Hippo Manchester
September 1, 2005

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Putting profit over policy

Insult might be this generationís Unsafe at Any Speed

By Will Stewart 

Insult to Injury: Insurance, Fraud, and the Big Business of Bad Faith, by Ray Bourhis, Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2005, 263 pages.

I think Iíve just discovered the next Ralph Nader. Heís a San Fransisco lawyer who, instead of sticking it to the automobile industry, is making a name for himself by exposing how insurance companies routinely deny legitimate expensive claims to increase their bottom lines.

By way of disclaimer I should note the following: as someone whose eyes roll to the back of his head nearly every time I try to read the fine print of any of my insurance policies, and as someone whoís been given the run around by a couple of insurance companies, I found myself to be very sympathetic Insult to Injury, the first book from Ray Bourhis.

At its center, the book follows the story of Joan Hangarter, a chiropractor who purchased  a disability policy from UnumProvident that she was told would cover her financially in the event that she could no longer perform her job. When she sustained a permanent injury, however, she was denied benefits by the company when she needed their help the most. As a result she went bankrupt, lost her home and was forced onto welfare.

Bourhis took on Hangarterís case against UnumProvident. In the course of the book he lays out a convincing, if one-sided, case against the insurance giant and the industry at large, from opening statements to judgment.

Insult uses actual court testimony and the companyís own incriminating documents to convincingly showcase how the insurance industry deliberately looks for ways to avoid paying legitimate claims. These practices range from hiring private investigators to snoop through policy holdersí personal lives to one-sided medical evaluations.

Even more infuriating is that even when companies like UnumProvident are caught and forced to pay millions in punitive damages, itís proved to be no deterrent to their unethical behavior. Due to an array of reasons, regulatory and otherwise, the incentive to screw the public is just too good to pass up.

If you own an insurance policy of any kind, you owe it to yourself to read this call to arms.