State Farm's Attempt To Deny A Grieving Family's Payout After Fatal Car Crash Will Cost It $36 Million

Screenshot: JHVEPhoto
Screenshot: JHVEPhoto

State Farm will pay out millions to a family after it tried to lowball an insurance settlement after a woman’s death.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports everything started with the tragic death of Andrea Lovato. Lovato died in a 2017 car accident after she swerved to avoid a minivan that was going 70 in 35 zone. The head on collision killed her while her four-year-old nephew who was in the car with her survived. A week before her death, lawyers for the family say that Lovato had taken steps to upgrade her State Farm Insurance policy after her car had been stolen.

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State Farm wanted to play dirty though. After the family found the paperwork proving the policy had higher limits, they tried attacking Lovato’s character and, according to Maier, claiming things like Lovato had actually committed suicide by causing the crash. The family ended up filing suit against State Farm in 2020.

Following a trial in late October, a jury issued a special verdict Oct. 31 awarding $36 million — $12 million in damages to family members and to Lovato’s estate, as well as $24 million for bad-faith practices and breach of contract; $20 million of the amount was assessed as punitive damages.

The jury found State Farm had breached its contract with Lovato by offering her family a settlement that was significantly lower than the amount her policy guaranteed.

Jurors also found the company had willfully violated New Mexico’s Unfair Practices Act and Insurance Practices Act and acted in bad faith in its dealings with Lovato’s family.

A final order on the verdict is expected soon. In a statement, State Farm says it’s disappointed in the verdict and believes the company didn’t act in bad faith. “...respectfully disagree with it and will explore all available legal options, including appealing the verdict,” a spokesperson for the company said. Maier said the family is satisfied with the verdict, but said what State Farm did was “the most egregious conduct I’ve ever seen by an insurance carrier.”

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