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Farmers Insurance - Responsible for giving wrong information?
Posted on Wednesday, July 29th, 2009 at 11:28pm CDT by 9477df55
Product: auto insurance
Company: Farmers Insurance
(Here follows a copy of my letter to Farmers Insurance.)
July 29, 2009
1961 N. Locust Grove Rd.
Meridian, Idaho 83646
Dear [Mr. ZZ] : (Individuals' names have been withheld.)
Here is an interesting tale that speaks to the loss you may experience from hot-headedness and from the unwillingness to accept responsibility for giving wrong information.
I must start with my presumption that part of the job of the insurance agent is to help the insured identify what is an allowable claim and what is not. I understand that the final answer on a claim comes from the adjuster relying on the written policy, but my contact point is the agent, and I am glad to have the personal communication with my agent over the years as he or she helps me with a catastrophe or inconvenient loss.
I had a comprehensive-type auto loss that was paid by Farmers Insurance on 06/02/08. During that process I learned from the adjuster of the existence of a class of claims arising from damage by wind-blown sand. (We did not discuss particulars of my sand damage. I had no such claim before him.)
I again assume that insurance companies exist by compensating me and others when we experience loss, and by setting their premiums to equitably balance the risks of particular payouts. I cannot participate in that balance between risk and compensation, even though I pay the premiums, unless I know what is compensable.
I called my agent, [Ms. X], on or soon after 06/02/08. We spoke at length about whether my [wind-blown] sand damage would be an allowable claim. [My agent] identified two different types of such damage, that from a specific event, and that which accumulates over time not from any specific event. We spoke directly to that distinction, and [my agent] said that yes, sand damage from either a specific event or over time from a non-specific event would be covered.
I had not considered, prior to these conversations, that I had a claim to pursue from sand damage. (I was somewhat surprised that I was given a go-ahead on damage that could be likened to fading paint.) My questions in the conversation with [my agent] were probing, to determine as precisely as possible what the policy dictated, but my manner was tentative and seeking confirmation. Thereafter, I relied on my agent's information, developed anticipation of a paid claim, spent my time, and involved others and their time at Farmers in the processing of the claim. Which efforts and anticipation became my loss.
I filed the claim for sand damage on or about 06/09/08, claim # [. . .] . On 06/11/08, [Mr. Z], an adjuster for Farmers, called me and said that sand damage from a non-specific event was "normal wear and tear," and was not covered.
All of the above is only background. How do I proceed now and re-establish trust in my agent and in the information she gives me, so that we can continue communicating effectively and amicably? . . .
I called [my agent] at Farmers on or soon after 06/11/08. I peaceably recited what the adjuster had told me. I believe she shuffled papers a moment, then said she would check with her boss, the owner of the agency. I expected [my agent] to come back to the phone. The conversation was not tense. My hope was to give [my agent] the chance to recognize the misinformation she had given me and the opportunity to clear the air, so I could trust communications with her in the future.
Instead, her boss, [Mr. XX], picked up the phone. I did not expect him, and his greeting did not express knowledge of the situation. I had just told the agency that I had relied on information they had given me which turned out to be incorrect, but [Mr. XX] picked up the phone with something like, "What's up?!" in a "howdy do!,
what can I do for you?" tone, with no acknowledgement that the burden lay with him/his agency at that moment to retract and correct misinformation. For what other reason had the phone call been transferred to him?
I began an account again of the situation, probably with a sigh and an inconvenienced tone. Rather than listen through the account, [Mr. XX] began to take offense at my now complaint that the misinformation had been given to me, and now, had not even been acknowledged. As [Mr. XX] became more heated, he even suggested I find another agency. I did not want that hassle, and I seriously hoped for a long relationship--in Missouri I had had one insurance agent for about twenty years. Gradually he heard and accepted my account*, and tension cooled. I believe it was his suggestion at that point that he become the agent for me to contact in the future. (Now, a telling question is whether this was to assure me that I would get his expertise directly, to insulate me from [Ms. X] , or to be able to more easily corral my inquiries in the future. Regardless, the door seemed closed now to clearing the air with [Ms. X].) I likely would have been quite satisfied to continue communicating with [Ms. X] and done so amicably and trusting her, if she had been able to participate in the clear-the-air conversation. I do not know why she did not.
I think I saw [Mr. XX] once more in passing when I came in to pay a premium. I remember no other contact with him and no other issues. Then notice came that [someone else] was taking over the office. I wanted to meet the senior agent and person with whom I would deal, but I erred in waiting too long to set up an appointment. I finally called on Wednesday, 07/22/09. A good meeting time was not available, and my frustration grew with a perceived insult from the agency's receptionist (she did not seem to believe my need for a meeting in-office for whatever [my unstated] reason). I became strongly argumentative, a poor response on my part, for which I apologize. (This may seem a strange venue for an apology, but it is as it is. My hot-headedness comes back to bite me, too.)
I traveled and came into the insurance office the next morning, Thursday, hoping to catch [the new senior agent]. As it turned out she was not in, and [Mr. XX] relayed that he would meet me there. [Mr. XX's] approach to me that morning and a distinctive side comment by [Ms. X] on the telephone the previous day suggested that they felt that this was only one more of a series of problems or untoward impositions I had placed on their office.
I challenge [Mr. XX] to recount any episode, other than my isolated conversations 07/22/09 with the receptionist, in which I spoke or acted out of place, or initiated any conversation which would not be reasonable to have with one's insurance agent.
This letter comes to your office to clear the air, as much as possible, since other avenues are unavailable. This letter also is to inform Farmers Insurance of the loss it has incurred from hot-headedness. It is unreasonable, and contrary to good business, to become angry at someone, let alone at your customer, or to hold a grudge against someone, for informing you of your own error. ( * Apparently [Mr. XX] did not accept my account of the issue with the sand damage claim.)
I was given the incentive to shop. Counting annual premiums for my home and two vehicles with similar limits, Farmers was undercut by American Family Insurance by 2%, and by Auto-Owners Insurance by 26%. With some liability limits significantly higher at Auto-Owners Insurance, Farmers was still undercut by 17%, from $1043.00 to $865.00 annually.
I think the greatest usefulness for this letter directly, might come to two people involved who might not get or take the chance to read it. I therefore will also post this letter, with individuals' names withheld, at www.complaints.com. The letter is long. The length is necessary to convey my good faith efforts. Indirectly, benefit may come to other insurance policyholders at large. The insurance agent, even like the general practitioner doctor, should work with the customer/patient over the years, from property or injury loss to property or injury loss/from health issue to health issue, as an advocate for [the well-being of] the customer/patient.
My best wishes to Farmers Insurance.
a (former) Farmers Insurance customer