USAA: Auto Accident Claims and Settlements
USAA is a major player in the car insurance market in Maryland and around the country. The idea behind USAA is to offer insurance to people in the military that are serving or have served and their families. USAA is based in San Antonio, Texas and all of their auto insurance adjusters appear to be based there. It is easy, based on the way they pitch it, for USAA to believe that USAA is some sort of non-profit company that serves the military. The reality is that they are an insurance company and their ownerw receive a profit. In 2012, USAA had the second largest profit in its history, bringing in over $20 billion in revenue.
Settlement with USAA in Car Accident Cases
Our accident lawyers find it difficult to make blanket generalizations about how reasonable USAA is for settlement purposes. Some insurance companies you can expect to be fair; others you know will not be fair. USAA is a different animal. It is difficult to predict in an individual case whether USAA will be reasonable because, in spite of its reliance on computer based case evaluation software, values of claims seem to vary more widely by adjuster than most insurance companies.
USAA is more willing than some of the major insurance companies to dramatically increase their offers after a lawsuit has been filed. USAA is not the only insurance company that does this. But with USAA, if you don’t settle the case right after the lawsuit is filed, you are probably less likely to settle the case – if it settles at all – until the settlement conference right before trial. Our accident lawyers don’t know exactly why this is, but it is hard not to notice the obvious: USAA defense lawyers, as discussed below, are paid by the hour.
This is not the only potential theory as to why cases filed in court usually settle shortly after filing, or not until the trial gets closer. The value of all accident insurance claims increase as a trial date gets closer because insurance companies take a more critical look at their defense of the case and the real quality of the accident victim’s claim. More times than our lawyers can count an insurance company stipulates to liability before trial after spending over a year denying the claim was their driver’s fault.
How Does USAA Value Injury Claims for Settlement Purposes?
USAA, like many insurance companies, uses a computer based program, Colossus, to assist in placing an amount of money on an accident claim to compensate the victim. USAA evaluates the victim’s medical records and bills and decides how much treatment it thinks was necessary for the accident and what the fair value is of (1) the medical treatment, (2) past or future wage loss and (3) the victim’s pain and suffering. USAA, like most insurance companies, typically undervalues all of these categories before a lawsuit is filed.
- Review sample USAA settlements and verdicts
Who Are the Lawyers Who Defend Lawsuits Against USAA?
Among the major Maryland car insurers, USAA is the only one that has eschewed the modern paradigm of having in-house counsel (at least in Maryland). Instead of having attorneys that are USAA employees defend accident lawsuits brought against its insureds, USAA hires a Maryland lawyer in each case to defend individual accident claims. Whatever the basis for this economic decision, USAA certainly spends more money defending individual accident claims than the other major insurance companies in Maryland.
In Maryland, USAA is frequently defended by Moore & Jackson (Towson), Law Offices of Frank Daly (Hunt Valley), Law Office of J. Thomas Caskey, and Myers, Rodbell & Rosenbaum (Riverdale/Gaithersburg). This is, by and large, a pretty good group of insurance defense lawyers.
Is USAA a Good Insurance Company to Bring a Claim Against?
Our attorneys would not pick USAA as a model defendant by any stretch. This company has stubbornly defended many claims that we thought should have been settled sooner for a price at which we later arrived. Nothing is gained by going through the litigation process for the sake of going through the litigation process. But, as mentioned above, USAA will surprise you more often than many other insurance companies by offering a reasonable value to settle an accident claim without the need for filing a lawsuit. It depends on the type of case, the jurisdiction, the USAA adjuster handling the claim, and the nature of the injuries.
Based on our experience with USAA and from looking at jury verdicts in USAA cases, it almost seems that USAA is more likely to take a case to trial against its own insured making an uninsured or underinsured motorist claim than it is when a third party is making a claim against them. Why would this be? In Maryland, plaintiffs are largely capped at the policy limits in uninsured motorist cases. If the insurance company takes a verdict in excess of the policy limits, it may be liable for the entire verdict. USAA, by the way, would strongly disagree with the assertion that it treats its own policyholder worse then those that make claims against their insureds. We are not saying it is a conspiracy against their own insureds but that the economic exposure might lead USAA down this path.
Our Lawyers Can Help You with Your Accident Claim Against USAA
Our law firm has handled hundreds of auto accident claims involving USAA and has defeated USAA at trial many times (see below for a newspaper account of one of our victories against USAA). If you have been injured in an automobile accident where the at-fault driver is insured by USAA, or if you are filing an uninsured motorist claim against USAA, and you have a question about your claim or wish to file a lawsuit, call us at 800-553-8082 or get a free on-line USAA claim evaluation and consultation.
- USAA's Refusal to Acknowledge the Collateral Source Rule
- Sample USAA PIP Application
- Sample USAA Settlement Release
- Maryland Daily Record Article on One of Our Law Firm's Victories Against USAA
- Valuing Car Accident Claims (how much is your case worth?)
- Is There a Formula to Calculate Personal Injury Accident Settlement Value? (discussion of whether there is a formula to calculate what should be the amount of a personal injury settlement in a car accident and malpractice case).
- Handling USAA Accident Claims Without a Lawyer (tips for personal injury victims)
- Maryland Accident Lawyer Help Center (samples of everything and anything a car accident lawyer needs to handle an auto accident lawsuit against State Farm)
- Handling Your Property Damage Claim (tips for auto accident property damage claims)
- Sample Demand Letter (letter to insurance company for compensation by settlement)
- Personal Injury Frequently Asked Questions (questions about accident claims against USAA and other car insurance companies)
- Dealing with Insurance Companies (analysis of individual insurance companies)