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Monday, August 20, 2012

Progressive Goes to Court to Defend Man Responsible for Policy Holder's Death (Updated)

Posted By on Mon, Aug 20, 2012 at 2:11 PM

Disbelief? Us too.
  • Disbelief? Us too.

Update II: It seems Matt Fisher's blog post is having an actual effect on Progressive's business — an eye-widening example of social media flexing it's muscles.

After the Wall Street Journal got hip to the story, they tapped a social media tracker to rake through the online mentions regarding the family's troubles and Progressive. From the paper's story:

More than 1,000 people on Twitter claimed to have dropped Progressive as their insurer in a four-day span last week, an analysis by social-media tracking firm Crimson Hexagon shows. Another 1,600 or so expressed a desire to not do business with the company, according to the analysis, which was conducted at the request of Dow Jones Newswires.

Crimson Hexagon said 23% of the tweets were spreading the news about the incident. Another 22% were classified by the analysis as expressing some variation of “Progressive is an awful insurer.” The analysis said 19% expressed a desire to disengage with the brand, while 11% claimed the incident had already made them drop Progressive as their insurer.


Update: Late this afternoon, Progressive's Claims General Manager Chris Wolf released a statement challenging Fisher's account, according to Gawker. Specifically, the insurance giant points out the driver who killed Katie Fisher was defended by Nationwide. The web site has confirmed this through court records, but:

Additionally, Wolf, the Progressive rep, doesn't address the fact that Progressive's in-house attorney, Jeffrey R. Moffet, reportedly assisted the defendant's lawyer, or the fact that court documents clearly state that, on May 19th of last year, Progressive was granted an allowance by the Circuit Court for Baltimore "to intervene as a party Defendant."


There is a lot of bureaucratic muck you have to push aside in order to get even the simplest fender-bender through the insurance company process. But when the accident in question is a serious one involving a death, the hoops multiply, and the company you've paid for coverage might end up working against you.

That worst-case scenario is exactly what unfolded for the family of New York comic Matt Fisher. According to a post from his Tumblr that's getting a lot of page views, Cleveland-based Progressive Insurance is the villain in the troubling tale.

Fisher's sister Katie was killed in a car accident in 2009. Eyewitnesses said the crash wasn't her fault. The offending driver responsible was underinsured, meaning his company didn't have a lot to cough up once they settled — which they did immediately. But as part of Katie's policy, it came to Progressive to pay out the difference between the driver's insurance and her own.

But legally the family couldn't get the company to pay. That meant the Fisher family had to take the driver to court. When the family got to the courtroom, they were in for a shocker.

From Fisher's post:

At the trial, the guy who killed my sister was defended by Progressive’s legal team.

If you are insured by Progressive, and they owe you money, they will defend your killer in court in order to not pay you your policy.

The trial was a real shitshow for my parents, and I did not love it either. As it happens, the jury did find that the other driver was negligent, which, if justice or decency are priorities for Progressive, will result in them finally honoring Katie’s policy. At this point, I hope you’ll forgive me if I wait for it to actually happen.

So that's where we are today, except for this endnote: After Fisher put up his post on August 13, the piece was passed around, and a lot of people began understandably trolling the Progressive Twitter account (@Progressive). The company ended up meeting each complaint about Katie with simple, an automated response:

This is a tragic case, and our sympathies go out to Mr. Fisher and his family for the pain they've had to endure. We fully investigated this claim and relevant background, and feel we properly handled the claim within our contractual obligations. Again, this is a tragic situation, and we're sorry for everything Mr. Fisher and his family have gone through.

(h/t Gawker)

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