Jury Awards $5.3 Million to Woman in Bad Faith Insurance Case

Missoula, MT – An insurance company has been ordered by a jury to award a woman $5.3 million in damages because the California-based Fireman’s Fund Insurance Co. failed to pay her medical expenses after the plaintiff was involved in a 2003 head-on car crash.

The trial lasted five days and it only took the jury eight hours to come back with the verdict that the insurance company acted in bad faith and owed Samantha Chilcote damages because they had denied her insurance claim.

Insurance Details of the Car Crash

It was in January 2003 that Chilcote was involved in the head-on crash that resulted in her having permanent brain injuries. She was not at fault for the car crash and the damages that were accumulated were more than what the other driver’s insurance could cover. However, Chilcote was covered for $1.5 million under her family’s insurance that covered accidents with underinsured motorists and she also had $15,000 in medical benefits. She was a doctoral student at the time, which is why she was covered under her family’s plan.

Insurance Company Delayed Payment of Medical Bills

The company refused to pay the underinsured benefit and they took their time paying the medical benefits. The medical benefits were not paid until January 17, 2008. This was five years after the accident had occurred. That was also the same day that the final pretrial conference was to take place in her civil case against the company.

In the trial that lasted from March 28, 2008 to April 1, 2008, the jury found that the company was guilty of malice, which included a reward amount of $3.5 million in punitive damages. The jury also awarded $1.8 million in compensatory damages that includes her loss of earning capacity, medical bills, pain and suffering, emotional and mental injury, and the fact that the course of her life was lost. Another $35,000 was awarded because the company was found guilty of violation of Montana’s Unfair Trade Practices Act.

The lawsuit had alleged that the insurance company was responsible for Chilcote’s medical bills being turned over to collections because of their refusal to pay. The delayed payment also interfered with her receiving proper medical care.

Crash Victim Still Recovering from Brain Injury

Chilcote did receive her doctorate and does work at the Flathead Lake Biological Station. However, she does have a defect with her short-term memory and is still receiving treatment for that brain injury.

In the meantime, it must be determined that the verdict is in compliance with Montana state law. The judge will also consider motions filed by Fireman’s Fund to reduce the punitive damages and some of the fees that were accumulated during the trial.

Fireman’s Fund does not admit any wrongdoing.

Injured in a Car Accident?

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