LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Imagine you get in a car crash, and find out you don’t have the kind of insurance you need.
What’s more, the company claims you knew that all along.
That’s the subject of WAVE 3 News' latest Troubleshooter investigation. A dozen lawsuits claim State Farm agents deceived customers about what kind of coverage they had and in some cases, even faked documents.
One agent admitted the signature on a customer’s form wasn’t hers. And his name might be familiar to UofL basketball fans.
It was 1986 when the Cardinals won the national championship. Celebrating along with the team was assistant coach Bobby Dotson. Fast forward to 2018, and Dotson’s name hangs outside of a strip mall in Louisville where until recently, he was a State Farm insurance agent.
“It takes a lot to be a more hated coach at UofL than the coach in the news right now, but he might be able to do it,” attorney Jasper Ward told WAVE 3 News.
Ward is working with Louisville attorney Sam Aguiar on several lawsuits against a number of State Farm agencies, making allegations involving fake signatures on waivers that allow State Farm to deny claims.
It all started when Megan Whiteside’s foot was run over by a car that then took off. When she tried to find out how much uninsured motorist coverage she had, she was told she only had half of what she expected because she’d signed an uninsured motorist waiver, allowing State Farm to deny part of her claim.
But when Whitside saw the form, she realized the signature on it wasn’t hers. That’s when Aguiar got on the phone with her insurance agent, Bob Dotson.
“It didn’t look like she signed it, and that’s why I wanted to call you all first,” Aguiar is heard in the phone call which was provided by the attorneys.
On the phone call, Dotson confirmed to Aguiar that it wasn’t her signature.
“Megan is being truthful,” Dotson said. “It was a forged signature.”
In the phone call, the former coach then accused another employee of signing Whiteside’s name.
“I don’t know why he would have done something like that,” Aguiar said. “I don’t get it.”
Then Dotson can be heard on the call using a racial slur: “Because he’s a lazy a** n*****. N*****.”
“I mean, I recoiled,” Ward said of the phone call.
But Ward said Dotson then took things to another level.
“I heard the audio, it’s sickening, especially when you find out that agency has multiple other forgeries that have occurred and that it wasn’t the employee that, that he said,” Ward told WAVE 3 News.
WAVE 3 News reached out to Dotson and went to his agency twice. The walls inside were decorated with his championship posters, which include pictures of himself. Employees there said Dotson recently retired.
State Farm said he “no longer is associated” with them. As to the call, they said Dotson’s “comments do not reflect our values. We are committed to a diverse and inclusive environment, where all our associates and customers are treated with respect and dignity, and where differences are valued.”
“We look forward to getting him under oath and in front of a jury so they understand the lengths to which State Farm is going to go to defend themselves from this,” Ward said.
WAVE 3 News also reached out to the employee Dotson accused during that phone call; the employee’s attorney denied any wrongdoing but declined to comment further.
Aguiar said State Farm did eventually settle Whiteside’s case, acknowledging she had the uninsured motorist coverage she thought she had and paying that claim.
Whiteside’s is one of a dozen lawsuits filed against the company and local agents in Jefferson, Bullitt and Shelby Counties. In another case, WAVE 3 News spoke to Chelsea Flynn, whose father Russell Flynn passed away in 2016, just three months after he was in a car crash that left him needing medical care.
“I figured that State Farm would be, you know, you could trust them,” Flynn said.
When she asked State Farm to go over what kind of coverage her father had, she noticed “uninsured” motorist wasn’t on the list.
Kentucky requires insurers to offer that coverage as part of any policy, but according to the lawsuit, the agent who sold the policy claimed Russell Flynn signed a waiver, meaning if the other driver didn’t have insurance, he could be left with hefty bills.
Flynn was lucky. The other driver did have insurance and that company took care of the bills over and above what State Farm paid.
But the attorneys said other people were left in the lurch.
“They say they’re a good neighbor, but they’re not acting like it,” Ward said.
And he said what’s been going on is just plain illegal.
“That signature here does not match that signature there,” Ward said, pointing to State Farm documents.
The attorneys also said they believe Flynn’s signature on that waiver was actually faked.
“We’re angry,” Ward said. “We’re mad about that.”
Flynn’s family isn’t alone.
The attorneys showed us other examples of what they believe to be falsified signatures from different local State Farm insurance agencies, allowing them to skip out on thousands of dollars in payouts. They said they believe the problem is huge.
“We have evidence that shows that up to 10 percent of all policies issued in Kentucky may have forged documents in the file,” Abby Green, another attorney involved, said.
“Uninsured” and “underinsured motorist” are two add-ons to a car insurance policy that cover medical bills if someone who hit you can’t pay. The coverages are usually only a few dollars a month.
According to Kentucky law, they should be included in your policy, unless you waive it and sign a form.
“We think that this is calculated and intended to inflate their bottom line,” Green said.
Lawsuits name agents in Jefferson, Bullitt and Shelby Counties including Russell Flynn’s agent, Lowell Myers.
We wanted to ask about his claims and about Flynn’s signature.
“Any signatures that we have, we witness personally,” Lowell said. “If her father, which he did, by the way, he came in here and signed it, personally, it would have been witnessed personally.”
WAVE 3 News also reached out to State Farm’s corporate office, which said “State Farm takes these allegations seriously,” and that they’re “aware of a small number of lawsuits.” They also said they are “actively investigating.”
“They’re doing people wrong and it needs to be fixed,” Chelsea Flynn said.
Flynn said her father would want her to share his story.
“He would want it to be known, and he would want justice,” she said. “He would want something done about it.”
If you have uninsured motorist coverage or if you ever signed a required waiver, you should have a "U" on your policy card indicating you have uninsured motorist coverage.
The attorneys involved in these cases recommend people take a look at their policy documents.
Agents currently named by Aguiar’s office in lawsuits include Bob Dotson Insurance Agency (two lawsuits), Adam Sparks Insurance Agency, Casey Simpson Agency, Dave Goodman, Franck Insurance Agency, James O’Donoghue, Greg Vincent, Troy Coulter, Vince Jarboe Insurance Agency, and Lowell Myers Insurance Agency.
The attorneys are also seeking class action classification for the lawsuits. That motion is expected to be heard on Monday.
State Farm said Dotson’s customers should not be affected. The company provided the following statement: