In Heated Insurance Battle, U-Haul Off the Hook in Auto Scam Case

While driving a rented U-Haul, a customer hit another vehicle. U-Haul’s claims handler received a signed statement admitting fraud upon review.
By: | March 3, 2019 • 2 min read

Tim Carter rented a U-Haul truck. As part of that transaction, the two parties entered into a rental contract agreement that provided Carter with liability insurance coverage.

While driving, Carter hit another vehicle carrying four people. But don’t worry too much — the whole accident was planned.

U-Haul’s claims handler reviewed the incident and upon investigation, received a signed statement from Carter admitting the collision was staged for the purpose of submitting fraudulent insurance claims for profit.

The other car’s passengers brought forth a personal injury lawsuit against U-Haul and its carrier Arcoa Risk Retention Group Inc., but because they had Carter’s confession, they denied coverage.

That didn’t stop the four from the other car; they filed a personal injury action against Carter and U-Haul, alleging Carter collided with their vehicle after failing to stop at a stop sign.

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U-Haul filed counterclaims against the four and cross claims against Carter for fraud and civil conspiracy. It submitted Carter’s written confession as evidence. Then, U-Haul further filed for declaratory judgment that it had no duty to defend Carter under the rental contract agreement he signed upon leasing its truck.

In response, the four dismissed their claims against U-Haul with prejudice, but continued with their claims against Carter. In that suit, the trial court awarded the four nearly $140,000 after finding Carter negligent.

The four went further. They filed a motion for summary judgment in the declaratory judgment action U-Haul had made against Carter. Here, the four said they were entitled to judgment in their favor, because Carter had been found negligent in their personal injury suit.

But the court said no dice: “Respondents’ motion for summary judgment does not establish a legal right to a judgment that U-Haul and Arcoa have a duty to indemnify under the terms of the specific policies.”

Scorecard: U-Haul is not responsible for coverage in the personal injury action brought forth by auto-crash scammers.

Takeaway: If made aware of fraudulent activities, the best course of action would be to take legal action first to avoid getting caught further in a schemer’s web.

Autumn Heisler is the digital producer and a staff writer at Risk & Insurance®. She can be reached at [email protected]

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

4 Companies That Rocked It by Treating Injured Workers as Equals; Not Adversaries

The 2018 Teddy Award winners built their programs around people, not claims, and offer proof that a worker-centric approach is a smarter way to operate.
By: | October 30, 2018 • 3 min read

Across the workers’ compensation industry, the concept of a worker advocacy model has been around for a while, but has only seen notable adoption in recent years.

Even among those not adopting a formal advocacy approach, mindsets are shifting. Formerly claims-centric programs are becoming worker-centric and it’s a win all around: better outcomes; greater productivity; safer, healthier employees and a stronger bottom line.

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That’s what you’ll see in this month’s issue of Risk & Insurance® when you read the profiles of the four recipients of the 2018 Theodore Roosevelt Workers’ Compensation and Disability Management Award, sponsored by PMA Companies. These four programs put workers front and center in everything they do.

“We were focused on building up a program with an eye on our partner experience. Cost was at the bottom of the list. Doing a better job by our partners was at the top,” said Steve Legg, director of risk management for Starbucks.

Starbucks put claims reporting in the hands of its partners, an exemplary act of trust. The coffee company also put itself in workers’ shoes to identify and remove points of friction.

That led to a call center run by Starbucks’ TPA and a dedicated telephonic case management team so that partners can speak to a live person without the frustration of ‘phone tag’ and unanswered questions.

“We were focused on building up a program with an eye on our partner experience. Cost was at the bottom of the list. Doing a better job by our partners was at the top.” — Steve Legg, director of risk management, Starbucks

Starbucks also implemented direct deposit for lost-time pay, eliminating stressful wait times for injured partners, and allowing them to focus on healing.

For Starbucks, as for all of the 2018 Teddy Award winners, the approach is netting measurable results. With higher partner satisfaction, it has seen a 50 percent decrease in litigation.

Teddy winner Main Line Health (MLH) adopted worker advocacy in a way that goes far beyond claims.

Employees who identify and report safety hazards can take credit for their actions by sending out a formal “Employee Safety Message” to nearly 11,000 mailboxes across the organization.

“The recognition is pretty cool,” said Steve Besack, system director, claims management and workers’ compensation for the health system.

MLH also takes a non-adversarial approach to workers with repeat injuries, seeing them as a resource for identifying areas of improvement.

“When you look at ‘repeat offenders’ in an unconventional way, they’re a great asset to the program, not a liability,” said Mike Miller, manager, workers’ compensation and employee safety for MLH.

Teddy winner Monmouth County, N.J. utilizes high-tech motion capture technology to reduce the chance of placing new hires in jobs that are likely to hurt them.

Monmouth County also adopted numerous wellness initiatives that help workers manage their weight and improve their wellbeing overall.

“You should see the looks on their faces when their cholesterol is down, they’ve lost weight and their blood sugar is better. We’ve had people lose 30 and 40 pounds,” said William McGuane, the county’s manager of benefits and workers’ compensation.

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Do these sound like minor program elements? The math says otherwise: Claims severity has plunged from $5.5 million in 2009 to $1.3 million in 2017.

At the University of Pennsylvania, putting workers first means getting out from behind the desk and finding out what each one of them is tasked with, day in, day out — and looking for ways to make each of those tasks safer.

Regular observations across the sprawling campus have resulted in a phenomenal number of process and equipment changes that seem simple on their own, but in combination have created a substantially safer, healthier campus and improved employee morale.

UPenn’s workers’ comp costs, in the seven-digit figures in 2009, have been virtually cut in half.

Risk & Insurance® is proud to honor the work of these four organizations. We hope their stories inspire other organizations to be true partners with the employees they depend on. &

Michelle Kerr is associate editor of Risk & Insurance. She can be reached at [email protected]