State Farm is the largest property and casualty insurance company in the United States, boasting annual revenues well over $ 60 billion a year. State Farm and GEICO combine to garner nearly 40% of the Maryland car insurance market.
Accordingly, our law firm has had a lot of cases against State Farm. In fact, almost half of our trials in car accident cases in recent years have involved State Farm. I really can't think of insurance company that we have a better sense of how they will handle an auto tort claim than we do for State Farm.
Below is a list of often asked questions about fighting this insurance company for settlement and at trial by Miller & Zois attorney Ron Miller. You can learn more about how to battle this insurance carrier here.
Question: State Farm says they are a "good neighbor." This tells me I can trust them when I am making a claim against them. Can I?
Answer: No, you cannot trust State Farm. Listen, State Farm is largely an ethical insurance company. But can you trust them to pay you fair value for a car accident injury claim? Absolutely not. It is not that this insurer is dishonest. It is that it just places very little value on human pain and suffering. It also reflexively assumes your injuries must be from something other than your automobile accident. So I guess State Farm is a "good neighbor" unless you want money from them because you have suffered an injury and it is obligated to pay for the harm.
Question: Where is the claims representative who is handling my case located?
Answer: This insurance carrier has regional claims centers throughout the country. Almost all of the Maryland claims are handled in the Owings Mills office. (Update: is changing in 2016 because State Farm is phasing out the Owings Mills office and moving the claims to State Farm hubs around the country.) I've been there. It is a drab, dreary place. One of the good-natured adjusters there said it has a "modern prison" feel to it. That's not far off.
Question: When can I be nearly 100% certain I will get an unreasonable offer?
Answer: If you get assigned to a "team" your claim is not being taken seriously. In Maryland, State Farm has Team 21 and Team 22. Less experienced adjusters handle these claims. These adjusters are given limited authority beyond making a settlement offer that is far south of the real value of the case. When you file suit in these cases, you get another adjuster and usually a significantly higher offer.
Question: How does State Farm justify its ridiculously low offers?
Answer: First, it is worth pointing out that many adjusters do not try to justify or explain their offers. Sometimes the adjuster does not defend the settlement offer and just says, "You know how we are." State Farm will deny claims any way imaginable. Here are some common ways it does this:
- Blame your injuries on a previous problem from which you have fully recovered
- Claim your medical bills are too high. Yes, you thought Johns Hopkins was one of the world's greatest hospitals. But State Farm will say their bills were too high, and they gave you way too much unnecessary treatment
- You really were just not hurt in the first place and, if you were injured, you are all better now and you are just pretending that you are not.
- It is just not worth that much. I can't tell you how many cases we have had with State Farm where we agree on everything except what the value of the case should be.
Question: Are all of the State Farm claims adjuster jerks?
Answer: They are not. Many of them are very decent people, and I like a lot of them. But there is no question that many of them have swallowed the "All plaintiffs and their lawyers are bad" Kool-Aid. I'll never forget one adjuster who was having a lot of physical problems that took him out of the office. I have had some cases with this adjuster. I like the guy and I felt for him. He explained his problems in painstaking detail. Then we went back to talk about a severe injury case. He clearly had zero sympathy for the pain and suffering of the victim. He could feel his pain and probably could feel the pain of his neighbor. But a plaintiff? No way.
Question: Does the offer increase dramatically when a suit is filed?
Answer: Filing suit against State Farm often increases the settlement offer. But State Farm is far more willing to spend legal costs in civil discovery by taking depositions before increasing their offer substantially. More than ever, we see State Farm come up with last minute offers before trial that are far higher than they originally valued the case. Still, I would rank State Farm #1 for guts in going to trial even if it risks a verdict that far exceeds the value of the insurance policy.
Question: Will State Farm let my case go to trial or will they back down and settle the case before trial?
Answer: How bold State Farm will depend on what the sticking point in the case is. If the dispute is over liability -- who caused the accident -- this insurer will often stick to its guns. If the dispute is over how much money agreed upon injuries are worth, State Farm rarely lets these cases go to trial, at least in Maryland.
Question: Why is State Farm more willing than other insurance companies to go to trial?
Answer: There is no way to know. Many personal injury attorneys just call it "Snake Farm" and assume that they are evil and stupid without any further analysis. The real answer is more nuanced.
If you look at jury verdicts -- particularly ours, actually -- you are left with the impression that State Farm is foolish to take cases to trial where there is such a good chance they will lose big. But State Farm may have a far more global strategy. State Farm aims this "war policy" at plaintiffs' lawyers. The message is clear: if you don't take our awful settlement offer, we are going to make you go to trial.
You have to understand that a lot of lawyers call themselves a "car accident attorney" on the Internet but have never tried a case to verdict. (They should call themselves "settlement lawyers" if they want to be more explicit.) This message of war probably has a real impact on these attorneys.
The reality is also that many victims try to bring a claim without a lawyer, often because they cannot find a lawyer to take the claim. The average victim faces overwhelming odds against getting fair compensation without an attorney.
Question: If I get a jury verdict that exceeds the State Farm insured defendant's policy limits, will it be a good neighbor and pay it?
Answer: They might. What will happen in an excess verdict situation depends on the facts of that particular case. But here in Maryland and with Miller & Zois in particular, State Farm usually does stand behind its' insured if the company decided to take a risk of a verdict that exceeds the policy limits.
Question: Is State Farm a "better neighbor" in uninsured or underinsured motorist cases.
Answer: I think they are a little bit better with their customers. State Farm would deny it. (We can't even agree on when they are not awful.) But I think they are less likely to call their paying customers liars. If you file suit against State Farm in an uninsured motorist case in Maryland, they will often send you a check for the last offer they made which operates as a set-off for any verdict you get against them.
Question: Should I hire a lawyer to fight State Farm?
Answer: You always need counsel in any serious injury case. There is too much at stake, and the ranges of the values of the case are just too high not to have an advocate fighting for you. Elsewhere on this site, we say in smaller cases you might not need a lawyer, depending on the case. But with this insurer, you are probably always better off hiring a lawyer if you want to maximize the value of your case.
Question: I just have a property damage claim and want to contact State Farm. What is their telephone number?
Answer: 800-STATE-FARM (800-782-8332)Hiring a Lawyer to Fight State Farm
Our attorneys handle serious injury auto accident cases in every corner of Maryland throughout the entire Baltimore-Washington area. Miller & Zois has a long history with State Farm. We have skills and the resources to beat them when representing people that are genuinely hurt.
If you have been injured in a motor vehicle accident and want an advocate who will fight for you, call us at 800-553-8082 or get a free claim evaluation.