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Originally published Saturday, October 15, 2005 at 12:00 AM

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Danny Westneat

Farmers Insurance has second thoughts

Farmers Insurance said yesterday it might yet provide coverage to innocent bystander Ethel Adams for injuries she suffered in a road-rage...

Seattle Times staff columnist

Farmers Insurance said yesterday it might yet provide coverage to innocent bystander Ethel Adams for injuries she suffered in a road-rage crash last spring.

But the company's reasoning was just as odd as its previous decision that Adams' crash was not an accident because a stranger caused it on purpose. I wrote yesterday about the plight of Adams, a 60-year-old Everett woman who nearly died last March when a truck crashed into her while she drove on Aurora Avenue North.

The wreck was caused when a man named Michael R. Testa rammed his girlfriend's truck from behind to run it off the road. He bashed her truck across the centerline and into oncoming traffic.

Four other cars crashed. The girlfriend's truck slammed into the car Adams was driving, squashing it.

Testa had no insurance. But Farmers decided that Adams' $2 million uninsured-motorist coverage didn't apply to anything Testa did because he intended to cause the wreck. In Farmers' view, the wreck technically wasn't an accident.

Suffice to say readers weren't pleased with Farmers. I got more than 400 e-mails and calls, many vowing to cancel Farmers policies or suggesting a boycott. About 50 told stories of trips you've taken through insurance-company hell.

Readers asked how to contact Farmers, so you could tell them what you think in your own vernacular. For an online comment form, go to www.farmers.com and click on "Contact Us." Or you can call headquarters at 208-239-8400.

Hundreds of you mentioned the central point that ought to be blindingly obvious to Farmers: that Testa intended to hit his girlfriend, not Ethel Adams.

Also calling was the state Office of the Insurance Commissioner, where a spokeswoman said the general mood was "outrage." I suggested yesterday the Legislature might change some laws. But Sandi Peck, insurance-commission spokeswoman, said, "It seems to us the issue is that they aren't applying the law correctly."

In a statement, Farmers took issue with my column, saying the company has not actually denied Adams' claim and it's "still under investigation."

Well, I have a letter in which the company's lawyer denies Adams' claims connected to the guy who was at fault for the wreck, Testa. That is tantamount to denying her claim.

That letter goes on to say that Adams potentially could get coverage if another driver is found to be at fault. Given what happened, the only one that could possibly refer to is Testa's girlfriend — who was herself run off the road in a domestic-violence assault.

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It seems to me it will be outrageous in an entirely new way if Farmers assigns blame to another of the wreck's victims.

Farmers spokeswoman Mary Flynn wouldn't say more about what the company will do next. But she confirmed Farmers is considering granting some coverage to Adams.

Call 'em and tell what you think. Sounds to me like Farmers is coming around, but they need a bit more encouragement.

Danny Westneat's column appears Wednesday and Friday. Reach him at 206-464-2086 or dwestneat@seattletimes.com.

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About Danny Westneat

Danny Westneat takes an opinionated look at the Puget Sound region's news, people and politics. Send tips or comments to dwestneat@seattletimes.com. His column runs Wednesday and Sunday.
dwestneat@seattletimes.com | 206-464-2086

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