Colossus is a computer program that values traffic collision claims for at least half of the insurance claims in the United States.

Colossus was first licensed and popularized by Allstate in the 90s. Allstate turned to Colossus because they wanted to standardize claims. Allstate also turned to this program because it was billed as a means save money on payouts. The system also identifies those lawyers who will not file a suit and are willing to settle for the best offer that they can get.

There are two similar products widely used by insurance companies: "Claims Outcome Advisor" (made by Insurance Services Office) and "Claims IQ" (made by Mitchell International.) Mitchell also sells "Mitchell DecisionPoint," a similar software program that helps insurance companies determine if they should pay the doctor's entire bill in PIP/med pay claims.

Colossus' system employs a hidden and secret rules-based system to convert a series of inputs about the nature and severity of injuries into a relative numeric score of conscious pain and suffering. There is nothing wrong with this in premise. All civil claims are about reducing the human experience of suffering into a dollar amount. It is the that Colossus was developed and is used that is unfair to personal injury victims.

How Colossus Values ClaimsColossus

Colossus considers a number of preliminary matters before looking at your individual case. It considers whether your attorneys have a record of taking their cases to court if they get an inferior offer or whether they always just take the best offer given by the insurance company. It considers the jurisdiction in which the claim arises. Importantly, the program contains approximately 600 injury codes representing the various types of personal injuries that can occur. These injury codes have a "severity value" and assigns money for each severity point the plaintiff "earns", so to speak. It performs a calculation to attribute severity points to plaintiff's claims. It also conveniently ignores that there are over 12,000 ICD-9 codes used by health care providers to classify or categorize injuries.

How Colossus Actually Works

The premise behind Colossus is not awful: human pain and suffering can be converted to a numeric score (the computer calls it a "severity score") by a system of rules that are applied evenly so that the value of the case did not rely on the subjective judgments of the adjuster. Colossus has over 10,000 rules to determine the questions the system will ask the adjuster to generate a payout.

The insurance companies don't really understand these 10,000 rules. They don't care. They just know that they generate outcomes evenly in a way that advances their mission of paying out as little as possible.

After consideration to the attorneys involved and the settlements and verdicts in the venue, the system counts up the points and computes a dollar value. There is no question that a big value driver for the formula - and for juries, incidentally - is a permanent injury. They at least get this part right.

Tips on Each Insurance Company

By using this system, insurance companies will try to decrease the value of your claim, and will not take into consideration in its evaluation the X-factors: stress, pain, inconvenience, loss of enjoyment of life, loss of consortium (relationship), inability to participate in the things that you enjoy most, or any number of other things that a juries and even judges will consider.

Essentially, the problem with any data driven calculation is the that it cannot take the place of humans understanding of human suffering. A computer just cannot get that. These is no input for "unbelievable agony and horror." Artificial intelligence is just that: artificial.

Occasionally, this paradoxically helps clients because these computerized systems that compute approximate values for cases incorrectly assume that a specific injury had a greater impact on the patient than it really did. Sometimes we will get a particularly unsympathetic client who was not impacted a great deal by what happened to them in spite of the clear documentation of pain and hardship in the medical records. This client actually does better with such an unfeeling system.

But more likely, the opposite occurs. There is no calculator that can value the pain and suffering, how an injury really impacted a person's life. Accordingly, your counsel must adequately articulate why your case is different or be prepared to file suit and begin the real battle. Judges and juries listen to and consider many of the factors that this formula ignores because it does not understand them. Maryland juries make distinctions based upon whether or not they think the plaintiff is an honest good person who has suffered as a result of their injuries. Tragically, this program barely distinguishes between a heroin addict and nun. Juries definitely get the difference. Mathematical calculators don't.

In fact, Maryland juries are really the antithesis of these data driven programs. A jury might not award damages for a L4/L5 lumbar (back) herniated disc. The medical terminology and the treating doctor's explanation of the injury might not resonate with them. But that jury comprised of human beings will award money damages because the injury victim's back hurts so much that she cannot hold her 18 month-old daughter without pain. No rules-based computer program can computer that loss human suffering.

Making Colossus Even Worse: Insurance Companies

Many insurers take this flawed computer system and rig it further against plaintiffs by pulling out higher-cost claims from data that spits our the results. So if you are pulling numbers to put into the system, you pull out the outlier jury verdicts - which have an huge impact on averages - and large settlements that would increase the valuations.

It is classic "garbage in, garbage out" in terms of who the claims are valued. These insurance company use Colossus as a "cost containment" as a weapon to increase profits even more at the expense of injury victims, including their own insureds. Colossus also has the flexibility that allows insurance companies to fine tune the results. Numbers are coming back higher than the insurance company thinks they should? Well, you can just arbitrarily reduce the claims by a given percentage across the board.

Colossus encourage adjusters with very little medical training to second guess the patient's treating doctor. Some adjusters are encouraged to alter important details of medical reports and select injury codes that will yield smaller settlement offers. The best way to do this is encouraging the adjuster to screw around with the final prognosis codes. The dynamic here is clear: a bad computer evaluation system is being engineered to give even lower results.

2014 Update: Colossus Steps Boldly Out of the Closet

Back in the old days, discussion of Colossus with insurance companies was taboo. Sure, the "cool" adjusters who talk out of school would mention in with breathless secrecy. But generally when you tried to call out the adjuster or joke about it ("What does Colossus... I mean you, think of this case?") you got little to no response. Well, now it is out in the open. Adjuster talk about it openly. I guess they figure every lawsuit that can be filed over Colossus has been filed so we can now stop trying to sweep it under the rug.

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