Even with all the honest and good intentions there could be errors, omissions and mistakes in the way your auto insurance company handles your claim. Also, there could be miscalculations and misjudgements on the parts of people involved. Expecting that everything would go without a single glitch may be too optimistic.
Your first contact point should be your broker or agent if you have one. Otherwise, you should contact the company direct. Every company must have a complaint procedure in place. And they are likely to belong to a financial services dispute resolution scheme which listens to both parties and try to find a mutually agreeable solution.
Getting in Contact with Claims Adjusters
When you have questions, issues and disagreements about your claim first point of contact is generally the Claims Adjuster. They are appointed by the insurer to bring your claim to conclusion. They will try their best to resolve an issue amicably and move onto the next claim. They may have authority to negotiate with you up to a point. Failing to come to an agreement they may have to leave it to the company for the final say.
It is a common practice for a claims adjuster to start with a low offer and go up a bit if for the sake of quick settlement. They will have to listen to any reasonable argument. So, you will need to explain why you should be paid more, how much and how you came to this conclusion. You cannot just lock heads with the adjuster and expect a back down on the other side. They are used to aggressive and unreasonable attitudes and would quickly be able to put them in their places.
If you have a large claim, it may be prudent to find a Loss Adjuster to work for you. These adjusters immediately make contact with insurance adjusters and discuss the settlement and/or repairs. If they are working for a percentage of the claim they will have to be on your side to get paid more money. This could speed up the process as well.
Going Above the Claims Adjuster
When you come to an impasse with the claims adjuster you need to talk to the company direct. Don’t just talk to a claim handling agent. Try to find someone higher up the company who can make decisions. People who work closely with the adjusters may tend to defend the work done by their department. However, someone responsible for the regional office would not want a simple disagreement to escalate to a full blown complaint that can reach to his/her head office.
What to Remember in the Process?
When you are talking to other side about your complaints and dissatisfaction remember to document your concerns in writing. Keep a record of who you contacted, what they said and when. Keep a copy of all the documents you sent to insurance representatives and keep the letters and e-mails they sent you. At a later stage you may need to present them or come back to them to refresh your memory.
What Happens If You Come to an Impasse with the Auto Insurer?
Chase your claim and keep it alive. Don’t let them sit on it while you need an answer. When you realize that you are going nowhere with your efforts to resolve the problem directly with the company you have other options. A next step would normally be contacting your state insurance department.
They will explain to you what you can do and what to expect. You will probably need to fill a formal complaint. Most state insurance departments keep a record of complaints and publish the number of complaints a particular company received and how they handled it. First thing they will do is to pass your complaint to the insurance company for comments and resolution.
A good firm wouldn’t like to receive complaints. They see it as public relations issues and they like to keep their reputation. In any case, they will have to reply back to the state insurance department explaining their viewpoint. State insurance commissioner’s office would review the respond from your insurer and see if it complies with state laws.
Most state insurance departments take an active role in complaints process and can tell the companies to correct their practices if they are breaking laws. Otherwise, they would be able to advise you as to what could your next course of action be.
Final Step You Can Take
If you have exhausted all the avenues and there are no schemes like ombudsman to referee the case you may have to take it to courts. There are lawyers specialized in these cases and they would be able to advise you. Many policyholders took their cases to courts and won in even unlikeliest circumstances.
The one problem companies will see with going to court is that if you win you could open up a floodgate to many more similar claims. So, it is possible that they will offer some sort of out of court settlement. You need to measure your chances, legal costs, time spent and what you are likely to receive at the end and make a decision in every step.
It is important not to be stubborn and take a step back to listen to other people’s viewpoints and advises. You may end up spending more out of pocket money and not get anything at the end. Don’t pull it one direction all the way and see if there are other resolutions you may be satisfied. And consider that you may be wrong all along as well.
Here is a good source for further reading on the subject.