Wednesday, December 29, 2010
"CLEARWATER - Professional wrestler Hulk Hogan claimed in a lawsuit filed today that his insurance company failed to upgrade his coverage when his exposure to risk grew, leaving him inadequately insured when his teenage son Nick Bollea got into a wreck that left a passenger grievously injured.
As a result, Hogan, whose real name is Terry Bollea, had to use some of his own money to settle out-of-court a lawsuit filed by the estate of the passenger, John Graziano, because Hogan's insurance was inadequate, the seven-page lawsuit says.
The suit was filed against Wells Fargo Southeast, which has been subsumed by Wells Fargo USA. The company has provided Hogan insurance for nearly 10 years, with coverage for his homes, boats, watercraft and motor vehicles.
The company has collected tens of thousands of dollars in premiums from Hogan and routinely promised to minimize the celebrity's risk, the lawsuit says. Despite Hogan's substantial wealth, however, the company never advised him to increase his insurance or buy an umbrella policy, two avenues the company could have pursued.
One reason to increase Hogan's insurance, Hogan claims, is that his risk grew considerably when his children became teenagers and were able to drive his various cars, the lawsuit says.
"Wells Fargo Southeast had a duty to perform an ongoing insurance evaluation and, at the very least, a yearly or biannual insurance review with Hogan, complete with professional advice and coverage recommendations," the lawsuit says.
"Such a review would have demonstrated that Hogan required an excess/umbrella policy in an amount that appropriately corresponded to his substantial assets and the risk to which they were exposed," the lawsuit says.
"Each time a teenage driver, a vehicle, a watercraft or a piece of real estate was added to Hogan's insurance policies, Hogan's risk increased; however, his insurance coverage remained woefully inadequate, and Wells Fargo Southeast still failed to consult Hogan regarding the advisability of increased coverage and an excess/umbrella policy," the lawsuit says.
Graziano suffered a severe brain injury Aug. 26, 2007, when a car driven by Nick Bollea crashed into a palm tree in Clearwater while Bollea was racing with a friend, authorities have said. Bollea served 166 days in jail after he pleaded no contest to a reckless driving charge.
Graziano's medical bills and continuing care far exceeded the policy limits of $250,000 per person, Hogan's lawsuit says. With no additional insurance, Hogan's fortune then of roughly $30 million was exposed and unprotected, the lawsuit says.
In addition, Hogan had signed for his son's driver's license, which exposed him as an individual to liability, the lawsuit says. Wells Fargo Southeast should have known this, the lawsuit says.
Had Wells Fargo Southeast adequately insured him, Hogan says he would not have had to dip into his personal fortune to settle the lawsuit filed by Graziano's guardian, Hogan's lawsuit says. The amount of that settlement has never been disclosed."
There are a few valuable lessons to be learned from the Hulk's situation. Make sure you sit down with your insurance agent every year or two and discuss what's going on in your life. You might need new coverage, different coverage or less coverage depending on what you've got going on. It's hard for your agent to make recommendations about protection if they have no idea what you're up to.
Secondly, you don't have to be a multi-millionaire to have someone sue you for a million dollars (or more)! In Colorado you are responsible for all of the damages you cause in a car accident. If you do not have enough insurance to pay the bills, the bills do NOT go away. The money just comes out of your pocket instead of the insurance company's.
Talk to your local, professional agent and find out if your insurance coverage is adequate. It will keep your finances from getting body slammed!