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 Farmers Insurance Plays the ‘Death Card’ Game

85-Year-Old Katherine Shea a Victim of Company’s Greed

The next time you pay an insurance premium maybe you’d like to know that your check contributed to the $1.1 trillion in net premiums written annually by the insurance industry in the United States.

The quid pro quo is suppose to be or, at least that’s what  we’re all led to believe should we ever need to file a claim, that the insurer will live up to its part of the bargain.

Well, that would seem to depend with whom you’ve struck that bargain.

Or you’re in an accident and the other party who caused it is insured by Farmers Insurance.

In Katherine Shea’s case, the 85-year old aunt of San Diegan Dan Shea, Farmers is playing the “death card” game. What this means is that if Mrs. Shea dies before her claim is settled, the claim dies and Farmers will have walked away having paid out  nothing.

Mrs. Shea’s accident took place Aug. 3, 2011, on a two-lane highway in Franklin County. Mo.  A 17-year-old boy missed a curve and slammed his SUV into Mrs. Shea’s Ford Taurus. The boy admitted fault at the scene, at his deposition and at trial. He suffered only minor injuries.

For Mrs. Shea, it is quite another story. Her car was crushed, the accident caused extensive trauma to her body, requiring multiple surgeries to both her body as well as to her brain. She spent over five months in medical facilities in Missouri, is no longer able to live independently, was forced to sell her home in Sullivan, Mo., needs a wheelchair except for short walks using a walker and now lives with another nephew in Spokane, Wash.

Her hospital bills reached $800,000 but rather than be responsible and own up to their client’s fault, Farmers denied and delayed, refused to negotiate and finally offered Mrs. Shea a low-ball settlement, far less than the $800,000, a move which would have left her penniless.

After endless  delay tactics, the issue went to trial, forcing Mrs. Shea to travel back to Missouri, not to determine fault which had already been established, but  for Farmers to try getting out of paying the claim.

After four days of trial and four hours of deliberation last October, the jury  returned a verdict of $2.162 million in Mrs. Shea’s favor. She also  is entitled to pre-judgment interest of $100,335. However, the present value of Mrs. Shea’s care requirements, as presented by her expert at the trial, is approximately $2 million.

Farmers and Nationwide Insurance, which is also somewhat involved in representing the party at fault, are still fighting Mrs. Shea’s claim and the jury verdict. They have yet to pay her a dime.

Farmers and Nationwide have asked the judge for a new trial and have said they will appeal the verdict if a new trial is not granted.

Farmers, according to the Center for  Justice, is the seventh worst insurance company in the U.S. when it comes to paying legitimate claims filed against it.

“Hardball tactics for an 85-year-old woman  in a broken body is tantamount to elder abuse,” said Dan Shea, adding that before you have an accident, “make sure you understand your coverage because, believe me, they’ll be looking for ways out.”

For Dan, this issue is larger than being just about his aunt and his family. “I will litigate her interests to the end. This is about the tens of thousands of people who can’t defend themselves against insurance companies who conduct themselves this way.”

Jon Swallen, a longtime insurance industry observer who is chief research officer for brand tracker WPP Kanter Media, called  the insurers who won’t pay Mrs. Shea, “depraved, immoral, shameless and evil.”

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