settling hawaii auto injury claims
What to Expect when Settling Injury Claims with Hawaii Auto Insurance Companies
By far, the largest auto insurance company in Hawaii is Geico. 26 percent of all auto insurance policies in Hawaii are with Geico. (See the Insurance Information Institute for more information). It seems like most auto accidents involve someone with Geico insurance. Many times both of the vehicles involved in the accident have Geico. As the largest insurer in the State, Geico can set the trend for how much injury claims are valued at. In our experience in settling claims with Geico for almost fifteen years, Geico has been the most consistent company. They have consistently offered lower end settlement offers for our clients’ injuries. For example, if an injury is worth $20,000, Geico will usually try to settle the case for about half that amount, around $8,000-$10,000. Some of the better insurance companies in Hawaii will offer closer to $20,000 and some of the worst companies will offer closer to $5,000. So, basically, Geico is on the lower end, but at least they aren’t the worst.
Geico seems to run “the tightest ship”. In other words, most of their adjustors offer basically the same amounts. Rarely we’ll come across a Geico adjustor who offers something a lot higher or a lot lower than what the other Geico adjustors would offer. Geico clearly has a very strong system set up in which the adjustor’s valuations are reviewed and approved by various supervisors and managers.
Some insurance adjustors will eventually cave in if you negotiate with them long enough, but not Geico. Geico adjustors rarely cave in an give you what you ask. They are very stubborn and are clearly not allowed to just offer what they want to get the case settled.
It does seem that Geico may have some sort of bonus structure as it seems that Geico adjusters tend to be more motivated to settle cases at the end of the year.
We do almost always get cases with Geico settled. They seem to know that magic number that can get cases settled. For this reason, we will usually accept cases involving Geico as long as the potential client appears to sound reasonable with what amount they expect for a settlement.
State Farm is the second-largest car insurance company in Hawaii. They have 19 percent of the market share. As such, it seems like quite often State Farm is one of the insurance companies that we have to deal with to get cases settled. Unlike Geico, most of State Farm’s insurance adjusters are on the mainland. They seem to be spread out between Arizona, Washington, and Georgia.
Sadly, State Farm usually offers even less than Geico for injury claims. Where Geico would offer $8,000-$10,000 in a $20,000 case, State Farm will usually offer $6,000-$8,000. Geico has been consistent over the past decade, but State Farm has gotten a little worse. We used to get better settlements with State Farm. Now, it seems that they are offering a little less each time. We really hope this trend does not continue. We are already being a little more cautious when accepting cases involving State Farm. If they get much worse than we will have to almost always turn down cases against them.
USAA is the third-largest auto insurer in Hawaii at 12 percent . USAA is probably the most tragic of them all. They used to be one of the best companies out there. We used to almost always get good settlements with them. Unfortunately, over the past couple of years, they have gotten worse and worse. The only reason why we’re still taking cases against them is that they are currently inconsistent with the amounts they offer. Some adjusters are still offering fair amounts even though others are offering very unreasonable amounts. Referring to our prior example, for a $20,000 case, sometimes we get $15,000-$18,000 offers. Then, with other adjusters, we’re getting $4,000-$6,000 offers. So, for now, it really depends on which adjustor you end up with. We’re sure that they will eventually get this fixed and will be more consistent. We’re just hoping when they figure out how to be consistent, they’ll also decide to be reasonable.
Sorry, but we also have very bad news about Allstate. Don’t worry, some good news is coming up below. Allstate is the fourth-largest insurance company in Hawaii with 9 percent of the market. Allstate is also one of the bad companies that offer low amounts of injuries. Their adjusters are on the mainland. The problem with dealing with adjusters on the mainland is that they don’t understand how high the cost of living is in Hawaii. Because of the high cost of living, Hawaii’s claims should be valued higher. Allstate has an in house counsel lawyer assigned to Hawaii. As such, they aren’t worried about going to Court because they already have a lawyer on the payroll. In general, Allstate offers $4,000-$6,000 for a $20,000 case.
Finally, the news starts to get a little better. Progressive is the 5th largest insurance company in Hawaii with 7 percent of the auto insurance policies. Thankfully, Progressive is more reasonable than the others. In a $20,000 case, Progressive usually offers $10,000-$16,000. Yes, this is a large range. They aren’t really consistent. It depends a little on which adjustor you end up with. We don’t usually have any issues taking cases involving Progressive as we can usually get reasonable settlement offers with them.
Farmers are number six in Hawaii with almost 7 percent of the market. They’re in the same boat as Allstate and State Farm. In other words, Farmers usually offer unreasonable amounts. For a $20,000 case, you’re looking at somewhere around $4,000 to $7,000.
Back in the good old days (5-10 years ago) Farmers was one of the only bad insurance companies that we would try to stay away from. Well, Farmers is still bad, but tragically, a couple of other insurance companies have joined them in the bad company club.
First Insurance has 5 percent of the market share in Hawaii making it the seventh-largest company. We usually get very good settlement offers from First Insurance. They’re one of the smaller companies in the State, they aren’t consistent. However, it seems that their adjusters have a lot of latitudes to get cases settled. Some of our better settlements have been with First Insurance. It’s just too bad they’re one of the smaller companies so we don’t get to deal with them very often.
Liberty Mutual is the eighth largest auto insurance company in Hawaii with 5 percent of motor vehicle insurance policyholders in the State. Liberty Mutual is like Progressive in that there is a wider range of settlement possibilities. Sometimes the settlements with them are reasonable and other times they’re pretty good. It depends a lot on which adjustor gets assigned to your case. We’ll usually take cases against Liberty Mutual because we can usually get decent settlements with them.
Last, but not least, is Island Insurance with 3 percent of the market share. They are very similar to First Insurance. We usually get very fair settlements from them. We can only hope that they can get more customers so that we can settle cases with them more often.
One of the complicated parts of an injury case in Hawaii are medical liens. Most of us have health insurance and we think that our health insurance company simply pays the bills they receive and will never ask to be reimbursed for bills that they’ve paid. This assumption is usually true; however, one exception is when you’ve been involved in an auto accident in Hawaii. The medical insurance companies in Hawaii such as HMSA, Kaiser, and HMAA, have clauses in their insurance contracts which state that if you’ve been injured in an accident and you receive compensation for those injuries, then you have to pay them back for the bills that they’ve paid. The initial reaction by most people is that this isn’t right. You pay your health insurance premiums and expect your insurance company to pay the bills and not ask to be reimbursed when you settle your injury case. We can also look at it from the medical insurance company’s point of view: they lost money because of the bad driver so they think they have the right to be compensated for their losses.
These health insurance companies hire collection companies to try to get the money back that they’ve spent on someone’s injuries due to an accident. The agents for the collection companies receive commissions based on how much they get back for the health insurance companies. One of the techniques of the collections companies is to do anything they can to get the information about the car insurance companies involved in the case. Their main goal is to place a lien on the case with the car insurance companies. Once a lien is placed on the case, then the car insurance adjusters won’t settle the case unless the injured person agrees to have them take out the medical lien amount from their settlement proceeds and pay the collection company the amount they’ve requested.
We do everything that we can to get the collection companies to discount the amounts that they’re requesting. If the collection company has placed the car insurance company on notice of their lien, then it is very difficult to get them to reduce their lien. This is because they know that they are in a position of power. They know that the case can’t be settled until their lien is resolved. In these situations, they will usually only reduce their lien by about 10 percent at the most. If the collection company hasn’t placed the car insurance company on notice, then we are in a much better position to get them to reduce their lien amount. This is because they know that we’re the ones in the position of power. When we settle the case the client will usually request that we hold funds from the settlement in our client trust account to resolve the outstanding liens. We can then take as much time as we need to get the collection company to reduce their lien. In these situations, we can usually get them to reduce their lien by about one third.
This is an area of law that is constantly changing. There was a recent Hawaii Supreme Court decision which greatly limited the ability of the health insurance companies to get compensation for the medical bills that they paid. Whether the health insurance plan is an ERISA plan or not makes a big difference in how much of the medical bills have to be paid back.
Medical liens from Med-Quest (Department of Health Services) are supported by statute; but, the good thing about Quest liens is that they are required to be reduced by one third. Quest liens are known as super liens because statutory law requires that they are paid back.
Medical liens from Medicaid, Medicare, and Tricare are also considered to be super liens because federal law requires that they are paid.
Each of these different health insurance companies and government agencies has different processes and procedures for requesting reductions and paying back liens.