Holding the Insurance Industry Accountable
It shouldn’t take 12 years
In 1994, Mary Mulcahy was in a car accident in Vancouver, Canada. She suffered a broken sternum, and pain and medical problems that persist to this day.
Mary’s policy with Farmers Insurance entitled her to coverage while driving in Canada. After the accident, Farmers balked at paying anything beyond the $10,000 in personal-injury protection, and spent years fighting her claim to the $150,000 Canadian – more than $100,000 U.S. – that it owed her.
Mary, a Seattle resident and native of Ireland’s County Cork, had difficulty finding a lawyer to take her case, so she did it herself. Mary embarked on a legal odyssey in two countries, filing lawsuits in Canada and the U.S. She visited law libraries, researched relevant legal issues and brought her court filings to a free legal clinic where she was able to ask questions.
Mary developed fibromyalgia as a result of the 1994 collision, which worsened to the point where she was unable to work or pay for her treatment. She subsequently was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. She lost her home and sometimes slept in her car before finding transitional housing.
Mary successfully argued her own case before the Washington State Supreme Court. The court unanimously overturned two lower-court rulings against her and sent the case back to King County Superior Court to determine how much she should receive. With the help of a Seattle law firm, Farmers finally agreed to settle the case for $760,000 after a 12-year fight.
Had Farmers paid for treatment, Mary would likely now live with less pain and would possibly have been capable of full-time employment. Mary is not sure if she’ll be able to work again so the settlement will likely need to last the rest of her life.
Farmers’ bad faith conduct included failing to inform Mary that she was legally entitled to the $150,000 in benefits, and manipulating the system to avoid paying the claim for 12 years.
Mary never should have had to wait 12 years to get what she was owed. Thanks to Mary’s case and hundreds like her’s, protections like the Insurance Fair Conduct Act ensure that consumers get the benefits they were entitled to receive.