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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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