Settling the Total Loss on Blue & Moving On….

Well OK, I folded like an envelope and accepted State Farm’s pay-off offer on Blue; the juice of working through their challenging claims process any longer wasn’t worth the squeeze.  I’ll be signing off on Blue’s ‘death certificate’ Monday, getting the pay-out check and then handing over the title.

THE OFFER

The value they offered on the basic motorcycle was actually very good; no complaints and that’s the reason I settled. However, the depreciation and exclusions on the “accessories / performance upgrades” was eye-opening and downright excessive: 45% depreciation for the 1st year and 30% for the 2nd year.  No kidding, 61% depreciation over 2 years.  A teachable moment, to be sure:

  • Lesson #1: Always read every bit of small print in your policy.
  • Lesson #2: If you carrier’s policies aren’t fair and reasonable, find a different carrier.

IMHO, and based on what I’ve learned in working through our property loss claim with State Farm, they really don’t want to be in the motorcycle insurance business. I suspect they offer the motorcycle policies so loyal clients who trust State Farm can have all of their vehicle and home insurance needs covered by the same company.  As a client, I also suspect a repair claim doesn’t yield an awful experience for the insured.  You take it to a repair shop, get an estimate and if it’s reasonable they authorize the repair: done.  Now, if you’re the repair shop, dealing with State Farm is apparently still a nightmare, but as the insured you’re usually not stuck in the middle of it aside from supporting your repair shop with approvals, etc. to reject cheap-ass, non-OEM parts as substitutes.  However, when it comes to the total loss, ugg.

As I said, the amount they offered on the motorcycle itself was very fair and consistent with what GEICO was going to offer up and until they were stopped cold by the property damage limits of their client’s policy.  In fact, it was only a bit less than what I originally paid for the motorcycle back in August 2013.  Long-time readers may recall I was able to buy our 2013 CVO Road King for well under the MSRP. Not quite the dealer cost of $24,000, noting it’s a poorly kept secret that the difference between dealer cost and MSRP for any Harley-Davidson motorcycle is 20%.  That, coupled with finding an identical replacement motorcycle with 2,400 miles that appears to be in very good to excellent condition for less than the assessed value we were being offered  by State Farm, made swallowing the extra $500 I may have gotten if I escalated the dispute on depreciation of the add-ons a lot easier.  And, to the State Farm claim rep’s credit, in addition to the very fair amount they offered on the motorcycle, he pumped up the cost basis of the add-ons by including things that are normally excluded by State Farm.

Therefore, at the end of the day, as I took a step back and looked at the total settlement against my original costs and what it will cost me out-of-pocket to replace our 2013 CVO Road King with a nearly identical motorcycle — outfitted with the same aftermarket exhaust system, TTS tuner & Dyno Pro tune, Motolights and saddle rework — we’ll be whole.  We’ll also have an identical motorcycle with 2,400 miles vs. 18,000 that will hopefully prove to be as reliable.

LEAVING MONEY ON THE TABLE?

While part of me really does feel like I folded too easily and without escalating my dispute of what was probably an additional 1.8% / $500 in value for my add-ons, the real eye-opener in this process was how unnecessarily convoluted the State Farm claim center’s processes seem to be.  I’ll share more on that in a minute.  However, it suffices to say, because State Farm has been an excellent company to us for 40 years and our agent for the past 24 year has been a pleasure to work with, they will continue to be our home, blanket liability and auto insurance provider.  But, when it comes to motorcycles it’s probably time to move our three motorcycles over to an insurance company that specializes in motorcycle coverage and claims.  Having gotten a couple of on-line quotes, we’ll end up with policies that include specified coverage for add-ons and accessories for 20% – 35% less with the same levels of liability coverage and from all accounts, a much for efficient claims process for all concerned.  So, while I probably left $500 sitting on the table by not adding to my stress level — remembering I’ve already ended up with a case of the Shingles from this accident — I’ll probably get that back in reduced insurance premiums 10-fold over the next 10-15 years. So, in that respect, thank you State Farm for the wake-up call.

STATE FARM’S CHALLENGING CLAIMS CENTER PROCESS:

If I didn’t have a chance to work the property loss claim first with GEICO before they handed it off to State Farm it may not have seemed as convoluted as it did.  Then again, I’d already been forewarned by someone who handles motorcycle damage claims on a daily basis at our local Harley-Davidson dealer that of all of firms they work with State Farm was the most difficult, so my expectations were low.  Turns out, they weren’t low enough and I’m a State Farm client!

As probably mentioned early-on, GEICO was and is EASY to work with.  I have a claims representative who is a calm, organized and easy person to deal with.  Moreover, I have his direct line and when I call I usually get him and don’t go to voice mail.  When I do leave a voice mail, he calls back within the hour.  The same was true of my assigned adjuster.  I had his direct line, work email and if I left a message he called back within the hour. In fact, his voice mail includes his supervisor’s name and phone number and instructions to call HIM if my adjuster doesn’t return the call within three hours.  On every call they always had up-to-date and accurate information and when they said they’d do something by a certain time, they did it.  It was wonderful and they truly did exceed my expectations at every turn… and I’m NOT GEICO’s primary customer. They get “customer service” and “customer satisfaction”.

State Farm was, as noted, challening.  I had an assigned claims rep but trying to communicate with him directly was nearly impossible.  The phone number you’re given goes to a team, not your representative.  Email goes to a “system” that looks for the claim number in the subject line and then farms the Email to the team.  During my two-weeks of trying to communicate with my claims rep I ended up speaking to no less than 8 different people, none of whom was intimately familiar with my claim. Moreover, the information in the on-line claim history file was clearly incomplete, incorrect at times and usually not up to date.  When I did speak with my claims rep he too seemed to be confused at times and, as I later learned, it’s not surprising: he was handling 200 active claims.  I eventually brought my agent into the mix and his ability to communicate to our claims rep was no easier than mine: he also had to deal with multiple team members and received less than accurate information at times.  As mentioned, GEICO’s complete claim file was transmitted twice.  To his credit, my claims rep did finally give me a good debrief on the settlement value and what his process was for coming up with that value.  He was also very empathetic to the plight of someone who suffered a loss that was not their fault, which was good to hear: it’s nice to know you’re dealing with a real person.

In talking with our friend and service advisor at Harley who handles all of the insurance jobs, she noted that the State Farm claims processes were changed about two years ago.  Up and until then, they had adjusters in the field who did the typical leg work needed to get estimates, take photos and work with the repair shops on a claim. They were knowledgeable and responsive, on par with the good insurance companies but still a tick below the motorcycle specialty firms.   However, now-days they ‘call it in’ and work all of the claims virtually.  The repair shop has to take the photos and prepare the estimates for State Farm. They have to be faxed-in and routinely go missing.  Days pass after claim information is sent and guess what the repair shops encounter when they try to follow-up? Yup, they call in and get the team member of the minute who has inaccurate, out-of-date or incomplete information and invariably “we never received the estimate”.  The estimate is eventually found after it is sent a second time, along with a copy of the original confirmation receipt for the first faxed estimate and then more delays.  About the only way they get a claims team off the dime is to remind them that the insurance company is being charged $25/day for storage and also gets hit with an additional administrative charge each 30 days.  Amazing… and I suspect it costing State Farm clients based on feedback from friends who were aware of our challenges.

Bottom Line: I really do enjoy the relationship I have with my State Farm agent.  I miss my old agent’s representative Liz who would have definitely ‘been on it’ early on in the process and that would have helped my agent from getting blind-sided.  It’s the relationship and trust I have in my agent that keeps me with State Farm. However, State Farm’s ability to support clients with motorcycles in a total loss situation is pretty poor. I shudder to think that this same claims process is what they use for personal injury cases and pray that we can close that part of our process out with GEICO and not bust through their client’s PI limits of liability.

MOVING ON

My apologies to anyone who has made it this far and read through my diatribe.  As I’ve said before, I blog for therapy not vanity.  It just helps to get things of my chest and to put things in writing so I can refer back to it later as a memory refresher / fact checker.

So, moving on….

I can finally resume making Blue II “our bike” with the installation of all the on-hand parts that came off of Blue.  I started that process yesterday and will probably head out to the garage to continue with that here in a few minutes: shocks, docking station, remote fuse block and re-installation of wiring for voltage equalizer, heated gear, DC outlet, Motolights, etc, and other trim pieces.  It’ll probably get a fluid change today.

I’ve ordered another Fullsac Stage 1 exhaust system yesterday that should arrive the first week in December so I can then haul Blue II over to HDA for a Dyno tune. By then I’ll have surely received the Florida title so I can get the bike registered in Georgia and be legal on the street.  It will also take the place of Blue on our current State Farm policy that expires in January.  Yup, you can bet that I’ll be looking at other carriers in December.

The Extended Service Plan we purchased for Blue on October 6th is being cancelled as soon as Blue is officially totaled by the insurance company and I should get back about 98% of the cost.  I’d been told it could be transferred to the replacement bike but that person is gone and I’m now told that cancellation was my only option.  I’ll have to have a new ESP for the replacement bike.

When will we get to ride again?  Sadly, probably not until 2017.   Yeah, there’s still that personal injury stuff out there that takes longer to ‘fix’ than simply replacing a motorcycle.

 

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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?
This entry was posted in Bloggishnish, Motorcycle / Equipment, Rants. Bookmark the permalink.

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