In early November of 2001 our home burned completely to the ground along with all of our personal belongings and 2 beloved pets. Devasted, we contacted our insurance agent who contacted Mutual Benefit Insurance on our behalf.
We submitted our claim to the adjuster for MB per his specific instructions. The adjuster never contacted us to go over our damages or to attempt to negotiate our claim.
The next contact we received from Mutual Benefit was a letter from a William C. Parler demanding we attend an Examination Under Oath and bring hundreds of documents the day after Christmas. Confused, we called Mr. Parler who refused to address our questions or our concerns that all of the documents he wanted produced had been destroyed in the fire and would take us months to replace.
We contacted an Attorney who represented us during the 3 grueling days of EUO's. We were asked hundreds if not thousands of questions. Most of the questions we were asked had nothing to do with the fire, house or our claim. We were required to answer any question that was asked or our claim would be denied in full.
Our Attorney contacted Mr. Parler's office numerous times over the next few months and was told each time that they were investigating our claim. In March we received a letter signed by Mr. Parler that our claim was being denied for "FRAUD". There was no explanation as to what fraud they thought we had committed and again no attempt to negotiate in any way.
We immediately filed suit in Harford County and Mutual Benefit had the trial moved to Federal Court. The next 2 years of our lives were consumed by meetings, depositions, hearings and finally a 2 week jury trial. You can not imagine the hundreds of hours that our attorneys and us have invested in researching and litigating this trial. The type of fraud they were alleging we had committed changed countless times during the litigation.
Shortly before our trial date, there was a settlement conference where MB made an extremely low offer. They made an additional offer in writing a few days before trial which was again much less than they owed and 2 years into the claim. We finally had our day in court in November 2003. After a 2 week trial, the Jury awarded our full policy limits plus rental and demolition of the old foundation and debri removal.
The state of Maryland does not have a first party bad faith law. What this means is that the jury was not allowed to award us any punitive damages for the 2+ years we have lost, trial expenses, Attorneys fees or to simply punish Mutual Benefit and their Attorney for the misjustice that they have done our family. In Maryland an insurance company can deny, delay or attempt to settle a claim for much less than they owe with no fear of punishment in a court of law. Injured insureds are forced to either settle for a lesser amount or to litigate and pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in lawyer fees and expenses just to get what's owed to them. The insured's in these cases are not left whole as their insurance contracts call for.
We thought we would be rebuilding our home and our lives by now. We were wrong, Mutual Benefit has continued in their usual manner and appealed our case. An appeal can take up to a year or more even if there was no reversable error during the trial. We are fortunate to have wonderful family, friends and attorneys; there are many more people out there who are not so lucky and are forced into settlement because they do not have the support system to fight these huge insurance companies and their attorneys.
You can see more about our case on our attorney's website.
U.S.A. CLICK here to see why we deleted either a phone number, link or e-mail address from this Report.