TAMPA - Behind the fight between Florida's insurance commissioner and Allstate Insurance Co. is a mystery that could have come from a John Grisham novel.

Secret Allstate documents - known as the McKinsey documents - allegedly show how the insurance giant intentionally has made low-ball claims offers to its customers for years, netting Allstate billions of dollars in the process.

The notion that insurers are intentionally lowballing comes as no surprise to anyone who has had dealings with Allstate (or any other major insurance company for that matter.)

While there is a protective order on these documents that prevents the lawyers that have obtained the documents to the media (probably because of “trade secrets”,) we can hazard a guess as to what these documents contain. It’s a safe bet that these documents outline the strategies that most of our clients have had to contend with when they have dealt with their insurers.

Quick Settlement Offers

When you get into an accident, you might be surprised at how quickly the insurance company contacts you with a settlement offer. You will probably hear from them within days. The reason that they are getting in touch so quickly is that the days and weeks after the accident is probably the period of time in which you need the money the most. You have a repair bill, you have towing charges, and if you had to receive medical treatment you most certainly have medical bills. If your adjuster calls you and dangles some money in your face at the exact time that you need it, you would probably take it. Even if the amount offered is significantly less than what you are supposed to get.

Once you take that settlement offer, the insurance company is no longer obligated to pay a dime, which could be an extremely bad thing. Garage estimates don’t always turn out to be accurate. Not ever injury immediately manifests itself. What if your repair bill is much higher than you thought? What if your injury gets worse? Thanks to that quick settlement, that isn’t the insurance company’s problem anymore.

Let the Computers Handle It

Why pay experienced adjusters high salaries every year when you can have low paid drones just punch the data into a computer? Most insurance companies are using programs like “Colossus,” which tells them exactly what sort of settlement to offer based on other accidents of the same type. But if all the other accidents were also given lowball settlements, what sort of offer do you think Colossus is going to give you?

Wait, Wait and Wait Some More

So what happens if you reject the quick and computerized settlement offer? Insurers have that covered as well. They have quite correctly figured out that if someone who needs money right after the accident, they will need it much worse after six months or so.  This is about the time where the debt collectors start calling, or not having a car is really starting to hurt you. If the insurer dangles barely enough money in front of you to keep the wolves at bay, odds are you’ll take it.

Allstate, as you can probably guess, is not exactly thrilled about having these practices put on display. They have been able to keep the lid from blowing off by using the “trade secrets” excuse, but there is actually one judge that won’t allow Allstate to keep a protective order on the documents. The judge is actually fining them $25,000 a day until they turn these documents over to the plaintiff’s lawyer that subpoenaed them.  So far, Allstate keeps shelling out the money. It seems that $25,000 a day is chump change in comparison to what they would have to pay if they treated their customers fairly.