YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Payment of Insurance Claims

June 27, 1986

As one of the jurors in the case referred to by J.H. Uke (Letters, June 5) and in reference to Superior Court Justice Robert Satter's article (Editorial Pages, May 28), "How To Keep Damage-Award Jurors From Going Wild," I believe there is a complete misunderstanding of juries when they present high damage awards.

The explanation given by Uke in the specific case she cites does not deal with the explanation advanced by the attorney for the plaintiff. I quote her words: "that punitive damage awards weren't just for this couple's humiliation and anguish but for the thousands and thousands of cases where people don't get prompt and fair settlements."

I presume that Uke was unaware that the person who did the damage was a high or middle employee of the insurance company. If, the plaintiffs were willing to settle for $10,000, then why did it take seven years and a law suit to get action from the insurance company?

The 12 people on the jury were primarily office people, pretty familiar with and knowledgeable about the type of "buck passing" available in any company. According to the testimony from present and former employees of the insurance company involved, they themselves were unable to explain why there had been such a seven-year delay, and in particular, when initially the plaintiff's had offered to settle for $10,000.

None of jurors seemed to be aware that this particular "bad faith" case was tried under the new California law requiring insurers to negotiate claims fairly and promptly. But our thinking was clear: Seven-years delay in view of the "excuses" of the witnesses, showed that the insurance company was not willing, for reasons of its own, to settle with the insured. That, to us, was "bad faith."

Uke's statement as to whether we understood that insurance companies exist on premiums charged. Of course, the answer is yes. We did give some thought to this, but in no way were we able to consider a seven-year delay in settlement to be fair.

Another question as of today is: Does paying out claims depend in part on the "interest earned" by the insurance company on the money they delay in paying out?

Interesting to note, there was no delay whatsoever, in the effort by the insurance companies to draft Proposition 51, so as to try through other means to avoid paying penalties, richly deserved by claimants.

The whole idea of fairness in paying insurance claims and in adjusting individual premiums fairly, are really two parts of the same problem: fairness to victims, instead of maximizing profits for the insurance companies.

I, too, am a buyer of insurance and I too find the premiums extremely high.

In view of what I, as a citizen and a juror, learned about the case and about the delay as brought out in the trial, the insurance companies are more guilty than we, the so-called "Wild Jurors."


Los Angeles

Los Angeles Times Articles