Maryland state law uses "contributory negligence" to settle civil suits, which means "if you are even 1 percent at fault for the accident you are barred from any recovery," one insurance analyst told Consumerist.com.
Tom Baker, law professor at University of Pennsylvania and an insurance expert, said that without analyzing the legal documents, it sounded like Progressive was following Maryland's rules regarding under-insured motorist claims.
In order to collect coverage you bought in case of an accident with an uninsured motorist, you have to prove that the accident was the other driver's fault.
"The fact that the other driver's insurance company paid its limits quickly does not mean that it was the other driver's fault," Baker said. "The insurance policy may have been so small that the insurance company decided that it wasn't worth fighting about."
Fisher's parents had to sue the other driver and establish his negligence in court to force Progressive to pay the policy. Progressive made a series of offers, "never higher than 1/3 the amount they owe," according to Matthew Fisher's Monday blog post, and then let it go to trial.
To the surprise of Fisher, "At the trial, the guy who killed my sister was defended by Progressive's legal team," he wrote. "If you are insured by Progressive, and they owe you money, they will defend your killer in court in order to not pay you your policy."