August 14, 2012

Comedian Calls Out Progressive Insurance For Defending Sister’s Killer

Usually, internet outrage manifests in a sort of weird mob tossing ire at some average person for something minor — but this is one rage fest I can get behind.

Comedian Matt Fisher took to Tumblr to call out Progressive Insurance for (and it seems insane to even type this) defending the person who hit his sister with a car rather than pay out the money they owed for her life insurance.

Fisher’s post describes how his sister, Katie, was struck by another car while driving in Baltimore on June 19. She was crossing the intersection on the green light and the other driver ran a red light. Though there was no video evidence, witnesses say Katie had the light and the other driver’s insurance company settled immediately after looking at the facts — indicating that Katie was not at fault in the accident.

He continues:

Now, because the other driver was underinsured, that payment didn’t amount to much, but my sister carried a policy with Progressive against the possibility of an accident with an underinsured driver. So Progressive was now on the hook for the difference between the other guy’s insurance and the value of Katie’s policy.

At which point we learned the first surprising thing about Progressive: Carrying Progressive insurance and getting into an accident does not entitle you to the value of your insurance policy. It just pisses off Progressive’s lawyers. Here I address you, Prospective Progressive Insurance Customer: someday when you have your accident, I promise that there will be enough wiggle room for Progressive’s bottomless stack of in-house attorneys to make a court case out of it and to hammer at that court case until you or your surviving loved ones run out of money.

Progressive then refused to make the payment.

Then, get this:

Out of a sense of honor, and out of a sense of the cost of my sister’s outstanding student loans, my folks opted to try to go after the money through legal channels. At which point they learned another delightful thing. In Maryland, you may not sue an insurance company when they refuse to fork over your money. Instead, what they had to do was sue the guy who killed my sister, establish his negligence in court, and then leverage that decision to force Progressive to pay the policy.

Now my parents don’t harbor much venom for the guy who killed my sister. It was an accident, and kicking that guy around won’t bring Katie back. But kicking that guy around was the only way to get Progressive to pay. So they filed a civil suit against the other driver in hopes that, rather than going to court, Progressive would settle. Progressive did not. Progressive made a series of offers (never higher than 1/3 the amount they owe) and then let it go to a trial.

At the trial, the guy who killed my sister was defended by Progressive’s legal team.

If you are insured by Progressive, and they owe you money, they will defend your killer in court in order to not pay you your policy.

So on top of their daughter’s death, these parents had to sit through a trial they didn’t even want to have. And the person at fault was defended by the insurance company that was supposed to cover Katie. Just…wow.

Since Fisher made the post, it’s gone viral with tweets from other comedians as well as celebs with large Twitter followings like Wil Wheaton and Felicia Day. There’s been an outpouring of support and a call to boycott Progressive. The story’s been picked up by Gawker and the Daily Mail.

In response, Progressive tweeted:

“This is a tragic case, and our sympathies go out to Mr. Fisher and his family for the pain they’ve had to endure. We fully investigated this claim and relevant background, and feel we properly handled the claim within our contractual obligations. Again, this is a tragic situation, and we’re sorry for everything Mr Fisher and his family have gone through.”

They have since deleted these tweets. Progressive will eventually have to pay Fisher’s family, but the way Katie’s death was handled was so horrific, her brother’s desperate and frustrated post should make the company reconsider how it does business.

In this case, I say, thank goodness for the internet.

PS: Although her face is synonymous with the brand, let’s not blame the perky Flo for this. She’s played by a fellow comedian. I’d be flipping out if I were her right now. TC Mark

image – Wikimedia Commons

Gaby Dunn

Gaby Dunn is a writer, comedian, journalist and Jesse Eisenberg enthusiast living in Los Angeles. Email her at: …