By Bob Dyer
Beacon Journal columnist
Published: May 28, 2016 - 07:52 PMNot long ago I told you about the curious case of Timothy Manning.
On the morning of Dec. 31, Manning and his daughter were driving in Massillon, entering an intersection, when a driver coming in the opposite direction in a huge pickup truck suddenly turned left in front of them.
Manning jammed on his brakes and steered hard to his left but couldn’t avoid a crash.
When police arrived, the other driver admitted he was at fault, saying he just didn’t see Manning coming. He was cited and convicted of failing to yield.
Manning had a green light, was traveling slightly below the speed limit and, according to the investigating officer, did everything humanly possible to avoid the crash.
“There is not a single shred of evidence to support that Mr. Manning was at fault at all,” Massillon Police Sgt. Jason Saintenoy told me.
We were talking because the other driver’s insurance company, Progressive, had stiffed Manning, claiming he was 30 percent responsible for the crash — an assertion the sergeant believes is absolutely absurd.
Rather than accepting Progressive’s lowball offer, Manning went through his own insurance company — paying a $500 deductible and renting a car because Progressive refused to provide one.
Three months later, he still didn’t have his money back, so he called me, saying, “These companies can do anything they want to your claim and get away with it.”
I’m not so sure he was wrong.
I have written two columns about this. For the first, I contacted a spokesman for the Ohio Department of Insurance, which allegedly functions as the state’s insurance watchdog. He blew me off, telling me I could get my answers from the Ohio Insurance Institute — an insurance industry trade group!
After that was published, I got a call from the head ODI spokesman, who claimed his agency does have teeth and said that if Manning filed a formal protest (by calling 1-800-686-1526), justice would prevail.
He did. It didn’t.
Once ODI started writing letters, Progressive backed off somewhat, but not enough. The company offered to pay Manning 70 percent of what it owes him.
And that was good enough for ODI, which has closed the case.
I emailed chief ODI spokesman David Hopcraft, saying closing this case “seems to confirm the widespread assertion that ODI is a lapdog for the insurance agency. Why should we think otherwise?”
He noted the swiftness of his agency’s action, adding, “While the response [from Progressive] does not include a reason that the insurer decided to pay Mr. Manning 70 percent of his claim, it can be noted that the offer came [only] after the Ohio Department of Insurance contacted the company.”
I wanted to hear Progressive’s side of this particular case, and also ask why Progressive has been the culprit in about 98 percent of similar stories I have heard from the readers who flooded my inbox and voice mail.
In an email to the company, I cut to the chase: “Does Progressive simply refuse to pay the full amount of every claim it receives?”
Progressive’s chief spokesperson did not address any of my questions, instead regurgitating the fact that Ohio, like most states, has a “comparative negligence system” that permits insurance companies to subtract various percentages of reimbursement if the other driver did something to contribute to the accident. Duh. That’s what this whole thing is about.
However, the case file at the Ohio Department of Insurance reveals just how far Progressive is willing to stoop to try to save money.
Progressive claimed Manning must have been speeding because 25 mph — the speed limit — “would require minimal stopping distance.”
OK, let’s assume that Manning, 54, is not a world-class athlete but is a competent middle-age driver. At 25 mph, you are traveling 37 feet per second. So if it took Manning a mere 1.5 seconds to A) mentally process what was happening, B) lift his foot off the accelerator and place it on the brake and C) jam down the brake pedal while turning left, his car would have traveled 56 feet.
Get a tape measure, unfurl it near an intersection and try to tell me 56 feet is no big deal.
Unlike your favorite columnist, Progressive never bothered to talk to the Massillon officer. Who better to provide an unbiased assessment of what took place? Progressive thinks one of its employees is a better judge — an employee who wasn’t at the scene, who didn’t go to the scene later to check the tire marks, who didn’t even talk to the cop.
Progressive also claims Manning “did not confirm that he took any evasive action,” which Manning says is a lie. He invites the company to listen to tapes of their conversions.
Today — five months after Manning was the innocent victim of a lousy driver — he now must wait to get the rest of his money until after Progressive and his own company duke it out in arbitration.
I wonder how many people in Manning’s shoes would have just thrown in the towel long ago. I wonder how much this blatant stonewalling has increased Progressive’s revenue.
Maybe Flo knows.
Bob Dyer can be reached at 330-996-3580 or firstname.lastname@example.org. He also is on Facebook at www.facebook.com/bob.dyer.31.