We help people when insurance companies don’t keep their promises.


Bad Faith Insurance Lawyers & Attorneys

Why do we enjoy helping people with insurance problems?

In 1996, my sister, Carol Abourezk, learned she had cancer and didn't have long to live. Soon after, we started having problems with Carol's insurance company, denying reimbursement for many of her treatment costs.

After Carol died, I learned the company had done the same thing to people all across the country. We took the company to court seven different times, and finally the company agreed to go back and process underpayments made to cancer patients across the United States.

It was a fitting tribute to my sister, who I still miss a lot.

Since then, the road has been full of good people needing help. Here are just a few of them...

Attorneys Mike Abourezk and Alicia Garcia represented Teri Powell at trial, ending in the jury assessing $6.2 Million against CUNA Mutual for bad faith denial of disability claims.
CUNA Mutual bad faith evidence included refusing to pay disability benefits to Teri Powell, knowing she was dying of cancer and receiving hospice care.

The Federal District Court admitted evidence against CUNA showing a pattern of similar denials across the country.

Teri Powell knew she didn't have long to live, and would not be alive to see the trial. Nor would she ever personally benefit from bringing a lawsuit to expose CUNA Mutual Insurance Society. But in her testimony taken just 30 days before her death, she explained that "if they are doing this to me, they are doing it to a lot of other people, maybe some who are even worse off than me. So if I can do something to help them, this is my chance." [Read More]

Frivolous? Rudolph didn't think so.
Rudolph passed away a few months ago at age 93. His last years were spent in a nursing home in Hosmer, SD. Rudolph had purchased nursing home insurance in case he ever needed help later in life. He didn't want to be a burden to his children. As it turned out, he did need help.

His insurance company paid for his nursing home care for three years, but then abruptly wrote Rudolph a letter saying his benefits were being cut off. They wrote the same letter to a lot of other people living in nursing homes. When we found out about it, we sued them, and as soon as we sued, the company started paying again.

Unbelievable? We think so.

Rudolph should not have had to spend the last year of his life hiring lawyers and fighting insurance companies.

Frivolous lawsuit? Denise doesn't think so.
Denise supported herself and her two children for years, working at a Rapid City grocery store until she seriously injured her back at work. Denise's doctor said she needed surgery, but the worker's compensation insurance company refused to pay for it.

So, Denise hired us. The insurance company then paid for itsown doctor to examine Denise. He agreed that Denise had been injured at work and needed surgery. Incredibly, the insurance company still refused to pay. Meanwhile, Denise was in excruciating pain, unable to work, and ultimately lost her home. Unbelievable? We thought so.

We sued them.

Frivolous lawsuit? Shelly doesn't think so.

And neither do we. One day in 1999, Shelly was on her way to work in Rapid City when a hit and run driver slammed into the side of her car, sending her to the hospital in an ambulance. She was seriously hurt and stacked up over $50,000 in medical bills. Fortunately, Shelly had insurance coverage of $100,000, so she turned her medical bills in to her own insurance company. What Shelly didn't know was that her insurance company secretly pays thousands of dollars in bonuses to its claims adjusters if they can cut claims expenses.

So, when Shelly filed her claim, her claims adjuster simply refused to pay. For six years, the company fought her claim, and for six years Shelly refused to give up, spending thousands of dollars in expenses. Finally, after she sued them and just a few days before facing a trial, the company paid Shelly's claim in full. Unbelievable? We thought so.

Frivolous? Kathy's husband doesn't think so.
In 1998 Kathy was diagnosed with cancer. Prior to that, she had purchased cancer insurance that promised to pay the actual costs for her radiation treatment. At first, the company paid. But then it decided that it could increase its profit significantly by only paying for the cost of the radiation and not for the doctor's work to make sure the radiation placement was safe. So, it just quit paying for these services to Kathy and many other South Dakota cancer patients.

We had never met Kathy. We had met some of the other cancer patients, and we took their cases. A South Dakota federal judge ruled that the insurance company had to pay all of the costs of radiation treatment, because its policy said so. The company paid the people we represented, but still wouldn't pay Kathy because she wasn't one of the people who sued them. Kathy and her husband called us. As soon as the company found out Kathy had contacted us, they put a check in the mail for the full amount of what they owed her. But it was too late. The check arrived in her mailbox the day of her funeral. We think insurance companies should keep their promises.

Frivolous lawsuit? Kay doesn't think so.
When Kay, a hardworking, single mom from Yankton, took out a health insurance policy, she believed that her medical bills would be covered. Unfortunately, when Kay was diagnosed with breast cancer a few years ago, she found herself fighting for her life and with her insurance company.

Kay's doctors treated her with chemotherapy. The treatment made her ill, but Kay's insurance company refused to pay for the anti-nausea drugs prescribed by her doctors, claiming it wasn't a necessary part of treatment. She hired us. We found out that this same insurance company was denying payment for anti-nausea drugs to cancer patients across the country. When Kay found this out, she gave up rights on her own case and brought a class action suit, forcing the company to repay the claims of other cancer patients nationwide. We don't think insurance companies should treat people that way. We think insurance companies should keep their promises.

Frivolous lawsuit? Jerome doesn't think so.
And neither do we. Jerome is a South Dakota farmer. Back in 1976, he took out a disability insurance policy that promised to pay if an injury left him unable to farm. Disability insurance was important to Jerome because he only had one good arm to start with. You see, Jerome suffered an injury to his left arm at birth, making it useless in farming. After paying premiums for over 20 years, Jerome badly injured his right arm in a farm accident. An insurance company doctor agreed that Jerome could not farm. No longer able to make a living at farming, he asked his insurance company to live up to its promises. His insurance company began making payments but after a few years, it was bought by a larger corporation. This new corporation began looking for ways to save money. It not only cancelled Jerome's benefits but demanded he write an immediate check for $20,000 to repay the money it had paid him for his disability. Unbelievable? That's what we thought. We sued them. We think insurance companies should keep their promises.


Reporting to the State Insurance Division

We have reported many illegal activities to state insurance commissions. Unfortunately, the nature of the system is that very rarely does it result in any action. But sometimes AFTER we investigate and accumulate all of the evidence, the state occasionally takes that evidence and does something. Our investigation of Farmer’s Insurance incentive bonus systems led to fines against the insurance company by the North Dakota and California Insurance Commissioners.

In 2006, the California Insurance Commissioner took our evidence and fined Farmer’s one million dollars. The Commissioner said "This fine should send a message to all companies that this Department will not tolerate mistreatment of policyholders." Unfortunately, Farmers mademany millions off of the incentive system, so a fine of one million dollars is hardly going to stop the behavior.

A few months later, in 2007, The North Dakota Commissioner took our evidence and found that when handling auto claims, Farmers Insurance had "systemic claims handling practices that were at best unfair and at worst, abusive to the policyholder..... The exam report describes incentive programs and slogans, such as the ‘Bring Back a Billion’ campaign, which encouraged employees to work to rebuild surplus and utilized ‘pledges’ that claims handlers signed promising to bring in a billion dollars for the company . Also detailed are company action plans that set goals for claim handlers to meet, and if they did, they were rewarded, if they didn't they would suffer the consequences. Farmers instituted goals for claims handlers to deny a set percentage of claims without payment. This led the North Dakota Insurance Department to impose a $750,000 fine against the insurance giant.  Again, the unfortunate truth is that this is a token amount, as the company profitsgenerated by this behavior far exceed the fine.

But we applaud the state employees that took these actions, because they are trying to do the right thing. We know how hard it is to overcome the political realities and even accomplish what you did.

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Named in "Best Lawyers in America"

Each year the editors of "Best Lawyers" conduct exhaustive peer-review surveys with thousands of lawyers and judges across America, in which each is asked to confidentially evaluate and name the best lawyers. Mike Abourezk is named as one of the best.

Named to Lawdragon Magazine list of Top Attorneys in USA

Lawdragon is a magazine which collects reviews from lawyers, judges, clients, peers and jurors as well as conduct its own independent research. After this process, each lawyer and judge are given a score. Lawdragon included Mike Abourezk as one of the top 500 lawyers in America.

Named South Dakota Trial Lawyer of the Year

The South Dakota Trial Lawyers Association chose Mike Abourezk as Trial Lawyer of the Year for 2004-2005, after his efforts in bringing a successful nationwide class action for cancer insurance policyholders. The award is given annually to the South Dakota trial attorney who demonstrates the highest level of skills and accomplishments.

Named Mid-West Warrior of the Year

Each year, the Gerry Spence Trial Lawyers College recognizes trial lawyers from different parts of the country who have made contributions to society through their work. The College named Mike Abourezk as Mid-West Warrior of the Year for 2004-2005

Named to Inner Circle of Advocates

Mike Abourezk is the first and only South Dakota lawyer ever admitted to the Inner Circle of Advocates. Described by the Washington Post as "a select group of 100 of the nation's most celebrated trial lawyers", membership is by invitation only. One of the benefits of membership is the collaboration and assistance that Inner Circle members give each other. This means that clients of Inner Circle members have access to a collective pool of knowledge from many of the best lawyers and legal minds in the country.
Inner Circle Home Page

The Steven J. Sharp Award for National Public Service

In 2004, the Association of Trial Lawyers of America awarded the firm the Steven J. Sharp Public Service Award. The Sharp Award is given only once a year on a nationwide basis, for the case that "best tells the story of American civil justice". In that case, Mike Abourezk initially set out to help his terminally ill sister, Carol, after her insurance company denied her claim. In the process, he uncovered insurance underpayments to thousands of other patients, which led to a five year battle and a successful nationwide class action for cancer patients. Carol Abourezk died before conclusion of the case, which restored millions to many other cancer victims.
Steven J. Sharp Public Service Award

Abourezk given highest rating by Martindale-Hubbell

The publishers of Martindale-Hubbell legal directory conduct surveys each year in which lawyers and judges in each community and state are asked to confidentially rate their professional peers. Mike Abourezk has been rated AV, signifying the highest possible ranking in both expertise as well as ethical standards.
Mike Abourezk rating page

Named Great Plains Super Lawyer

Super Lawyers identifies the top 5 percent of attorneys in the state. The objective of the Super Lawyers selection process is to create a credible, comprehensive and diverse listing of outstanding attorneys.
One of the nation's leading market research and consulting firms concluded that the Super Lawyers selection process is scientific and objective. Mike Abourezk is listed as one such "Super Lawyer."
Mike Abourezk rating page

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