A drunk driver admitted his fault: he is in prison for aggravated DUI. So four years later, why hasn’t his auto insurance company paid a penny to the victims of the 2011 crash?
The two-car accident in Oak Brook in November of 2011 was described by a first responder as a "scene of carnage." A drunk driver hit a minivan almost head-on. Inside the minivan, a mom and two 6-year-old girls, on their way home from ice cream and "The Sound of Music," were hit by a driver whose blood alcohol level was more than twice the legal limit, who was in the U.S. illegally, and who had no valid driver’s license.
One thing Jose Rodriguez did have: Insurance from Chicago-based Unique Insurance, a non-standard insurer that caters to hard-to-insure drivers.
Four years after that accident, the victims in the crash say Unique ignored repeated attempts to get payment under the little coverage involved.
"We immediately sought to settle this claim with Mr. Rodriguez’s insurance company. They failed to make any offer and forced the families to file a lawsuit just to get the claims resolved," said G. Grant Dixon III, founder of the Dixon Law Office. "Insurance companies have a responsibility to negotiate in good faith. When they don’t, they cause additional harm to victims. It’s like running them over again."
NBC 5 Investigates first reported on the hundreds of complaints filed by consumers against Unique back in 2013. Twice since 2004 the state fined Unique for multiple violations of state regulations.
The families sued the driver in this case, who is serving a seven-year sentence in downstate Illinois. The trial lasted six days. The jury deliberated five hours, returning a verdict against the driver for $3.9 million. There was no comment for this report from defense attorneys, who were hired by Unique and who argued the plaintiffs’ injuries were not as severe as claimed.
In order to send a message against the company’s business practices, Dixon said, his clients will likely next sue Unique Insurance directly.