STATE FARM: AUTO ACCIDENT CLAIMS AND SETTLEMENTS
Understating the case, State Farm is a big company. State Farm ranks 34th on the Fortune 500 and has a huge market share in the auto insurance market in the United States. Paradoxically, State Farm was started by a retired farmer in 1922. But it has blown up like Facebook: 18,000 agents and 68,000 employees handle more than 78 million auto, fire, life and health policies in the United States and Canada. In some markets, State Farm has double the market share of their next leading competitor. In Maryland, State Farm is second only to Geico in the automobile insurance market. Our attorneys handle claims against State Farm in Maryland and Washington, D. C. We also collaborate with lawyers throughout the country on State Farm insurance claims.
Settlement with State Farm in Auto Accident Cases
Our personal injury/accident attorneys find it difficult to make blanket generalizations when it comes to the ultimate question: can you get a fair settlement from State Farm without filing a lawsuit. But there are some things we can say with clarity. First, if you are dealing with State Farm Team 21 or State Farm Team 22 in Maryland/D.C – the two auto claims units in Maryland that deal with what State Farm perceives as “less serious” accident claims – it is unlikely that you will receive a fair settlement offer which approximates the fair value of the claim. Unlikely in this case means incredibly unlikely. These adjusters are largely putting their number in their computers and spitting out a value based on points in the medical records. Accident lawyers in Maryland waste a lot of energy fighting with these State Farm team adjusters and it is all for naught: they have high value for the case and they offer you between $500 and $2000 less than that value. That’s the full scope of their authority. Even if the adjuster agreed with you, it wouldn’t help much. Sometimes they will flat out tell you, “I know this offer is not good.” But, without a lawsuit, it is to no avail.
More serious claims are handled differently and the relative reasonable of settlement offers varies more from adjuster to adjuster, just as dealing with automobile accident claims with other insurance companies seems to vary from adjuster to adjuster. While some State Farm adjusters are amenable to early settlement of personal injury claims for a fair value, others are more difficult to deal with and our accident attorneys invariably expect to file lawsuits for their clients in order to receive a reasonable settlement or verdict.
Interestingly, the settlement offers for State Farm cases in Maryland generally increase, often doubling and even tripling as litigation runs its normal course. This happens because State Farm’s “in-house” attorneys, with some exceptions, tend to be more reasonable than State Farm’s adjusters. Why? The lawyers actually have to try the case as opposed to sitting in their office in Owings Mills preaching about how the claim has no value.
Values also increase for another important reason: State Farm begins to realize the accident victim refuses to accept an offer simply to avoid a lawsuit. This is huge because, litigation is on many levels a game of chicken. So the value of the claim increases as the trial date looms closer because State Farm, like other insurance companies, takes a more critical look at their arguments and defenses, then re-assesses the real merits of the claim. It is not at all uncommon for an insurance company to stipulate to their insured’s responsibility as the case progresses, even after denying all responsibility in the beginning.
How Does State Farm Value Injury Claims for Settlement Purposes?
State Farm, like most insurance companies, uses a computer program to assist with valuing Maryland auto accident cases. (Adding to its high tech arsenal, State Farm is now totally paperless in Maryland. The adjusters view scanned records and use those records to evaluate the injury victim’s medical records which – from most State Farm claims adjusters we have talked to, just makes life harder.) Computers are what computers are: efficient and often dead wrong. But the game is rigged – the computer is always wrong and it will undervalue claims but rarely does it overvalue claims.
State Farm typically undervalues all damages categories. More often than not, when it comes to future lost wages or medical bills, in order to recover the fair value of these types of damages, a lawsuit is necessary. In some cases, State Farm is simply unwilling to pay fair value on the claim based on common sense: The insurance company desires to review the evidence more clearly, which can only be accomplished during the discovery procedures normally included in all civil lawsuits.
It is also worth noting that elsewhere on this web site, our attorneys have written about insurance companies using records of the accident lawyers who are bringing the claims as a value driver in personal injury cases . This practice is no different with State Farm’s adjusters, but State Farm has no organized system used to determine the trial record of individual trial lawyers’ previous claims against State Farm.
Who Defends Lawsuits Against State Farm
State Farm’s claims adjusters are located in Owings Mills, Maryland. Two Maryland law firms handle the majority of State Farm cases: The Offices of Timothy S. Smith and Associates in Greenbelt and H. Barritt Peterson, Jr. and Associates in Towson. Both of these firms’ names lead you to think these are private law firms but all of the lawyers are State Farm employees. With some exceptions, most of these lawyers are top notch and they are reasonable people. But they answer to the State Farm claims adjusters in Owings Mills. So, unreasonable often carries the day. Which is why, if you look at auto accident verdicts in Maryland, you will see State Farm as the defendant insurance company more often than any other insurance company. They try tons of cases and take a lot of verdicts. If you hit a verdict beyond the policy, State Farm has no interest in fighting a bad faith claim. They will just pay the full verdict.
Is State Farm a “Good” Defendant?
State Farm is probably the worst draw among national car insurance companies with real market share in Maryland. Again, State Farm is taking a lot of cases to trial which in iteself is some indicia of being unreasonable. Then again, our lawyers take a lot of accident cases to trial too and I don’t think they are unreasonable. Ultimately, I think State Farm undervalues cases more than most insurance companies but, to its credit, it probably is also willing to try weak plaintiffs’ cases instead of just making higher offers to make these cases go away.
Two good things about drawing State Farm that come to mind. First, in uninsured and underinsured cases, the company will write a check for the last settlement offer it makes before trial, which is an incredibly reasonable policy that demonstrates some loyalty to its policyholders. Second, as we just said, because State Farm often sticks its chest out and gets burned by trying cases that should be settled, State Farm is generally willing to pay verdicts that exceed its insured’s insurance policy in cases where State Farm refused to offer the policy limits. This has happened a few times to our lawyers in recent years where we got a verdict in excess of the policy limits and State Farm
happily paid the verdict or settled the case beyond the policy limits.
Our Lawyers Can Help You With Your State Farm Claim
Our firm has handled hundreds of automobile accident claims against State Farm and has defeated State Farm at trial on many occasions. If you have been injured in an auto accident in Maryland or Washington, D. C. where the at-fault driver is insured by State Farm, or if you are filing an uninsured motorist claim against State Farm and you have a question about your claim or wish to file a lawsuit, call our Maryland car accident attorneys at (800) 553-8082 or click here for a free consultation.
- More Information on dealing with State Farm in accident claims
- State Farm Claims Phone Number – the toll free number we use when we don’t have a specific adjuster’s number is 888-613-3966
- How is My Auto Accident Case Evaluated for Settlement Purposes?
- Average Car Accident Settlements (what can I expect from my accident claim)
- Maryland Auto Accident Lawyer Blog (lawyer analysis of personal injury issues in Maryland)
- Baltimore Accident Lawyer Blog (Baltimore accident lawyer analysis of issues specific to personal injury cases in Maryland)
- Maryland Lawyer Blog (lawyer blog with a focus on Maryland accident and injury law)
- Accident and Injury Law Blog (blog discussing auto accident cases in Maryland and around the country)