Have Satellite Truck, Will Travel

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Location: Sitting inside a TV truck, Somewhere, more then likely in the Southeastern region, United States

I am a grouchy, bald headed old fart filled with opinions and not the least bit shy about sharing them.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

State Farm Insurance: Like a good neighbor until you have a claim

My friend Lea Hernandez had a fire a little over a year ago. Lea and her family got out safely. But the house and contents were destroyed. Worse then that she lost several beloved animals that no amount of money can ever replace. For those things that could be replaced, fortunately they have State Farm insurance.

Or at least they thought that was fortunate. It turns out that after the trauma and pain of losing almost everything they owned, State Farm Insurance was about to become their worse nightmare.

Reading through her blog and talking with her reveals one more State Farm Insurance insult after another. Let me quote a few of her more colorful experiences with the fine folks at State Farm Insurance:
-How have you paid for replacements so far?
WITH MONEY. Why the **** would he ask this?
-There were some items duplicated from the theft. Big deal, it was a mistake, we're not trying to double-dip, knock them off. But we can't do that, Dave. Daisy, Daisy.
-Oh noes, you had a huge table that "doesn't look damaged."
Dangit, I knew I should've paid for the scratch-and-gag upgrade on the pictures. What was I thinking, not making them a total sensory experience of stench, blackened hands, and tears? It couldn't have been THAT bad, there was only smoke in every damn inch of the house. Why couldn't we salvaged things from a fire that nearly killed me and the kids? Sheah.
-We have the right to inspect.
Then maybe you should've gotten your miserly asses over to the house MORE THAN ONCE in the TWO MONTHS it was vacant before demolition was started. I guess, in the copious notes you have, you're missing the statement from our first adjuster, "I'd start a Bobcat at the driveway and keep going until I got to the other side."

Lea's Journal: Today is made of suck!


See the table? It's the big flat dusty thing in the center of the picture. That table was questioned on our claim because of its cost and apparent condition.
The issue seemed to be maybe we were still using that table because we'd waited almost a year to claim it and how did we buy a new one if we hadn't put in claims money? Did we realllllly throw it away?
Why, yes, we did! See, we have a picture!

The lesson here is YOU CANNOT BE OBSESSIVE ENOUGH when documenting a disaster. Without my being over every day taking pictures, I'd have never had this shot to wave about. Imagine my ridiculous Rocky-dance glee when I found it.

Lea's Journal: ATF: In Which My Huevos are Bigger than Their Cojones

According the Texas State web site, the adjusters representing State Farm Insurance are breaking the rules. They are not allowed to ask about things not related to the claim. Questions about how they paid for things like a new washer and drier are outside the legal limits as well. (Yo adjusters, I got your answer to that last one right here: She paid for it with Donations from people like me, you got a problem with that?)

Lea tells of other problems as well. Adjusters tell her of other people replacing Wal-mart underwear with Victoria Secret fineries and then, without saying there was wrong doing, using that story to pressure her to back off her claims. Adjusters claiming they called her or her husband when there is no message or record of the call on the caller ID.

The biggest problem is that State Farm Insurance foot dragging in this case left my friend Lea in a very bad spot at the moment. She needs to be paid for the rest of her losses and State Farm Insurance is playing games with her.

Lea is not the only victim of State Farm's claim service. She has a lot of company.

People with damage from Katrina are still fighting to get paid. State Farm Insurance is splitting hairs trying to claim flood damage even on properties that were damaged by winds. There are millions of dollars at stake here.

But a US District Court Judge sees it differently:
Judge L.T. Senter, Jr. ordered State Farm Fire & Casualty to pay $223,292 in damages to a Biloxi couple, who suffered the loss of their home in the devastating storm. The judge declined to award punitive damages in the case, but said the jury may choose to do so.

In an unusual move, the judge issued a directed verdict from the bench, then ordered a recess. He sent the jury to the jury room to begin deliberating punitive damages.

Norman and Genevieve Broussard say they lost their home when a tornado spawned by the massive hurricane slammed into it, leaving only a concrete slab.

The insurance company refused to pay, saying the home was destroyed by Katrina's storm surge, and that the policy did not cover water damage.

Consumer Affairs: Judge rules against State Farm in Katrina case

Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood dropped all efforts to get State Farm to come around peacefully on Mississippi hurricane damage. He is now filing suit to get State Farm to cough up some money:
In January, Hood agreed to remove State Farm from his office’s suit against several other insurance carriers after the firm said it would pay some of the disputed claims. But the deal apparently fell apart after it failed to win backing from a federal judge.

Insurance companies refused to pay thousands of hurricane related claims, saying the damage was caused by the storm’s ferocious storm surge and therefore were not covered by the policy. Homeowners countered that their homes were knocked off their foundations by the hurricane’s winds, when the storm’s eye passed directly over the coast.

“We filed this lawsuit in an effort to help the more than 30,000 Gulf Coast policyholders who have suffered for nearly two years because of State Farm's inaction,” Hood said.

Consumer Affairs: Mississippi Sues State Farm Over Katrina Coverage

Well, State Farm Insurance has a solution to that problem:
Paraphrasing Richard Nixon, Mississippi won't have State Farm Insurance to kick around anymore.

Stinging from defeat in a Hurricane Katrina damage claim in Biloxi, the company says it will no longer insure homeowners and businesses in the state, where it is the largest single insurer with a 30 percent market share. Allstate pulled out of Mississippi's six coastal counties last year.

"It is no longer prudent for us to take on additional risk in a legal and business environment that is becoming more unpredictable," said Senior Vice President Bob Trippel, in a statement.

Consumer Affairs: Payback: State Farm Writes Off Mississippi

That should solve all the problems plaguing State Farm Insurance in Mississippi all right. Better they should deal in states with attorney generals that don't like to fight.

The State Farm Insurance jingle reads, "Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there."

Uhm... yeah. Right.


What the insurance companies have done is to reverse the business so that the public at large insures the insurance companies.
- Gerry Spence

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Monday, September 10, 2007

Stay clear of St. George, MO.

Sometimes it pays to be over-paranoid. Taking a page out of the gotcha television journalism book of tricks, Brett Darrow equipped his car with all kinds of cameras and recording equipment.

The fun and games began around two in the morning when Darrow pulled into a public commuter parking lot to wait for a friend. Darrow was well within his rights when he refused to answer personal questions about what his business was in the lot at that time.

The police officer went ballistic. Check this out:
[I exit the vehicle]
Officer #1: Let me see your ID.
[I give him my valid Missouri License]
Officer #1: Let me see your insurance card for the vehicle.
Brett: Did I commit a moving violation?
Officer #1: Yeah you did, when you were coming in here.
Brett: Really? What was that?
Officer #1: Yeah, you wanna try me? You wanna try me tonight? You think you've had a bad night? I will ruin your ****ing night.
[Officer starts to get close up to my face]
Officer #1 You want to try me?
[Officer is inches away from my face, screaming as I'm pinned between him and my vehicle]
Officer #1 Do you wanna try me young boy? Do you want to try me tonight young boy?
Brett: No I don't.
Officer #1: Do you want to go to jail for some ****ing reason I come up with?
Brett: No I don't.
Officer #1: Do you wanna see who knows the law better, me or you. My experience compared to your young ass. Huh? Don't ever get smart mouthed with a cop again. I show you what a cop does. Do you understand me?
Brett: Yes sir.
Officer #1: Try and talk back -- Talk back to me again. I bet I could say you resisted arrest or something. You want to come up with something? I come up with nine things. Do you wanna try something?
Brett: No I don't.
Officer #1: Wait here.

The Newpaper: Missouri: Police Threaten, Detain Motorist for Parking After Hours

There is a video which really shows nothing, but the audio track is damning for the police officer. There is also a transcript of the audio track.

I think I'll steer clear of St. George, MO. I work too many weird hours and really just don't do all that well with pin heads in a position of power. That situation almost always goes bad for me.

Sadly, this kind of official bullying goes on all the time. You would not believe some of the crap we put up with just in the course of doing our jobs. Making laws up out of thin air, blowing their top when they are called on their fabrication, ordering us off private property when we have permission from the owners to be there and on and on and on.

So I both admire the kid and shake my head at him. I admire him for sticking to his guns when the police officer asked questions that were outside to the scope of what he was required to answer. More power to him.

But I also have to wonder what it would have hurt to simply tell the officer he was waiting to pick up a friend form work. (We won't discuss my refusal to fully participate in DUI check points here.) If his goal was to jerk the officer's chain and paint a kick-me sign on his back visible to every police officer in and around St. George, MO, I'd say he's about there.

I think I'll leave these corrections of social injustice to the youngsters like Brett Darrow. I'm too hold for a jail house beating.


Bad cop! No donut.
- Bumper sticker from long ago

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Monday, September 03, 2007

The tables may be turning against the RIAA in their war on the people that buy their music. Back in 2005 the RIAA set their minions on Tanya Andersen, a disabled single mother in Oregon. After telling the minions that she did nothing wrong and even offering her computer up for inspection, the RIAA filed suit and lost.

As Andersen won, it is a forgone conclusion that she gets attorney fees and expenses. But she is not done with the RIAA. Through her attorney, Andersen has begun a lawsuit and is seeking class action status. Among her claims:
"For years, the RIAA and its member companies have been using flawed and illegal private investigation information as part of their coordinated scheme and common enterprise to threaten, intimidate and coerce payment from private citizens across the United States. As such they have clogged and abused the federal courts for many years with factually baseless and fraudulent lawsuits."
Variety: RIAA faces serious piracy lawsuit
Music org's stern policy in jeopardy

Some may wonder why Andersen is so angry, she won, didn't she? Here are the highlights from the RIAA's suit against her:
  • MediaSentry, the investigative firm contracted by the RIAA toidentify illegal downloaders, is not licensed for such investigations.

  • MediaSentry and the RIAA have known "for years" that the investigativemethods are flawed and sometimes result in cases of mistaken identity.

  • An agent from the settlement company told Andersen that he doubted shewas guilty, but the record labels "would not quit their attempts toforce payment from her because to do so would encourage other people todefend themselves."

  • The RIAA repeatedly refused toaccept Andersen's offer that their representatives come inspect hercomputer's hard drive until a court ordered the inspection -- whichshowed the computer had not been used for any infringement.

  • Persisting, the RIAA began to harass Andersen's 10-year-old daughter,demanding a deposition from her and even posing as a relative whencalling her school to get access to her.

  • The RIAA finally dropped its case only after a court ordered it to produce evidence of infringement, which the org never did.

Variety: RIAA faces serious piracy lawsuit
Music org's stern policy in jeopardy

Just to make sure you didn't miss it let me emphasize one of those highlights, representatives of the RIAA impersonated a relative to school officials trying to get Andersen's 10 year old daughter on the phone. Someone needs a serious beating over that one. Why aren't the RIAA minions in contempt of court over that one?

You go Mrs. Andersen. You have my undying admiration and my greatest hope for a complete slam dunk with your law suit.

Too bad a disabled single mother had to do what the state and US attorneys general should have already done.


If we do not maintain justice, justice will not maintain us.
- Francis Bacon