ATLANTA — It's bad enough when a car wreck leaves you injured. But a Channel 2 consumer investigation reveals it can get worse depending on the insurance company that's supposed to pay the medical bill. The company that got consumer investigator Jim Strickland's attention: Allstate.
Insurance giant Allstate told Strickland he shouldn't air his story. Strickland interviewed an insider about the company's practices in dealing with crash victims and why if the driver at fault has Allstate insurance, victims can expect big delays and puny payment offers.
In its television commercials, the "Mayhem" pitchman says Allstate will better protect you. But what if you're hit by an Allstate client?
"I whipped my steering wheel to the left and my wrist was literally like this when I fell into it," Tesha McGee told Strickland as she showed how a car accident injured her wrist.
Allstate insured the driver who nearly T-boned McGee. Her wrist injury is permanent. She uses mild shock therapy to relieve the pain. McGee says the pain of her case also lingers.
"These people have the money to pay and they want to wring you out till there’s no more juice left," McGee told Strickland through tears.
Allstate refused a settlement offer. In court, a jury ordered Allstate pay McGee far more than the settlement she proposed. It took two years.
"If you get hit by ‘em, I hope you got time," McGee said.
"Allstate’s the worst. Easily," attorney Laura Johnson Bailey told Strickland.
For more than two years Bailey was an Allstate staff attorney. She says low-ball is the game they most often play.
"This is what we think the offer should be. This is all that we’re gonna offer. If you don’t like it, go to trial," Bailey said.
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Bailey is now at Morgan and Morgan, Atlanta's and the nation's largest personal injury plaintiff's firm. The local office filed 423 auto crash suits in the first nine months of 2019.
Industry records show Allstate has less than 10% of the market, but nearly 30% of Morgan and Morgan's lawsuits. In the cases that went to trial, Allstate had more than 40%, four times their market share.
"It’s not so much a recent uptick in this tactic. It’s been more of a slow slide. It just keeps getting worse and keeps getting worse," Bailey told Strickland.
By contrast, Morgan and Morgan's Atlanta numbers show State Farm has a third fewer lawsuits, but more than twice the business.
"I mean it’s just absurd," Bailey said.
Allstate refused to go on camera. The company didn't deny the numbers, but said they're "too small a sample size to draw an accurate conclusion." Allstate says their "practices comply with applicable laws," including damage claims.
"They fix it to the cheapest way possible to get on to the next one," car accident victim Debi Carey said.
Carey and her husband John want Allstate to buy back their 2017 Nissan Pathfinder. A rear end collision was far worse than it looked -- it severely damaged the SUV's frame. An Allstate network shop repaired it for $11,700 and change. An independent shop estimated the cost at more than $19,000, if it could be fixed at all. The difference prompted the couple to inspect the Allstate-sanctioned repair.
"You’ve got a lot of plastic filler or what people refer to as "Bondo" in the structure of this vehicle," auto collision shop owner Kevin Moreland told Strickland.
Moreland's shop, Sugar Hill Auto Collision, is Nissan-certified. He says the filler hides welding that's not to factory specification. Uni-body welds are supposed to penetrate both sides of the metal. Moreland showed Strickland welds that were not restored to factory design. Moreland said Nissan would not pass the fix.
"They wound up with a repair that was inferior, incomplete, unsafe," Moreland said.
The company said "we guarantee the quality" of repairs from Allstate network shops. Allstate says it’s still working with the Careys on a resolution.
"Why didn’t they service the customer? They just left us out there," John Carey said.
Ten years ago, the American Trial Lawyers Association named Allstate the worst insurance company in America. The study hasn't been updated, but Strickland asked Allstate if they'd made any changes to improve their ranking. They didn't address it.
Statement from Allstate
“We live to protect our customers and the things that matter most to them. That’s why settling claims fairly and in a timely matter is so important us. We paid 235,000 claims in Georgia last year, many of which were settled with just one phone call or a few taps on the Allstate app. It’s why we continue to be among the top protection companies in America.”
- The data represent too small a sample size to draw an accurate conclusion. We paid more than 235,000 claims in Georgia last year, many of which were settled with just one phone call or a few taps on the Allstate app. Data provided by one firm in one market collected over a few months can't be used to accurately draw the conclusion in this report. We are highly regulated and subject to market conduct exams by insurance departments across the country, including Georgia, and our claim adjustment practices comply with applicable laws and regulations.
- Body shops have no view into injury handling. Injuries are evaluated independently from vehicle damage, and body shops are not involved in that process. Relying on a body shop owner as a source for how injury claims are handled, which has nothing to do with vehicle repair, is troubling. We ensure safe and quality repairs by honoring our customers' choice in repair shops, and when customers choose shops that are part of the Good Hands Repair Network, we guarantee the quality of that repair.
How many of the 235,000 claims were liability claims involving injury?
How many injury claims were settled with a phone call or a few clicks?
Allstate does not publicly report this information. That said, we handle each claim fairly and promptly based on its unique circumstances.
Also, you did not address the unsafe repair on the Carey vehicle.
To protect the privacy of our customers, Allstate doesn’t comment on the specific details of a claim, but we are continuing to work with our customer on this claim. Allstate ensures safe and quality repairs by honoring our customers’ choice in repair shops, and when customers choose shops that are part of the Good Hands Repair Network, we guarantee the quality of that repair.