DennisBeaverOctober 27, 2017 • By Dennis Beaver    

If you are shopping for homeowners insurance–or about to renew your policy with Farmers–you may wish to reconsider after reading our story.

With 138 million dollars spent on television advertising in 2016, who hasn’t seen actor J.K. Simmons, playing the role of Professor Nathaniel Burke at Farmers University, telling his students, “We know a thing or two because we’ve seen a thing or two. Seen it. Covered it.”

Their entertaining commercials give the impression that Farmers cares about its customers and goes out of its way to pay their claims. Reality can be quite another matter.

Sept. 3, storm

On Sept. 3 a storm accompanied by high winds fed by monsoonal moisture– typical for late summer–caused flooding and wind-related property damage in much of Southern and Central California.

For readers “Sharon and Bill” it was of special interest for two reasons:

1. They operate a tree trimming business. “Our phones rang constantly, with many calls from people who sustained damage, earlier rejecting our advice to get their trees trimmed,” Bill stated.

2. Ironically, their next-door neighbors, “Pete and Cindy” had a monster, 75-foot tall Eucalyptus tree which split apart and came crashing down onto our readers’ corral which housed 10-year-old horse “Charlie Boy” causing serious injuries and high vet bills.

“Giant Eucalyptus drop heavy branches, with or without high winds, and are known as Widow Makers. My husband and I advised them two years earlier of the risk, explaining that when, not if it happens, there will be significant property damage or someone could get killed.

We offered to do it for a discounted price, but we were waved off.”

After the tree fell, Pete and Cindy hired our readers to cart away the massive branches and trim the tree, paying $600 with a balance of $300 which, now they refuse to pay.

Would not reveal homeowners insurance information

Insurance companies require cooperation, starting with providing policy information to someone who may have a claim. Pete and Cindy asked for and were given our reader’s homeowners information, and when “Now, please tell us who you are insured with,” they hung up the phone.

Yes, ignore the problem and it goes away?

Later the same day, a letter was hand served on them–and a copy mailed — asking to be put in touch with their insurance company. Cindy yelled at the process server, “We don’t own the house anymore,” which was a lie. They denied ever receiving the letters.

This couple were the king and queen of ignorance and dishonesty.

The law

“When you are on notice of a dangerous condition on your property and do not remedy it, that’s negligence,” Salt Lake City attorney and author, Randall K. Edwards observes, adding, “Insurance typically pays covered claims due to negligence, and when you know that you were negligent, the most idiotic thing you can do is to tell your insurance company that you were unaware of the problem.

“Even when adjusters think their insured is lying, in order to avoid paying for the damage caused – saving the company money — they might say, ‘We believe our insured,’ and deny the claim. You then wind up getting sued. 

So, by telling the truth you will be protected by the coverage you’ve paid for.”

A nice claims adjuster working for an ethically challenged company

Farmers’ claims adjuster Lindsay McCarty of Grand Rapids, Michigan, was assigned to the claim. She is one of the nicest claims people I’ve ever spoken with and needs to find a job at an ethical company. She interviewed our readers, and the process server who was told, “We don’t own the house any longer.”

In depth, she went into the advice provided two years earlier to have the tree trimmed, and was shocked – you could hear it in her voice —to learn that her insured refused to pay the balance of the bill for removing the fallen tree, telling our readers that she – Lindsay – told them to ask for a refund of the $600 paid!

Richard Osbun is her supervisor and is equally nice but with an agenda. Despite the trail of lies, Osbun stated, “We have to believe our insured. They deny ever being told that their tree was dangerous and needed trimming. Claim rejected.”

“Nonsense!” insists attorney Edwards. “Adjusters routinely disbelieve their own insured when given evidence of mistake or deceit. Here, with a stack of lies and evasive behavior, no experienced adjuster would ever believe the couple.”

Does Farmers Insurance have a culture of unjustified denials? You decide but remember that if sued, your good name will be at risk.

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