A judge has accused an insurer of endangering public safety and covering up evidence in a car crash lawsuit.
Insurer accused of covering up evidence and endangering public safety
A 1996 motor vehicle crash that led to nearly 20 years of legal battles between the crash victims and their insurer has resulted in the insurer being ordered to pay $18 million in punitive damages, according to the Reading Eagle. The case, Berg v. Nationwide, is believed to be the largest punitive damages amount awarded in Pennsylvania history. The Berks County judge in the case severely criticized the conduct of the insurance company, accusing it of endangering the lives of drivers and pursuing a policy that put profits before public safety.
The crash occurred in 1996 when the plaintiff’s Jeep Grand Cherokee was struck by a Subaru. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, a mechanic decided that the Jeep would need to be completely replaced. Without telling the plaintiffs, however, the insurer insisted on a second opinion to avoid replacing the vehicle. Instead of paying the $25,000 to replace the Jeep, the insurer paid only half that amount for repairs.
A whistleblower who worked for the garage, however, later told the plaintiffs that their vehicle was unsafe and would come apart in a crash. The discovery led to years of legal claims. The Berks County judge in this case said the insurer put the lives of the plaintiffs at risk and endangered the safety of other drivers on the road.
Strategy to fight small claims
The insurer, however, instead of admitting any wrongdoing and replacing the car, spent the next decades spending $3 million defending itself when it could have just spent $25,000 to replace the vehicle in the first place. According to court documents, the insurer had a policy of aggressively defending itself against small claims in the belief that most plaintiffs would simply give up rather than spend years pursuing a claim.
The Berks County judge, in awarding the $18 million punitive damages to the plaintiffs, also accused the insurer of covering up evidence, concealing information from the plaintiffs, and hiding photos of the crash scene. Sadly, one of the plaintiffs, a woman who was in the Jeep during the collision that led to this lawsuit, lost her battle to cancer shortly before the ruling. The insurer has vowed to appeal.
Motor vehicle accidents
While a motor vehicle accident is traumatic in itself, in many cases, as the above story shows, the real battle comes when victims try to fight for the claims that they are rightfully due. Insurers, as seen above, may go to seemingly absurd lengths to avoid paying out on a claim.
In the case above, the insurer was finally held to account because of the tenacious and dedicated work of personal injury lawyers, who stuck with the case for years despite the aggressive tactics adopted by the insurer. This story shows just how important it is for anybody injured in a car crash to have the best legal representation possible. With proper legal guidance, victims of a car accident will have the help they need when pursuing the compensation and justice they deserve.
Keywords: motor vehicle accident, car crash, right to recovery, insurance