DennisBeaverDecember 6, 2016 • By Dennis Beaver

July 31: Neil Williams, former publisher of the Hanford Sentinel, and his wife are involved in an auto accident when a driver made an unsafe left turn, crashing into them. He immediately reports the accident to his own auto insurance carrier, headquartered in Southern California and which advertises that it offers “World Class Service.”

The couple would soon discover they do indeed deliver “World Class Service.”

“They gave us incompetent, stomach-churning, blood pressure elevating, maddening Third World Class Service!”

As you will see, his sarcasm is well justified.

While premiums were always paid on time and he liked their agent, a completely unexpected, frustrating, time consuming, and deeply disappointing journey was about to begin.

What Williams learned in the following weeks is highly instructive, and he wanted to share his experience with our readers, for as he states, “I learned things about claims handling that completely destroys the value of being loyal to your agent.”

We agree. Loyalty to a friendly, or a local insurance agent and remaining with an insurance company for years does not mean that you will receive good claims service, or that your agent has the intestinal fortitude — the guts — to help you.

Most are afraid of Big Daddy. Even though an agent knows you are being jerked around by incompetent or plain nasty claims handlers, most will never refer a client to an attorney. It is wimp city in almost all cases. As he observed:

“My agent had always been wonderful, but our claim — and remember, we were innocent — was handled in the most unprofessional way you could imagine. Were it not for your help, Dennis, we would have been out hundreds of dollars for rental expenses.”

Aug. 1: His wife recently having undergone knee surgery, a comparably sized vehicle to theirs was required. This meant out of pocket $19 a day over the $30 for 30 days his insurance covered. “I was fine with that, as the shop was confident repairs would be completed within two weeks.”

On a three-way call with him, the claims rep and shop agreed that repairs would begin Monday, Aug. 8 and that the field adjuster would come to the shop Tuesday and promptly coordinate work authorization.

Aug. 5: Williams learns that the field adjuster has not authorized the repairs and has vanished!

“This was a Three Stooges, Keystone Cops comedy where the adjusters failed and refused to communicate with the shop, or with me. Repairs could easily have been completed by Aug. 20, but it took until Sept. 9, turning a two week repair into a month long, expensive ordeal.”

He was looking at having to pay over $700 because of the utter incompetence of his own insurance company’s claims department.

After spending hours on the phone, dozens of calls, finally, a claims supervisor phoned, apologized for the delays, and instructed the rental agency, “Please do not bill our insured. We are paying for the entire rental bill.”

When it came time to pay, his insurance company, the one that promises “World Class Service,” and brags that they are “The Local Advantage,” refused! Reaching the company’s president, “our contractual rights” was the reason given.

It was a slap in his face. He called us and we left a voice mail for the president.

An hour later, guess who phones Williams? “Of course we will pay for the entire rental,” says the president, who then rang our office, urging us to, “Please, do a story, and you are welcome to mention our name, as we did the right thing.”

This column does not reward incompetence.

“They weren’t doing the right thing when I called — but when you called! He did the right thing but not for the right reason! And he didn’t do me any favors. You did. Lemons were turned into lemonade only because of your call, and the fear of exposure in your syndicated column,” Neil William concluded.

When you have a claim, with most companies, you are dealing with someone out of the area to whom you are a complete stranger. A great sales agent does not mean the company will treat you the way your agent does.

When purchasing insurance, ask “If I have a claim, how does the process work with your company? Who am I dealing with? Where are they? If you want my business, I expect that you will help me if things go south.”

Insist that your agent get involved in any claim.

With insurance claims, patience is not a virtue.

To learn more about the best auto insurance, check out this guide:

Dennis Beaver practices law in Bakersfield and enjoys hearing from his readers. Contact Dennis Beaver.