The ordeal began on a seemingly ordinary morning, January 23, 2020, when a red light violation led to a serious accident, leaving the plaintiff with a fractured thumb and a torn ulnar collateral ligament. An ambulance in the area witnessed the defendant's vehicle running the red light and T-boning the plaintiff's vehicle, provided medical aid at the scene, and recorded their observations in the ambulance call report. As a result of the impact, the plaintiff fractured his left thumb, and tore the ulnar collateral ligament, requiring surgery. While such incidents are typically followed by insurance claims and settlements, the plaintiff's journey through the legal and insurance system became anything but typical.
GEICO's Misconduct During the Pandemic
As the world grappled with the pandemic and its consequences, courts and other institutions slowed down, creating a backlog of cases and limited resources. It was in this environment that GEICO's handling of the plaintiff's claim raised serious concerns. The plaintiff accused GEICO of using the pandemic as an excuse to delay and deny a legitimate insurance claim, engaging in a series of questionable tactics:
- Initial Misrepresentation: GEICO initially promised to tender their insured's policy upon receiving specific documentation, but reneged upon receipt of these documents, starting a pattern of delaying the claim process.
- Delaying Tactics: GEICO subsequently delayed the claim by continuously asking for further information and documentation, some of which were difficult or impossible to obtain due to the pandemic, thereby hindering the claim's evaluation.
- Ignoring Key Evidence: Despite acknowledging the receipt of an ambulance recall report, GEICO did not evaluate or discuss liability, claiming the need to contact the ambulance company for clarification. However, they never contacted the ambulance company.
- Forcing Plaintiff's Hand: The plaintiff was compelled to hire an investigator to obtain a statement from the EMT, confirming GEICO had not made contact, incurring additional costs.
- Claim Handling and Bad Faith Allegations: Then the GEICO adjuster admitted to assigning the claim to a particular adjuster to avoid a bad faith claim. They also claimed the plaintiff's injuries were pre-existing and not serious, without providing evidence, and then made irrelevant requests for the plaintiff's employment records.
- Using Pandemic as an Excuse: GEICO then refused to complete their evaluation of the claim, citing the need for physical therapy records, which were unavailable due to pandemic-related business closures.
- Demanding Unnecessary Legal Action: GEICO then demanded that the plaintiff file a lawsuit, which would transfer the claim to another adjuster.
- Ignoring Plaintiff's Efforts: Despite the plaintiff obtaining and providing necessary records, GEICO delayed responding and requested additional, unrelated documents.
- Raising Unfounded Previous Claims: GEICO brought up a prior accident involving property damage but no bodily injuries, which they had known about for months but did not act upon, further delaying the process.
- Breakdown in Communication and Complaint Process: The plaintiff reached a breaking point and attempted to file a formal complaint, only to be met with further frustration as the GEICO adjuster refused to acknowledge the complaint and misrepresented their identity.
- Racial Commentary and Mental Health Impact: When the plaintiff expressed concerns to GEICO about potential racial bias and unequal treatment in the handling of his insurance claim, specifically questioning if the treatment differed based on the race of the claimant and the socioeconomic status of the accident location, the response from the GEICO adjuster was misleading. Despite being white, the adjuster claimed to be black and did not address the plaintiff's concerns about racial disparities. Instead, she diverted the conversation and advised the plaintiff to file a lawsuit.
The adjuster engaged in a pattern of frivolous and bad faith conduct following the accident laying the foundation for a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress, including dilatory tactics, misrepresentations, and racial commentary. During the handling of the claim GEICO relied on the pandemic to shirk their responsibilities, employ delay tactics, interfere in attempts to file complaints, misrepresent their role and identity, encourage litigation, and imply the plaintiff should expose himself to the unnecessary harm of contracting COVID-19 in order to receive full compensation for his injuries. To prevent this type of harm from happening to anyone else in the community, the plaintiff brought suit directly against GEICO, seeking compensatory relief in the form of money damages, equitable relief in the form of the implementation and/or revision of a system to monitor settlement practices, as well punitive damages to deter this type of conduct in the future.
$100,000 policy tender from defendant for pain and suffering.
$10,000 from GEICO for Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress.
Dennis Smith, of Law Offices of Dennis Smith, represented the plaintiff during this lawsuit.