Take a Memo

State Farm puts a premium on protecting its reputation. Good luck.

"When you see there isn't a lot of property damage, and State Farm is on the other end, you know you're going to be in litigation," says Gold. "They're the leader. Allstate and the others follow them. And State Farm isn't just tough when they're defending one of their insured. They're difficult to deal with even if they're your insurance company and you're trying to get your personal-injury protection benefits."

The company also takes an intense interest in the identity of people who leak internal memos, judging from the reactions of assorted employees in the public-affairs department to news thatWestword has a copy of Miller's memo.

"Excessive trial lawyer involvement and litigation in cases like this, in which there was little or no damage to vehicles and an unclear link between the accident and the plaintiff's injuries, is one important reason why auto insurance rates in Colorado are among the highest in the nation and why State Farm continues to work for a revamping of our current system." Insurance companies' earlier work to revamp the system has already resulted in the deck being stacked in favor of the defense: For example, at Colorado trials, no one is allowed to mention whether a defendant even has auto insurance, leaving a jury with the impression that the victim is going after Joe Sixpack rather than a multibillion dollar corporation. Civil filings in this state dropped over the last decade, and 60 percent of the civil trials in Colorado last year resulted in verdicts for the defense. How can judgments be raising our rates when verdicts are going down? In fact, studies by industry analysts show that the primary reason Colorado ranks fourteenth in the nation for high-priced auto insurance is the rising cost of auto repair work, not personal-injury lawsuits.

Sums up Miller, "The story is a one-sided version of events and portrays State Farm in a very negative light."

Thanks for the credit. But State Farm doesn't need our help to look bad.

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