you and the law | How an Auto Insurance Company Shouldn’t Act Part 2 – Times-Standard

“In June 2021, you got a hysterical article about a parking lot accident at a Jack in the Box in St. Louis, Missouri, which involved a cast of characters adapted to Saturday Night Live,” an email began from ‘ Eddie ‘, a retired State Farm insurance claims manager on the East Coast.

“It was about the owner of a driving school who, without looking, backed up from a parking space and entered a car belonging to a 21-year-old university student. The driving instructor admitted his fault, but my former employer, State Farm, jerked this poor girl off for months.

“Your story has provided a great education for consumers on how an insurance company shouldn’t act and has circulated widely among my former colleagues who are embarrassed by what happened.

“You indicated that the student was going to sue the driving school instructor in small claims court for material damage and promised to keep us informed. What was the end result?

New motto for State Farm: The company that pursues you!

To recap, college student Allison Ashbrook was offered $ 1,700 by State Farm to total her car which had a current value of nearly $ 5,000. Claims adjuster Ahron Espino sent a letter here stating that she was 25% responsible for “inattention and failing to take avoidance measures”, even though their insured admitted her fault.

Oddly enough, Espino referred to California insurance regulations, even though the accident happened 3,000 kilometers away in Missouri! This led to Allison finding my column and contacting me.

I left voicemail messages for driving instructor Patrick Gilfoy urging him to bring in his lawyer and tell State Farm to settle the case so he doesn’t get sued. Apparently this never happened.

To small claims court

If I cause an accident, my insurance company is obligated to settle the claim – or at least try in good faith – so I don’t end up in court. Especially if I own a driving school, it doesn’t look good to me to be sued for causing an accident, does it? Do you think State Farm cared about Patrick’s reputation as a driving school owner and instructor?

Allison filed a lawsuit in small claims court with a complaint to the Missouri Department of Insurance. They contacted State Farm, and guess what? She receives a letter saying, “We have reconsidered and you are zero percent at fault!” “

Don’t confuse me with the facts, just dismiss your lawsuit!

Even though State Farm has admitted that its insured was 100% at fault, Allison receives a letter from Gilfoy’s attorney, Theodore G. Hughes, who works for a law firm that represents State Farm: “Patrick denies all claims in the filing of small claims, and would like it to be rejected.

“He also called, was condescending and didn’t offer to compensate me at all!” (At least he’s consistent, hanging up on me when I tried to discuss the case.) But in court, he admitted the accident wasn’t my fault and said I didn’t. should get that $ 2300 if I keep my car.

The Small Claims Court judge awarded him $ 4,300 plus court costs. But State Farm refused to pay it!

“Finally, I located their corporate responsibility manager in Missouri and sent them a copy of the judgment. I received their check a few days later.

Failed in his duty to Patrick

St. Louis attorney Cassie Bulgaski, who handles bad faith insurance cases, was happy that Allison was finally paid and has comments on the case that anyone with auto insurance must know.

“The State Farm attorney was hired to represent the best interests of his client, the insured, and not the best interests of State Farm, and this is something that should upset Patrick.

“His client’s best interest would have been to pay the young woman so that there would be no possibility of judgment against him. Although State Farm paid the claim, it will still show up on a credit report and a search on Missouri that it had a judgment against it and could potentially cause trouble for its business, future customers, etc.

“Shame on State Farm for allowing it to go this far. Shame on them for letting in weak judgment when everything could have been avoided. They paid a lawyer to appear, they should have made better use of the funds spent. for the lawyer and just pay the claim, on the contrary, they were more interested in being in litigation.

What my reader learned from this experience

I asked Allison, “What did you learn from all of this? “

“Insurance companies don’t care about the audience, no matter what their TV ads are. I learned how to put my case together and put it on. By disseminating your column, newspapers offer invaluable value to their readers with such useful information! Thank you, Mr. Beaver.

Thanks Allison for contacting me.

Dennis Beaver practices law in Bakersfield and welcomes comments and questions from readers, which can be faxed to 661-323-7993 or emailed to Also visit

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Justin D. O'Neill