Car Accident - Confidential Settlement Property Damage - Grandmother Stings Farmers' Insurance in Small Claims Court
Connie Matthews, a 69-year-old grandmother from San Lorenzo, was in a horrible auto accident on the San Leandro (880) Freeway in July 2007. When Farmers Insurance Co. tried bullying her and her attorneys over a few hundred dollars of damaged property, Connie fought back.
Connie had gone on a shopping spree in the days before her accident for her grandson who was about to be married. She bought everything from clothes and towels to little knickknacks and stored them in the trunk of her car. Connie's car was hit by a woman who was trying to pass her on the freeway. Connie's Honda Accord veered off, flipped several times on an embankment and landed back on the freeway.
"It was a mess," she recalls. "All my stuff was strewn all over the freeway. I was lucky to have made it alive. But I lost all the things I'd bought and had in my car."
Connie was indeed lucky to survive the crash. Her pelvis was broken in two places and she had to learn to walk again. Her daughter contacted Bisnar Chase Personal Injury Attorneys to represent them. John Bisnar and Supervising Paralegal Marta De La Torre handled Connie's case. They were able to settle the personal injury part of the case, but Farmers absolutely refused to reimburse Connie for the items of personal property that she clearly lost in the crash.
"The evidence was overwhelming," Marta says. "There were photos that showed the trunk had opened during the crash and everything had spilled out."
But the Farmers' insurance adjuster was unrelenting. Even thought they had settled the personal injury portion of the case fairly, he was unwilling to pay Connie the reasonable value of the personal property items that were destroyed in the accident.
"The adjuster was clearly taking advantage of the situation," Marta says. "He was trying to bully Connie and us into taking much less than she was entitled to because they knew it was much too expensive for us to go to trial over a few hundred dollars"
But that's nothing new, she says. Insurance companies do that all the time, especially with property damage claims, according to Marta. To add insult to injury, the adjuster offered Connie a measly $200.
"We weren't even asking them to cover other things she had lost in the accident, such as her eyeglasses and a number of CDs," Marta said. "All we were asking for was $500, to cover the items she had bought from the store and lost in the crash."
But the Farmers adjuster didn't budge and Connie and Bisnar Chase Personal Injury Attorneys were not willing to be taken advantage of even though there was no real economically viable way for the law firm to pursue Connie's rights.
"How could that man not see all the clothes hangers, plastic bags and towels strewn about on the hillside?" Connie asked. "I was so mad. This man just wasn't being very nice. He was rude and demeaning and wasn't going to give me anything for my losses."
Marta says she even tried to reason with the Farmers' adjuster.
"I tried telling him that women do this all the time," she said. "We shop for days and leave stuff in the trunk for a few days. That's exactly what Connie did. She was shopping for her grandson's wedding. Why was this so hard to understand?"
Finally, when nothing seemed to get through, the Bisnar Chase Personal Injury Attorneys team decided it would be in Connie's best interest to go to small claims court where justice is quick and inexpensive. Marta discussed the idea with Connie and then helped her with the process.
"We advise our clients sometimes in property damage cases to go to small claims court, where they can effectively and economically have their case heard," Marta said. "In Connie's case, we thought the evidence was very clear. The photos showed everything and I believed that was more than enough evidence to convince a judge."
So Connie, accompanied by her daughter, went to small claims court and sat down with the adjuster and a court-appointed arbitrator to deal with the claim. Connie said the arbitrator helped the adjuster understand that the evidence was sufficient to convince a judge. The adjuster finally agreed to pay Connie $2,300 - more than four times of what she had originally requested.
"I could've gone for more, but that meant I needed to go back before the judge and wait for hours," Connie said. "My daughter and I were exhausted and quite satisfied at the time with $2,300. It covered most of what I'd lost."
Connie said she was disgusted by the Farmers Insurance Company and their actions.
"It was educational for me," she said. "All these years, I'd been paying premiums to the auto insurance company hoping that they will be there for me at my time of need. But they didn't want to give me anything."
With Bisnar Chase Personal Injury Attorneys taking care of her insurance hassles and paperwork, Connie said, she had the time to physically recover from her considerable physical injuries.
"They were so nice to me," Connie said. "I would refer them to anybody. They genuinely cared about me. I had a birthday last week and they all sent me a real nice card that all of them had signed. That's a special law firm."
This was her first experience dealing with a law firm, Connie said.
"I'd heard horror stories from others who had to deal with attorneys," she said. "But Bisnar Chase Personal Injury Attorneys took care of everything for me - medical bills, paperwork and talking to everybody concerned. They also kept me well-informed about what was going on."
Marta always feels good after she helps a client get what they deserve.
"I love helping our clients get what they are entitled to," Marta says. "I can't stand it when an insurance company tries to take advantage of people like Connie. Mr. Bisnar always preaches to us, 'Do the right thing by the client and our rewards will follow.' We just had to be a little more creative in this case and it worked out great."
Our attorneys and paralegals take their cases personally. A win or loss for the client is a win or loss for us. But above all, it's about making things right.
"For me, it's a personal thing," Marta says. "In Connie's case I wasn't asking for anything extra, but I was asking for what she rightfully deserved to get. It's about doing the right thing and sometimes that means, making insurance companies like Farmers do the right thing even when they don't want to."