The car's insurer offered to pay the tree surgeon's bill -- $ 550 -- but Fisher sought $ 15,000 for the equivalent of "loss of companionship of the sick tree," Gillis said.
The problem: Consumers pay too much for auto insurance and, if they’re badly hurt, get far too little. In California, for example, consumers pay something like $7 billion for the "people" portion of auto insurance (auto theft and damage are additional). But if they’re badly hurt — $100,000 or more in medical expenses and lost wages — they recoup on average just 9% of their actual losses from that $7 billion pool. Imagine your $200,000 house burning down and recouping just 9% — $18,000 — from your insurance company, after paying high premiums all those years.
So where does all the money go? In California, more than half goes to lawyers (both yours, fighting for your claim, and the insurance company’s lawyer, fighting against it) and to fraud. Why so much fraud? Because the current system actually encourages people — even normally honest people — to strike back at the insurance companies and recoup some of those years and years of exorbitant premiums by saying their necks hurt when they don’t, or exaggerating their injuries.
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