems such as decreased concentration, sleep interruption, and dizziness.

As some of the TBI symptoms – a matter of significant concern and urgency – began to improve, it also became clear that our client had suffered a shoulder injury during the course of the car crash.  He was experiencing significant pain when trying to lift his arm above head height, and at other times he was feeling numbness and tingling down into the arm.  Before the accident, our client had been a dedicated bodybuilder and was in excellent shape with no past problems with his shoulder.

Totaling the Damages

Both injuries resulted in significant losses to our client.  After the collision, his post-concussion syndrome became chronic and significantly delayed -- perhaps ruined -- his ongoing progress in a Ph. D. program while he was also working full-time.  He was barely able to continue working.  This situation placed extreme stress upon his marriage and family life.

Simultaneously, his primary recreation – bodybuilding – was mostly taken away from him due to his shoulder injury.  After an MRI of his shoulder revealed a “full thickness” rotator cuff tear, surgery was performed.  Although the procedure repaired much of the damage, our client was left with significant residual pain and decreased mobility in the joint.  With his ability to work out greatly reduced, he lost muscle mass, gained weight, and his health in general suffered.

Pushing to Conclusion

Unfortunately, MetLife’s adjuster and the defense attorney, who was eventually hired when a lawsuit had to be filed, refused to take seriously the significance of the damages suffered by our client.  A settlement demand sent to MetLife approximately one year after the collision – by which time our client’s symptoms had been treated, became stable, and could be accurately prognosticated by his doctors – demanded payment of $300,000 for settlement of his claims.

Often, when an insurance company such as MetLife simply has a completely different valuation of a claim than an experienced personal injury attorney does, the only practical way forward is to file suit and move into litigation.  Sometimes, doing this will cause the insurance adjuster’s supervisors to take a “second look” at the claim valuation, resulting in a more realistic offer on the claim.  At other times, the defense attorney hired by the insurance company to represent their policyholder is the one who can take a second look and advise the adjuster that the initial valuation may be inaccurate.  But often, it’s just a matter of pushing forward through the discovery process and on toward mediation, arbitration, or even trial before an insurance company like MetLife “gets real” about claim evaluation.

This situation fell into the third category – the claim ended up settling at a mediation for $300,000 – exactly what we had demanded on our client’s behalf in the first place.

For more on how an experienced personal injury attorney handles insurance companies' claim tactics, see the links below:

Image by Brent Connelly from Pixabay 

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