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Insurance Coverage: Don’t Cancel the Wrong Policy

Don't cancel the wrong insurance policy

Recently, I finished up representing a young documentary filmmaker in an automobile case.  If you’ve read my prior blogs, you are probably thinking this is nothing new, since I represent people in automobile cases all the time. 

What made this one different was the fact that I represented the defendant rather than the plaintiff.  The reason for that was because my client cancelled his motorcycle policy and kept his auto policy.  At least that was what he thought he had done.

Cancel Insurance—But Be Certain What You Are Cancelling 

My client was involved in a crash when another vehicle pulled out in front of him.  He did not believe he was at fault, but turned it over to his auto carrier immediately.  He was shocked when the agent informed him that he had actually cancelled the wrong policy.  Instead of cancelling his motorcycle policy and keeping his auto policy, he had done the opposite.

He was sued for this crash.  Where normally his auto insurer would hire attorneys free of charge and defend him and pay any damages of the injured parties and damages to their vehicles, the cancellation of the auto policy left him without any coverage at all for this incident.

He had to hire me on an hourly basis to defend him in the case.  The injured person was a passenger in the other vehicle.  The injured person sued both the driver of his vehicle and my client.

Once a Lawsuit is Filed, All Bets are Off

Once a lawsuit is filed, a process known as discovery ensues, leading to hours of time spent answering questions in writing, attending depositions, and overall eating up tons of time.  This is great if you are a lawyer for the insurance company in that you will get paid for your time and have plenty to do.  It is not so great for plaintiff’s attorneys, since they work on a  contingency fee and only are paid when the case is over and they either settle or get a verdict for their client.  It is even worse when there is no insurance involved, since my client had to dip into his own pocket to pay my fees with no end in sight.

Fortunately, the attorney for the plaintiff was a fellow lawyer I know and respect.  He understood my position that my client was not at fault and did not have any insurance or any significant funds to pay any settlement and agreed to pursue the driver of the plaintiff’s vehicle as much as possible.  Unfortunately, as is typical in litigation, you cannot control everything, and after depositions, it became clear that my client may have some responsibilityWhile we originally hoped he would be dismissed after his deposition, it was now clear he was in for the long haul.

Further eating up time and money was the significant injury claimed by the plaintiff, a shoulder rotator cuff tear with surgery.  This required the lawyer for the other defendant to take a deposition of the plaintiff’s doctor.  I had to attend this too, meaning I had to bill my client for my time.

Good Things Happen When Good People Are Involved

Remember earlier when I mentioned that the plaintiff’s lawyer was a nice person whom I respected?  That came in handy at the end, as he was able to convince his client to dismiss the case against my client and accept a slightly lower sum than the case may have been worth from the other defendant (driver of the plaintiff’s vehicle).

My client had to pay me for my time, but he did not have to pay a dime to the plaintiff!

Even Better Things Happen When Your Client is Satisfied

I am so pleased to report that I submitted the final bill to my client and explained how I had done everything in my power to charge a low rate, not bill for anything that was not essential, and give credit for anything I could.  Nevertheless, the bill was steep.  Not everyone has thousands of dollars available to pay an attorney’s bill.  I explained in the email to my client that I would be willing to cut the bill down to a specific amount if he could pay it reasonably soon. 

What came next made my day, and perhaps my year—my client sent me a check for that full agreed upon amount, along with a note that could not have been more complimentary.

Thank you note

Thank You Note

 

Takeaways: 

If You Cancel Insurance:

  • Confirm the policy number, coverage amounts, vehicles covered, and drivers covered. Do not assume the insurance company will help you out or make a determination in your favor. 
  • If you are insured with a company that is solely online and does not provide agents, you are on your own and should be double- and triple-sure that what you are doing is what you intend to do, and that you still have coverage for what you need. 
  • If you are insured through a broker (this space regularly promotes this for a variety of reasons), the broker can assist you in making sure you do not make the fatal mistake of cancelling the wrong policy.
  • As I always suggest, go over your auto, home, and umbrella policies annually with your broker to ensure that the information is up-to-date, the drivers using the vehicle are covered, the vehicles you want to be covered are, and that the limits of liability are high enough for the worst-case scenario.

Contact Chicago Personal Injury Lawyer Stephen Hoffman

As in all cases involving injury and potential liability, immediately get medical treatment, report the crash to police and your own insurance company, and contact a personal injury lawyer.

If you've been in an accident and have questions, contact Chicago personal injury attorney Stephen L. Hoffman for a free consultation at (773) 944-9737. Stephen has nearly 30 years of legal experience and has collected millions of dollars for his clients. He has been named a SuperLawyer, has a 10.0 rating on Avvo, and is BBB A+ accredited. 

Stephen handles personal injury and workers' compensation claims on a contingency fee basis, which means you don’t pay anything upfront and he only gets paid if you do. Don’t wait another day, contact Stephen now.

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