CORONAVIRUS UPDATE: What We Are Doing to Protect Our Clients

The Hartford Insurance

The Hartford InsuranceOriginally the "Hartford Fire Insurance Company," this company is now "The Hartford Financial Services Group." It offers a wide variety of insurance and financial products, including auto and home insurance, general liability insurance for businesses of all sizes, employee benefits services for companies to provide to their staff, workers' compensation coverage, and mutual funds.  While it includes automobile liability coverage for individuals, it's probably encountered more often in auto accident cases as an insurer of business-owned vehicles and employee drivers.

The company's logo featuring a male deer (or "hart") with full antlers that is easily recognized from the company's many television commercials, often seen during sporting events – the company has sponsorships with several major league baseball teams, with professional golf, and with other sports.

Who is The Hartford Insurance?

The Hartford is about the 12th-largest property and casualty insurance company in the United States, with annual revenues of approximately $17 billion in 2017.  Its stock is publicly traded on the New York Stock Exchange.  The company has about 17,000 employees.

The Hartford has been around for quite a long time – initially founded in the early 1800s by several businesses in Hartford, Connecticut (where it is still headquartered) as Hartford Fire Insurance Company, the company expanded more rapidly in the early 20th century when it began offering more personal and business insurance products, including automobile liability coverage.

What Are Some Common Claims Practices of The Hartford Insurance?

Insurance companies will always do investigative work on the claims that are being presented to them.  In general, this is a perfectly reasonable and appropriate thing for them to do – they need to establish the facts regarding how loss incidents occurred, the injuries and property damages that were sustained, and the costs to the individuals and businesses involved.  Unfortunately, however, these investigative practices can sometimes go astray, either by becoming too intrusive into people's private lives and businesses or by using results from the investigations to inappropriately deny or limit claims.

One example of this involved alleged "over the top" use of private investigators by The Hartford, according to a report in the early 2010s by ABC News.  Several individuals interviewed for the report stated that video surveillance of them performing relatively innocuous actions – walking a dog, doing laundry, holding a toddler grandchild – was used to either reduce or terminate benefits being received.  According to the ABC News report, this was referred to state regulators in Florida for further investigation.

The Hartford also found itself the subject of a class-action lawsuit in its home state of Connecticut over its practices in steering auto bodywork to certain repair shops and in calculating the labor rates it required for repair work.

The Hartford is also one of the users of the Colossus claims evaluation software – the first and most widespread of several similar computerized systems for evaluating injury claims that started becoming popular with insurers in the 1990s, and which are now used by almost every large bodily injury liability insurance company.  These claims applications had the stated goal of simplifying and standardizing the process of putting dollar values on injury claims.  Unfortunately, as could easily have been predicted, there is no "one-size-fits-all" evaluation process for injury claims.  For the exact same injury, one person may require a minimal amount of medical treatment and expense to heal. In contrast, another person may require much more substantial treatment and medical bills.  Likewise, similar injuries may have many different impacts upon different people, with some being less affected by the pain and other symptoms, while other folks are more seriously impacted.

Autoaccident.com Cases, Settlements & Verdicts Against The Hartford Insurance

A few years back, our office represented an injured client who had The Hartford as the insurer for his small business, including coverage on his business delivery van.  He worked long, hard hours at his bakery business – a profession that turns out to be surprisingly demanding in physical terms – and put in lots of miles making deliveries to his customers.  During one early-morning delivery run, he was rear-ended at high speed on a local interstate by a drunk driver, after which his van spun out of control, impacting the center guardrail.

Our client suffered significant injuries from this incident, including a knee injury that required multiple surgeries, and that left him with arthritis developing in the joint, as well as two herniated spinal discs in his neck.  Even after nearly $100,000 in medical bills, a substantial amount of additional future medical care was being projected by his doctors, and it was clear that the physical demands of his job – including lifting and carrying 50-pound sacks of flour and being on his feet for most of the workday – just weren't compatible in the long run with the serious problems he was having, especially as he was then approaching the age of fifty.

Bodily Injury Liability Claim and Underinsured Motorist Claim

The insurance company for the drunk driver who caused the accident realized their driver's liability, as well as the severity of our client's injury as his medical treatment continued and his bills increased. They paid their full policy limits within a couple months of a formal settlement demand being presented to them.  After this, an underinsured motorist claim was submitted to The Hartford – our client's business insurer – for the remaining value of his injury claim.  A formal demand to settle the underinsured motorist claim was presented not long after the initial bodily injury claim had been resolved, however, The Hartford declined to make a reasonable counter-proposal for settlement.  The Hartford significantly and consistently undervalued the projected future medical expenses our client would incur and the severity and duration of the loss of future earning capacity he would suffer when the progression of his injury symptoms over time combined with the physical nature of his work would likely compel him to retire earlier than he would otherwise have done.

Uninsured and underinsured motorist cases follow a different path through the legal process than do bodily injury liability claims against the person(s) directly responsible for an injury.  Liability claims that can't be settled usually turn into lawsuits filed in court served on the defendants and then proceeding through the court process toward an ultimate resolution at trial (although the vast majority are settled before getting to trial).

Uninsured and underinsured motorist claims that cannot be resolved through settlement negotiations, however, follow a different path toward a binding arbitration in which an arbitrator – usually a very experienced attorney or a retired judge – makes the final determinations and issues an award.  The arbitration award is the equivalent in the arbitration process of a jury verdict in the court process.  Although the arbitration is a less-formal event than a trial, it can still be costly and intense, with various doctors and expert witnesses showing up to testify before the arbitrator (and having to be paid fees for their presentations).

The Right Experts Make the Difference

As it became clear that The Hartford was not going to offer full value on our client's underinsured motorist claim and that a binding arbitration might be necessary to fairly resolve the claim, we engaged expert witnesses to closely examine the likely costs of future medical care and the potential dollar value of our client's loss of future earning capacity.  These expert witnesses reviewed the treating doctors' predictions and recommendations regarding future medical care and likely degrees of disability and prepared detailed reports on those two topics.

Before taking the final step of going to binding arbitration – with the fees and some degree of risk involved in that --, the case was submitted to mediation, a less formal (and less costly) method of trying to resolve a claim.  Armed with these additional expert witness reports, we were able to secure a reasonable settlement with The Hartford in the form of an additional $300,000 for our client.

Even when they are using fair claims-handling practices, insurance companies like The Hartford do not part easily or willingly with $300,000 – in this case, as in most, only thorough preparation, persistence, and willingness to move forward to trial or arbitration will achieve good results for clients.  This is the type of service than an experienced personal injury attorney will and should be prepared to provide to clients.

For more on insurance companies' claim tactics, see the following links:

Photo by StockSnap

:GM cha [cs 1436]

Client Reviews
★★★★★
"Me and my wife; had a car accident. We were amazed how easy, professional, friendly attorney Ed Smith is along with his staff. Everybody is amazing. Thank you so much, we are very impressed!" Alex & Dinah M.
★★★★★
"Ed Smith and his office team took on a difficult personal injury case on my behalf and for the passenger in my car. Ed is a top- notch attorney. His staff couldn't have been more helpful and kind. No need to look elsewhere. I give Ed Smith my highest recommendation." Beverly
★★★★★
"Ed and Robert have been taking great care of my husband and I for the past 5+ years. They are always there when you have a problem and a quick resolution! Even when the issues have nothing to do with them. They are willing to help ease the pain off your shoulders. They are as good as it gets! Thank you again for everything." Annie T.
★★★★★
"Very professional. Great team, staff and service all around. Mr Smith was very honest, straight forward with his advice. He gives the word "attorney" an honest reputation. I will seek his council anytime, and would recommend him at the drop of a dime." Jeremy M.
★★★★★
"I would highly recommend Ed Smith to any friends or family in need of a personal injury attorney. Ed, and his staff, are very caring on top of being very experienced in this field. The staff always keeps you informed of the status of your case and they are always easy to reach by phone." Shannon D.
★★★★★
"Edward Smith law offices provide competent, thorough, and personable help for victims of personal injury. When you first meet the staff you know you contacted the right office. This law office treats clients like people. I recommend this office to anyone seeking representation regarding personal injury." David M.