Like a Good Neighbor State Farm is Where?

Yeah, they’re cute commercials, but I’m not singing the State Farm jingle and expecting to see my agent pop up ready to help make everything better.

Sorry, this has gotten in my craw and I can’t get it out.

Here’s the dealeo: I’ve been with State Farm since I started driving in 1975 and they’ve gotten every dollar of vehicle insurance premium I’ve ever paid over those 40 years.  I currently have seven different policies with them, five for vehicles and for the past three years they’ve also carried our homeowner’s and a seven-figure umbrella liability policy.  So, here’s how they’ve engaged us as long-time, loyal customers after being driven into by an at fault motorist:

Even though the person who was cited for making an illegal left turn into us carried insurance through GEICO, I dutifully followed instruction #3 on the back of my State Farm Insurance Information Card that says, “IF YOU HAVE AN ACCIDENT…, 3. Promptly notify your agent, log on to statefarm.com, or visit State Farm Pocket Agent to file a claim.”

Given that we didn’t get back to our hotel until 11:00pm on Friday, October 16th, and were both tired and exhausted, I waited until the morning to log-on to statefarm.com and filed our claim electronically around 8:00am.  I figured we’d get a call back within a few hours since there was a personal injury.  Nope, not a peep throughout the weekend.

At 10:30am on Monday, October 19th, I called my agent’s office to follow-up on the on-line claim since no one had contacted us.  She mentioned seeing something earlier in the day, but suggested we just wait for a while as they’d probably follow-up later in the day.

At around 2:45pm I checked my email and saw something from State Farm; finally! Psyche… It was some type of marketing junk. But, it inspired me to shoot off a note to my Agent at 2:47pm where I politely threw his staff as well as the State Farm claims system under the bus by noting, “Ref. telecom with ______ this AM, still nothing coming back from State Farm after using the on-line claims system on Saturday morning.”   At 3:07pm I received an email back from my agent wherein he said he’d just gotten off the phone with the claims department and son-of-a-gun if they didn’t call five minutes later.

Of course, during the discussion with the person in the claims department I made mention that I included the name of the person who was cited for making the illegal left turn that caused the accident and their insurance information in the on-line system, to which she replied, “You should be filing your claim with GEICO.”  That just about sent me through the roof and I’m pretty sure I got agitated and responded with something to the effect that, “Your my insurance company and I want you in the middle of this!”

Not 10 minutes after I got off the phone with State Farm, I received a call from GEICO’s claims team. What a world of difference. The gentleman who called was kind and came off sounding considerate and concerned.  Frankly, I don’t care if that’s part of the training or not: it just helps a lot when you’re dealing with a stressful situation, and believe you me… when someone’s just driven a car into the person you love more than life itself, life gets stressful really fast.  Anyway, I was extremely impressed with how professional and organized he was. My assigned claims rep had already visited some type of insurance industry shared data base and pulled off information that State Farm had entered into the system from my on-line claim and the earlier discussions in the day.  As to why they called me, their client had filed a claim and they immediately reached out to find and make contact with us. My claims rep quickly allowed that GEICO’s client had accepted responsibility for the accident so there was no question about liability; GEICO would be addressing the claims.

I spoke with two more State Farm claims team members on the morning of October 20th. Both were somewhat helpful in explaining the process given the accident occurred in Florida, but it was getting tiresome re-telling the same story over and over again… something I assume to be part of the vetting process to weed out fraudulent claims.  It was pretty clear that State Farm was not my advocate, as I’m not sure anyone sincerely inquired as to how Debbie was doing.

I also heard from GEICO’s vehicle claims adjuster: again, what a world of difference.  Professional, polite and diligent.  He did a very good job of following up over the next two weeks as he did his estimate and then worked with Harley-Davidson of Atlanta on their estimate.  He was also very accommodating of reasonable requests and clearly understood his job.  Again, it was great.

The only thing that was running through my head after my interactions with my insurer – State Farm – and GEICO over the past 24 hours was, “I’m sure glad GEICO will be handling the claims.”  I felt like they were definitely on my side and interested in taking care of us in our time of need. Again, that could be the training but I truly enjoyed talking with their team members.

The next time I heard from State Farm was a follow-up call from someone in their claims department on what I believe was October 29th.  The purpose of their call was to see if we’d filled out the various releases they’d mailed out and, after telling her that our attorney would be sending a letter of representation, she asked, “And how is your wife doing?” almost as an after though before ending the call.  Well, at least she asked, even if it did sound like it was something on a checklist or note taped to her computer monitor.

Sadly, my love affair with GEICO on the vehicle claim came to an abrupt end on November 5th. After establishing through their models and estimating methods that our motorcycle was beyond economical repair and would be totaled, the value of the write-off exceeded their client’s property liability limit of $25,000.  This meant that State Farm would now have to step in and manage the property claim as GEICO’s client was technically underinsured.

To say the hand-off has been bumpy would be an understatement.

  • While trying to figure out where they are in the hand-over of the claim on the morning of November 6th, I end up talking with a State Farm claims rep who seems to be quite bothered that my motorcycle was sitting in GEICO’s contract salvage yard, not State Farm’s.
  • Um, just so we’re clear it’s not State Farm’s, GEICO’s or some bank’s motorcycle: it’s MY motorcycle and I have the title to prove it. That certainly can’t be the biggest issue since I’m not too worried about where my wrecked motorcycle is. After all, it’s been totaled once and my expectation is that it will stay totaled.
  • That said, I provided her with the contact info for GEICO’s adjuster as well as their contract salvage coordination firm.  Now, to be fair, she was doing her best but I needed her to be calm and confident: I’m the one who’s stressing out since this isn’t my job; it’s just an annoyance!
  • Next I try to explain that GEICO has already done an estimate on the damages as has Harley-Davidson, so all State Farm needs to do it contact GEICO to get that data.
  • “Oh no, with State Farm you need to take your vehicle to a repair shop and get an estimate and then send it to us.”
  • Let me say this again, I took it to my Harley-Davidson dealership and they’ve done the estimate: GEICO has it.
  • “I’ll have to try and reach GEICO immediately, as we have to get that bike moved.” Yeah, OK, whatever: it’s still in GEICO’s yard as I type.
  • She said she’d call me back in 20 minutes, which she did and she needed me to contact my adjuster at GEICO and give him permission to release GEICO’s photos and their estimate: fair enough.
  • After I end my call with State Farm I’m back on the phone to my wonderful GEICO claims rep who clearly can see every email and receipt that I’ve sent to their adjuster in their claims data base along with the detailed estimate.
  • One more phone call to the estimator who has now spoken with the State Farm rep and all he needs from me is permission to release his photos and his estimate, which is mostly based on the Harley-Davidson estimate. By all means, please do.
  • Today, November 10th,  I get a call from State Farm that suggests the ball got dropped during the hand-off, so once again I’m not a happy camper.

At this point, there is very little doubt in my mind that GEICO has done everything they should have done and, in fact, sent their photos and estimates to State Farm.  After all, they were already on the GEICO network, not in their adjuster’s briefcase.

Unfortunately, State Farm is now struggling to do an estimate because they don’t believe they were provided with the estimate from Harley-Davidson. And, instead of keeping it all in the family by working with GEICO (who, again, clearly had everything they needed to do their own assessment and write-off the bike) they hit up Harley-Davidson of Atlanta for a copy of the estimate. HDA said “don’t have it handy” and seeing that their customer was GEICO and they’ve received it, you really should be checking with them.  But, hey, perhaps the owner has copy.  Well, no such luck: I never received a copy but why on Earth are you asking around instead of working with GEICO? Once again, they clearly have one since they came up with a final cost for repair that was so friggin high that they had to write-off the bike!

So, as they say, the fun has just begun.  I’d hoped State Farm would be my advocate in all of this, but clearly the claims team I’m working with doesn’t see that as part of its function.  I’m just someone with a claim and their job is to make sure they can settle the claim with the least amount of financial exposure to State Farm.  Never mind that we have been State Farm customers for 40 years who pay-in ~$6k / year in premiums on seven different policies who were the victims of an underinsured motorist’s negligence.

I’m not ready to pull my business from State Farm just yet and they still have a chance to make everything right by me and be that good neighbor.  But so help me, if they continue to be as hard to deal with as everyone who has tried to settle a claim through State Farm says, I’ll be checking out Dairyland, Foremost via AARP, USAA and maybe even Allstate to see if they want our business for the next 40 years.

Dairyland, Foremost and USAA top the list because friends who deal in claims and who have had to work through claims seem to have nothing but praise for these firms.  I’m including GEICO because the claims people I’ve been dealing with have been consistently impressive: that says a lot about an organization’s culture.

More to follow and time for my meds and perhaps a shot of Patron to wash them down!

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About TG

I've been around a bit and done a few things, have a couple kids and a few grandkids. I tend to be curmudgeonly, matter-of-fact and not predisposed to self-serving chit-chat. Thankfully, my wife's as nice as can be otherwise we'd have no friends. My interests are somewhat eclectic, but whose aren't?
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2 Responses to Like a Good Neighbor State Farm is Where?

  1. Pete Templin says:

    I’m no expert in insurance/law, but an individual’s liability doesn’t necessarily stop at the limits of their policy. I’d suspect legally it stops at the highest possible limit they could have selected with their insurer. Granted, there’d be legal costs in trying to pursue the overage directly, but you wouldn’t have to deal with Jake…

    • TG says:

      This is correct and the intermediate step is dealing with “Jake” vis-a-vis subrogation, i.e., my insurance covers the loss and State Farm sues GEICO and if they feel so compelled, GEICO’s insured client to recoup their cost. The $25k is a slam-dunk and I suspect GEICO already paid State Farm the limits of their insured’s policy. State Farm will, in theory, be made whole when the totaled motorcycle is sold at auction assuming it sells for at least $3k. I’m guessing it will go for more than that. I am a bit surprised that my UIM didn’t cover the property loss vs. the Collision policy, but from my standpoint it doesn’t matter as GEICO made me whole on my deductible. The UIM is still there in the event that our personal injury costs exceed GEICO’s clients also minimal $25k PI policy limit which is still a possibility. Bills continue to come in and I’m pretty sure our health care provider will be pursuing a recovery of their total costs which covered the lion’s share of the ER and follow-ups since then and those that still lie ahead. Using our own lawyer is always an option, but not a desirable one so we’ll let the insurance company’s lawyers duke it out.

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