$20K insurance payout is best deal for man who teens hit with stolen car

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – Ricky Melendez is puzzled why his insurance company Geico would pay the families of four boys who allegedly stole a SUV and crashed into him.

But, retired insurance adjuster George Acorn doesn’t find it puzzling at all.

He sees it as logical.

“Any reputable insurance company’s first duty is to protect their insured,” Acorn said.

Acorn worked in the business for 40 years and witnessed this kind of scenario over and over again.

He thinks the company paid the families $20,000 to keep them from trying to sue Melendez, even though deputies claim he in no way caused the crash along U.S. 19 and Tampa Road in August.

“He doesn’t have to worry about them coming after him in the future and ending up losing his house, whatever it may be,” Acorn said.

He has also seen clever attorneys try to spin cases to get innocent victims to take responsibility, ultimately having to pay.

“It’s always a gamble when you go to the jury,” he said.

Melendez told us he was blindsided when he got a letter from Geico earlier this week explaining the payout.

“It was like, it ripped my heart out. It was like a punch in the gut like I never felt before,” Melendez said.

News Channel 8 stopped by the home of Jimmie Goshey, who died in the crash, but no family members came to the door.

Geico provided the following statement:

“GEICO is very sorry for the accident that our policyholder, Mr. Melendez, experienced as well as for the families of the three young men who lost their lives in a tragic accident on July 6, 2017.  Some concerns have been raised regarding why GEICO took steps to resolve potential claims that could have been made against our policyholder, Mr. Melendez, by the families of the three young men who lost their lives, as well as by a fourth young man who was severely injured in the accident.  We would like to take this opportunity to explain why we took action to protect Mr. Melendez from these potential claims. 

Most states have moved to a system that bars your recovery if your negligence was equal to or greater than the other party involved in the accident.  Florida, however, has not adopted such a system. 

Florida allows an injured party to make a claim against another driver in an accident, even if that other driver had only 1% of fault for the accident.  This has left the door open for lawsuits against consumers in Florida, who most would agree did not cause the accident. 

Our responsibility in this terrible event is to protect our policyholder, Mr. Melendez, from claims that others may attempt to assert against him, whether those claims are true or not.    We did that.  In taking the steps necessary to protect Mr. Melendez, we made no determination that Mr. Melendez was at fault for this tragic accident in any way. 

Our actions were taken to protect Mr. Melendez regardless of the fact that we personally do not believe that he shared any responsibility for this accident.  We also made certain that no record of liability was placed against him that would cause his rates to change due to this terrible incident.” 

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