Progressive Insurance Demonstrates How Not To Use Social Media In A PR Crisis

08.14.12 22 Comments

“Hey thanks so much, Progressive Insurance!” — Chick-Fil-A.

As you may have noticed, Progressive Insurance — the company mascotted by the annoying, awful “Flo” — is the new Chick-Fil-A on the internet, thanks to a Tumblr post by comedian Matt Fisher detailing how the company switched sides and represented the motorist who killed his Progressive policy-holding sister in court in an attempt to save a few bucks. Here’s how Fisher explained what happened after an under-insured driver ran a red light and killed his sister in Baltimore in 2010.

One indication that the case was pretty open-and-shut was that the other guy’s insurance company looked at the situation and settled with my sister’s estate basically immediately. 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.

Which is what Progressive decided to do to my family. In hopes that a jury would hang or decide that the accident was her fault, they refused to pay the policy to my sister’s estate.

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.

Oh boy. And if that all weren’t bad enough, Progressive has inspired even more rage by responding to outraged web denizens over and over with a generic statement probably prepared by their team of lawyers.

The full statement reads…

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.

Jesus, insurance companies are THE WORST, aren’t they? If you haven’t had one try to f*ck you in the arse yet a) consider yourself lucky and b) get ready because it’s coming. For this reason I’ll never be able to wrap my brain around why some people are so hell bent against their healthcare decisions being made by government bureaucrats — I’d much prefer that the person deciding whether or not I can receive an expensive cancer treatment be a bureaucrat rather than someone working for a for-profit company who’s likely rewarded for pinching pennies. Send me to the government “death panel,” thank you very much.

Finally, for better insight into how awful insurance companies are, read this account of a former Progressive Claims adjuster

I worked for Progressive Insurance as a claims adjuster for a while. It was just after I had gotten out of college (which is an important detail) and I wasn’t sure what to do with my life, but knowing I needed a job. It was and remains the worst working experience I’ve ever had in my adult working life and I have a totally different, actually not health problem inducing career now. All insurance companies exist to evade paying their policy holders but as far as I can tell, Progressive takes it to an all new level of shit-covered hell.

To wit:

Progressive has a business model basically designed to insure anybody and I do mean anybody. They will insure drivers who maybe gotten one speeding ticket in the last 15 years as easily as they’ll insure someone with multiple DUIs and at-fault accidents. I am not kidding when I state that they’ll insure someone who purposefully ran down and killed two children in a custody dispute. I know because I read the claims notes for the policyholder, when they had unremarkably gotten into another at-fault road-rage incident while out on bail and awaiting trial for murdering his kids. This, I’m ashamed to say, was not actually the worst claims situation I ever had the fortune to be involved in.

Adjusters are hired straight out of college, in large part. They like to do this because they do want people who have very limited professional experience. It’s mainly so you never talk back and feel so very lucky when they throw you a bone like free Flo swag! as a reward for pulling down 80-90 hour weeks. The work is relentless. You don’t get days off, as you’re expected to work from home the minute you get home from the office on weekends and holidays. Snow days? Fuck that, they don’t care if its too unsafe for other people to be out driving. You better come in or you’ll be fired this minute. Quotas are set for you in terms of productivity goals that no human being can consistently make so when you fall behind, they get smug enjoyment from benevolently letting you keep your job today- but watch out, they’re most likely to fire you tomorrow. Your claims load is relentless. It never ends. You cannot keep up with it and you are told, cajoled, and sometimes ORDERED to settle or close down claims even if you know that Progressive should do being doing at minimum something more for the policyholder or claimant (if our driver is at fault).

My supervisor was a hateful woman, who regularly picked fights with people on the phone to reduce people to tears, belittled policyholders so viciously it was stomach churning, and denied claims when we were OBLIGATED to pay because she got off on being heinous she-bitch with a god-complex. If the person escalated the situation to fight back at their treatment, that was fine because another department would handle it. And by handle it, just put them through a hamster wheel of mind-numbing, machine-like, Groundhog Day antics to wear them out and run them off. Basically, middle management at its finest.

I have stood in auto salvage yards among the crushed remains of rollover fatality accidents, watching the policyholder’s next of kin sob as they retrieve their blood spattered purses, CD wallets, shoes, and other personal affects from the vehicles. After you put them through that misery, you then get to inform that we’re tossing a few hundred bucks their way like some benevolent despot or sometimes squat, even though their policies actually should pay more. Sometimes they’re too shattered by what has happened that they can’t even react to another indignity in the whole unseemly affair. Sometimes they explode in inhuman rage and try to attack you (yep, that happened and not just once).

I have been screamed at, had my death wished on me, had the suffering and agony of my loved ones prayed for, physically threatened, and actually told that they would find me and kill me in my sleep– all because I’ve been ordered to do the bare and insulting minimum for every claim that came across my desk. I’ve listened to the sobbing, life rendering tales of parents who’ve lost children, spouses who’ve lost partners, parents who have lost children and the best I’ve been forced to tell them compliments of my supervisors was something like: “I’m sorry for you loss. This was a terrible tragedy. There’s nothing more I can do. I can transfer your concerns to another representative…” only to dump them in voicemail purgatory, where those designated to deal with them next just don’t.

So that any of this has happened to the blogger and his family is not a surprise in the most nauseating sense. I finally quit after the stress of the whole thing was making me lose sleep. I was sick constantly for the 3 years I worked for Progressive. I had heart problems. I gained 45 lbs. from eating my feelings from the stress of basically treating everyone you came across like dogshit and then being treated like dogshit as an employee of the company. All corporations are basically banal epicenters of greed and evil but as far as I can tell, Progressive is the polestar of American corporate evil.

P.S. 9 out of 10 Progressive employees fucking hate Flo and would love it if the character fell down a well and was never seen again.


UPDATE: Progressive released a statement this afternoon denying that they are the bad guys here…

I’d like to take this opportunity to explain Progressive’s role in this complex case. First and foremost, our deepest sympathies go out to Kaitlynn Fisher’s family.

To be very clear, Progressive did not serve as the attorney for the defendant in this case. He was defended by his insurance company, Nationwide.

There was a question as to who was at fault, and a jury decided in the Fisher family’s favor just last week. We respect the verdict and now can continue to work with the Fisher family to reach a resolution.

–Chris Wolf, claims general manager, Progressive

(HT: Gawker)

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