A few weeks ago I probably felt the most fulfillment to date as an insurance adviser. This fulfillment came from helping a current insured navigate through a difficult and “grey” claim situation. That’s right, even though those insurance policies you never read are forty or fifty pages long, there is still much “grey” in what will and will not be covered. Before going into the story, I want to ask a question that will act as the thesis for this post, “Does having someone you trust as an adviser for your home, auto, and/or business insurance matter?”
Let’s jump into the story. One afternoon more than two months ago now, I received a call from an insured. We’ll call him John. John’s wife, who we’ll call Sarah, was rear-ended at a stop sign on the southwest side of Indianapolis. The driver who caused the accident fled the scene; it was a hit-and-run. Sarah was left with a badly damaged back bumper and driver side back panel. Thankfully, she was not injured; however, John and Sarah are expecting their first child in a few months, so she went to the doctor to confirm she and the baby were okay. Remarkably, a witness to the accident was quick thinking enough to scramble for a pen and piece of paper to write down the license plate of the driver who caused the accident. To tell the rest of the story, I’m going to use a timeline to better show the communication maze we weaved through in the subsequent days…that turned into weeks.
To summarize where we are to this point, our insured, Sarah, was the victim of a hit-and-run accident with ~$4,000 in property damage and ~$600 in medical bills. Our goal is to help the insured not have to pay any part of the loss out-of-pocket as they shared no fault in the accident.
8/25/2016 – Call #1: Call John and Sarah’s insurance company, Safeco, to see if we can, if we choose to, file an uninsured motorist claim. The insured’s have a $0 deductible for this coverage. After outlining the situation, the Safeco claims specialist communicates that this coverage can, by law, only be used in Indiana if there is verification that that driver and vehicle are uninsured. Because the driver fled the scene, there is no way to confirm this.
8/29/2016 – Call #2: Leave a message for the detective assigned to the case. Who knew there were detectives assigned to hit-and-run cases in big cities?
8/30/2016 – Call #3: Promptly receive a return call from the detective. He states that since Sarah got a plate number, he should be able to track down the vehicle. The plate number matches the description of the vehicle. The detective says he will follow up by Thursday – 9/1/2016.
9/2/2016 – Call #4 – After not hearing from the detective by the day he said he would follow up, I leave a voicemail.
9/7/2016 – Call #5 – Still haven’t heard from heard back from detective, leave a second voicemail.
9/9/2016 – Call #6 – You guessed it, still nothing from the detective. This time, when I prepare to leave a voicemail, I get a glimmer of hope! His voicemail states that his voicemail system has been working improperly, and that if you have left a voicemail in the last five days, he has not received it. Well, I left two during that time period, and now leave a third.
9/14/2016 – Call #7 – Still radio silence from the detective. His voicemail is the same one stating he has not been receiving voicemails. I leave voicemail number four. By this time, our insureds have been driving a beat up vehicle for three weeks, and the bill from the doctor’s visit has arrived and is due in a few weeks.
9/16/2016 – Call #8 – Alas, I get through to the detective. Unfortunately, he has not been able to drive by the suspect’s house to see if the vehicle is there. I explain to him that, at this point, we are not concerned with criminal proceedings, but would love whatever information he has that can help ensure John and Sarah get their claim paid for without using their personal auto insurance. He understands, and shares the name of the individuals the car is registered to, their insurance company name, and the policy number. Now we are getting somewhere!
9/16/2016 – Call #9 – Call local State Farm agent I have a relationship with to outline the situation, see if the person is one of their insureds, and get advice on how to proceed with the claim.
9/16/2016 – Call #10 – Three-way call State Farm claims number and spend twenty or so minutes filing a claim with Sarah. We are given a claim number and adjuster.
9/19/ 2016 – Call #11 – Call designated State Farm claims adjuster, Tom, and explain the claim to him. He says he will begin researching the situation and will follow up with us.
9/21/2016 – Call #12 – We haven’t heard anything from Tom, so I call the number he gave me. The number is to the State Farm claims department. I give the person who answers the call our claim number and Tom’s extension. We find out we have a new claims adjuster. His name is Mike. I leave a message for Mike.
9/21/2016 – Call #13 – Mike returns my call. I bring him up to speed on what’s happened. He asks me to email all the information we have. I email the crash report and media summary report.
9/23/2016 – Call #14 – Curious to hear if the State Farm adjuster has been able to get in contact with their insured, I call Mike. Mike communicates that their insured admits there was damage to their vehicle, but they have no idea how it could have happened. Neither of the named insureds were driving. Mike asks if anyone else lives in their home or has access to their vehicle. They reluctantly share they have someone else living with them. To provide Sarah and John coverage, State Farm will have to identify the driver of the vehicle. Mike asks if we have a description of the driver. Sarah provides a description of the driver, and I email the description to Mike.
9/24/2016 – Call #15 – Mike calls and leaves a voicemail stating the description given matches the description of the individual living in their insured’s home. He says he will be in touch by the middle of next week.
9/29/2016 – Call #16 – Mike has yet to call me or Sarah back, so I call Mike. Mike was able to talk to their insured. Mike shared the description of the person driving the vehicle with the insured. They agree it matches the description of the person who lives in their home. We may be getting somewhere?! Mike asks if he can come to the home to see the vehicle. You won’t believe what happens next…their insured admits to trading the damaged vehicle in for a new one! Unbelievable, right? Mike believes he is getting close to being able to confirm their insured is liable for the accident. He says he will follow up early next week. Our optimism for a positive resolution grows!
10/4/2016 – Call #17 – Having not heard from Mike, I call and leave a voicemail.
10/6/2016 – Call #18 – At 9:44 a.m. I miss a call. It’s a call from Mike. State Farm is going to pay for the damage to Sarah’s vehicle and her medical bills. Victory!
My goal from the day the accident happened was to get the best possible outcome for our insureds, Sarah and John, with them doing the least amount of “lifting” as possible. Through eighteen phone calls (conservatively), at least as many emails, and hours of screen and phone time, we were able to get the best possible outcome. We prevented Sarah and John from filing a claim against their personal auto insurance, which would have meant they were out their deductible, $1,000, and would have a “collision” loss on their claims report that would affect how insurance companies rated them for the next 3-5 years. The long term financial impact could have been a few thousand dollars – all for something outside of their control. I was not satisfied with that as an outcome. It’s likely there are agents and companies who would have waved the white flag after call #1, #2, #3, and so on, or they would have left the insureds to try to sort through the tangled mess.
To finish, let’s go back to the question I asked at the beginning of this story, ““Does having someone you trust as an adviser your home, auto, and/or business insurance matter?” Hopefully, you see the answer to this question is a resounding, “YES!” Here are some take-aways I hope you’ll get from reading this:
Purchase auto, home, and/or business insurance from someone you trust – I would love this person to be me! If it can’t be me, I recommend choosing someone local who is not only trustworthy, but represents reputable insurance companies (A-, A, A+, or A++ rated by A.M. Best), is smart, and can provide testimonials of stories like this of how they have gone out of their way to help an insured(s).
Don’t just purchase insurance on price – Cheap insurance often equals poor coverage and/or poor service. There are more places to buy insurance online today than ever before. That policy you find online may be a deal…until it’s not. Thankfully, most people rarely, if ever, have to use their insurance. In the event you do, do you want someone you trust helping you through the unfortunate situation, or are you content with a call center?
I would be remiss if I ended this post without sharing my appreciation of State Farm Insurance for ultimately doing what was right and paying for the repairs to our insured’s vehicle and her medical bills. Lesser insurance companies would have fought tooth and nail to not pay the claim.
In conclusion, I hope to become one of my insured’s most trusted advisers. As trusted as their financial adviser, doctor, lawyer, etc. If you personally, or your business, is looking for this type of relationship, I hope you’ll give me a call: (317) 869-9180 or shoot me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org.