USAA is 5th in market share in the Maryland, historically garnering between 5% and 7% of the state car insurance market. But USAA does not make up 5-7% of the auto torts our firm handles. Why? The most likely explanation is that USAA drivers are, as a whole, are better than average drivers.
But our law still sees USAA on the other side of cases quite often. We have dealt with USAA in hundreds of personal injury cases and have tried a number of cases against this insurance company. We know them well.
Below we try to give you some of our thoughts on dealing with this carrier to get a personal injury settlement. You can also look at our analysis of USAA and get tactical tips on how to resolve claims with this sometimes obstinate company.Frequently Asked Questions
Question: USAA says if I do not like the offer, I can go to trial. Do they mean it?
Answer: Probably not. USAA rarely takes cases to trial. We have not had a case in several years and the last reported USAA jury verdict in Maryland was in 2012. This is clearly an insurance company that strongly prefers to avoid trial. This strategy is pretty smart. Pick off the plaintffs who fear trial with pre-suit settlements and then resolve the rest before a jury can hammer them. When USAA does let a case go to trial, it is usually not a very good case. We tried a case against USAA in 2007 in Baltimore City [this is the Maryland Daily Record article on that case] on behalf of a USAA policyholder where they significantly undervalued the case. They have not let a case go to trial with us since that verdict.
Question: Where is the adjuster who is is handling my case located?
Answer: The adjusters you deal with in Maryland are actually based in San Antonio, Texas.
Question: I'm a USAA policyholder bringing a PIP or uninsured motorist claim. Can I expect them to be fair with me?
Answer: Okay, there are a couple different ways to answer this question. First, I think USAA is sometimes unfair to its policyholders. Keep in mind that USAA has settled more than one class action lawsuit that alleged USAA denied medical benefits for injured policyholders who have PIP or other medical-payments coverage on their USAA car insurance policy. So, sometimes the company is just plain unfair. We think that at times USAA "we represent the military" causes the public to place more trust in this insurer than they deserve. Think of it this way: their CEO made over $5 million last year. Do you know any four star generals who are bringing in $5 million a year. This is not the military. This is a company trying to make money. There is nothing wrong with that. But let's call it what it is.
Question: So USAA is just a bad insurance company?
Answer: We definitely would not go that far. First, we are dealing in the world of relativity. Insuarnce companies, as a breed, are difficult to deal with because they want people to pay premiums and make no claims.
In relative terms, State Farm or GEICO, for example, are far more difficult to deal with than USAA.But the larger point is that you have to understand that insurance companies have a world view that is just different from victims. It does not make them evil. It just means they don't believe in fair compensation as personal injury lawyers define it. It is how they see personal injury cases. Do you think Mitt Romney and Barack Obama would trust the other to run the country well? The same is true with USAA and victims.
USAA is not an awful company but their view of what the fair value of a claim should be before a suit is filed is far less then we think... or, more importantly, with what we think a jury will think. Why? They just don't think personal injury claims are worth all that much.
But let's give a dissenting view. We got this in the form of an email from someone claiming to be a former USAA employee on September 18, 2015:
"You are SO right about USAA. There are even more tactics that you don't even know about. If my confidentiality agreement did not prevent it, I would shout it out from the top of every mountain. I am a former USAA employee and I've seen and know first hand how they evaluate and settle auto 3rd party liability injury claims. Keep up the good fight because they are just a pig with lipstick on; no more; no less."
You can take this for what is it worth. We do not think USAA is a particularly bad company by insurance company standards. But that might not be saying much. They all want to take advantage of you and pay you as little as possible.
Question: How does USAA evaluate PIP and other no-fault claims?
Answer: The use USAA Auto Injury Solutions/Concentra (“AIS”) program which includes audits of medical bills submitted to USAA for payment under the first party medical coverages of USAA automobile insurance policies.
Question: Why does USAA often wait until a lawsuit is filed or a trial is near before making a reasonable offer?
Answer: Basically, what the insurance company does is a gut check of two people: you and your lawyer. Largely, USAA knows your attorney's history because it uses, as we discuss below, a computer program that evaluates your lawyer as a part of your overall case evaluation process. But many lawyers and victims get cold feet when it comes to filing a lawsuit or walking into court to try the case. USAA sometimes wants to wait it out to see who blinks first. Eventually, as we talked about above, USAA will blink eventually. But from a strategy standpoint, they want to drag it out to see if you will cave in first.
Question: How does USAA evaluate claims?
Answer: USAA uses as a guide an insurance program called Colossus. It is probably the most debunked computer program in human history that continues to be used by its customers. It seems the computer has a lot of bugs in it but - surprise! - the mistakes push the settlement values one way: down.
Question: What is this about Colossus evaluating my lawyer?
Answer: One smart thing Colossus can do is bake the quality of your lawyer into the settlement offer. The big thing insurance companies want to consider is whether the lawyer or law firm is willing to take a case to trial, evidenced by whether they have a track record of doing so. So insurance adjusters want to slice that analysis even thinner. Is the lawyer willing to try small cases but blinks when there is a lot of money on the line? Your attorneys' track record of success might be a big factor in how your claim is evaluated. Which means you better get a lawyer with a history of success and a willingness when necessary to take the case to trial.
Question: Should I hire a lawyer to fight this insurance company?
Answer: There is no cookie cutter answer to this questions. If you are seriously injured, you should hire a attorney to handle your case. There is too much on the line and too many things you can screw up. But, at least arguably, there are many soft tissue injury type cases where the injuries are not serious in which you might do as well or even better on your own when you calculate attorneys' fees into the equation. But, even in small cases, it certainly the safer play to hire an attorney because (1) there is a real chance you will make a mistake that will be fatal to your case, and (2) you need experience in evaluating these case to known what the value of the case really is.
Question: I just have a property damage claim or personal injury protection claim and want to call USAA. Do you have their phone number?
Answer: USAA's auto claims phone number is 800-531-8222. [You have to go through that annoying automated system to get to someone. But you will eventually.]Hiring a Lawyer to Fight for Your
Our law firm handles serious injury car accident cases in every single corner of Maryland. We have had plenty of cases with this insurance company. If you have been seriously 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.