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Progressive Responds to Controversy, Still Looks Very Bad

We aren’t privy to all the sad details of the growing Progressive Insurance PR scandal, but we can give you the basics as reported so far:

  • Progressive customer Kaitlyn Fisher died in a tragic 2010 collision
  • The other driver was ruled responsible; his insurance provider immediately settled for a very small sum in keeping with his policy
  • Because the other driver was “underinsured,” a special clause in Kaitlyn’s policy required that Progressive also pay the difference between his total and hers
  • Progressive refused to pay the full total due to Kaitlyn’s estate, forcing her family to take legal action (recent graduate Kaitlyn had considerable student loans due at the time of her death)
  • Under Maryland law, the Fisher family could not sue Progressive directly; their only option was to sue the responsible driver and then use the judgment as leverage against the company
  • The driver was deemed negligent; during the trial, he was represented by Progressive’s own lawyer.

Sounds like a big headache, huh? It gets worse: Kaitlyn’s brother Matt, a New York-based comedian who has worked with Upright Citizens Brigade, wrote an impassioned post on his tumblr page berating the insurance company for the entire debacle. Today Progressive followed with a quick blog post (and dozens of automated tweets) disputing his story and claiming that the defendant’s representative was, in fact, working on behalf of the defendant’s insurer, Nationwide–yet further reports indicate that the very same representative has acted as Progressive’s in-house lawyer many times in the past.

OK, we understand that it’s in the interests of the Progressive company to avoid paying settlements they deem unwarranted or excessive, and we can’t say exactly who bears the blame for this sad situation beyond the obvious third party (the laws of the state of Maryland obviously played a prominent role in prolonging the case). But we have to wonder why Progressive chose to pay for the man’s defense if not as part of a seemingly desperate effort to frustrate the Fisher family’s pursuit of the full settlement.

The case is over, and Progressive now pledges to “continue to work with the Fisher family to reach a resolution” in accordance with their own policy. We will say this: The story has been picked up, tweeted and retweeted hundreds of times over the last two days–and this is very, very bad news for Progressive and their PR team.

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