Travelers Indemnity Co. Willfully Misled Plaintiff on Policy Coverage
WATERTOWN, SD. – After experiencing catastrophic injuries in a car accident, Laura Dziadek was informed by Charter Oak Fire Insurance, which is owned by Travelers Indemnity Co., that she was not insured or covered under the policy when in fact she was covered. The insurance company’s behavior prompted a federal jury to order Travelers to pay Dziadek compensation for denying her insurance claim and making her live without $900,000 she was entitled to under the policy, as well as punitive damages.
The people who handled the claim at Travelers were accused of committing deceit, fraud, and acting in bad faith when they withheld information that confirmed Dziadek was entitled to coverage under a $1 million insurance policy. The jury found Travelers acted with deceit and awarded Dziadek $750,000 in compensatory damages, $200,000 in interest, and an additional $2.75 million in punitive damages. Punitive damages were meant to deter Travelers and other insurers from engaging in wrongful practices in the future.
“Insurance companies have a responsibility to fully and fairly investigate insurance claims and inform individuals of coverage that is available when a claim is made,” Liam Culhane, attorney at Turbak Law Office, said. “To intentionally withhold details that confirm coverage exists after the insurance company has been paid for both the coverage and the service related to the coverage is deceit. Sometimes insurance companies engage in this kind of unfair insurance claim practice because they don’t think the insured will pursue legal action, and if an insurer can get away with it – the profits are huge.”
The vehicle that Dziadek was a passenger in when the accident occurred was owned by a company that had a $1 million policy for underinsured motorists. In 2009, Dziadek’s lawyer received a letter from Travelers informing Dziadek that she was not covered by the policy, effectively denying her insurance claim. Later that year, after requesting a copy of the complete policy, Dziadek’s lawyer received a copy of the insurance policy that did not include the underinsured motorist coverage. Travelers’ lawyers claimed it was a coincidence that what was provided to Dziadek’s lawyers ended on the page immediately before the pertinent coverage started. Once Dziadek filed a lawsuit against the company, Traveler’s paid the claim. By that time Dziadek had experienced serious hardship from her impaired physical condition and financial hardship associated with not having the coverage to pay for her losses.
When insurance companies unfairly delay or deny a claim for compensation, policy holders need to know their rights as well as the rules and regulations insurance companies are required to follow when evaluating a claim. If an insurance company misrepresents the facts of the policy or fails to fulfill the contractual benefits of the policy without a reasonable basis, they may be acting in bad faith or purposely being deceitful, similar to the behavior Travelers was found to have committed in this case. There are different rules for how insurers must treat policy holders that the average policy holder does not know, and that many lawyers do not even know about. These rules favor policy holders, but if you don’t know about them, your insurance company may not be giving you the benefit of the rules, and that can make the difference between coverage and no coverage.
This is the kind of case Turbak Law Office, P.C. handles and wants you to know about. This particular verdict was earned by our colleague and good friend, Mike Abourezk.
About Turbak Law Office, P.C.: A plaintiff’s only personal injury law firm in Watertown, South Dakota, Turbak Law Office advocates for people across South Dakota, never the insurance companies. Our cases cover a wide range of situations: people who experience unreasonable delays, discounts, or denial of their policy holder’s claims for compensation by insurance companies, families grieving the wrongful death of a loved one, workers left disabled by a catastrophic on-the-job injury, individuals hurt in a car crash by the carelessness of another, and whistleblowers coming forward with evidence of fraud, waste, or abuse. For more information, visit turbaklaw.com or call 866-231-0914.