Monday, February 20, 2012

(Not such an) Insurance Nightmare: the sequel!

Click here to read the original manuscript of the blockbuster movie, "Insurance nightmare". 

OK, it was never a movie, but damn well coulda been.

I'm now at a point where I once again require Commerce Insurance's services.  This time, for my 2000 Lexus ES 300. 

Someone bumped me in a parking lot (didn't witness it, don't have the person's license plate # or make/model) and hard enough to bend my 12 year old plastic bumper on one side.  The tail light is also broken, and the body shop (will get to that later) says that there's likely hidden damage underneath.

The one hitch here is that we had a prior collision, when someone rear-ended the car, which only caused a few paint scrapes.  We didn't bother getting it fixed, so they paid us out a few hundred bucks and we pocketed the money. 

Fast forward to this new incident, and now that damage has occurred in the same place, they're not going to just apply our deductible but also the amount that was paid out previously.

At first I resisted this, but it does make some sort of sense:  they're not replacing a bumper that is assumed by insurance standards to be in reasonably good condition (even considering the age of the car); they're replacing one they know was damaged and I never had fixed.  Even if that damage was a little paint vs. needing a brand new bumper.  My point was, the bumper would have to be repainted regardless, and while I realize you paid me out for that already, this new damage requires a whole new bumper, which the prior claim did not - sort of a double whammy.

And so the stress begins.  The claims rep I'm dealing with sounds like she's just out of high school. Everything requires she speak to her supervisor.  When it comes to anything outside her wheelhouse, I get the stonewall  - she won't even acknowledge I'm asking a simple yes or no question; she'd prefer to avoid it entirely.

For example: I dealt with a real piece of work from Hallmark Adjustment during the original Insurance Nightmare.  He was rude to the owners of both of the shops I used, and refused to attribute my steering rack being bent to the accident, even though one of the points of impact was my turned-all-the-way-to-the-right-to-avoid-being-severely-injured driver's side wheel.  The logic is simple; with enough reverb on that point of impact, the rack will bend, as it's the last in a chain reaction of suspension components absorbing damage.  Everything goes back to the steering rack.  My alignment specialist shop-owner agreed, but this a**hole from Hallmark did not.

To summarize, I paid out of pocket for the damage and was then reimbursed later by Commerce.  About $1000 of my own money until Commerce reimbursed me.

I've indicated several times to Commerce in follow ups that I refuse to deal with Hallmark Adjustment, and this adjustor in particular.  When the original damage happened to the Lexus in 2010, I noticed they used an in-house appraiser.

This time, even after telling my claims rep that I did not want Hallmark Adjustment involved, she still used them.  Here's about how the convo went:

Me: I don't want Hallmark Adjustment used. I had a nightmare with them a few years ago.
Her: Well, all they do is take a photo and send us some info...
Me:  No, I understand that.  It was the follow-up visits that were a problem, not the initial visit.
Her:  Do you want the location of the nearest drive-in appraisal service? The ones around you are pretty much all Hallmark...
Me:  I'd like to avoid using Hallmark.  Any other way we can do this? Any other companies?
Her: Do you want us to send out a field appraiser?
Me: That'd be great!  Thanks for understanding. Not trying to be difficult. all seriousness, I have kept a good-natured and professional tone throughout.

What do I see when I log into Commerce's web site to check status of the claim the next day?  There it is, Hallmark Adjustment.  The guy who drove out to my work place to appraise the car never said he worked for Hallmark; I just assumed he was employed by Commerce, as was the last field appraiser we dealt with.

I didn't get angry with the claims rep who was probably either not listening or didn't care about my issues. I emailed asking for an explanation and pretty much got stonewalling:  "We use Hallmark adjustment frequently" was the response to, "doesn't Commerce use other appraisal companies?"

I told her I didn't want to go into too much detail about a three year old case, but that I would always remember how Hallmark not only burned me on that claim and I needed Commerce to come to the rescue, but that I also complained to Hallmark to no avail about that particular adjustor.  She still has yet to answer the simple question, after a third time being asked, "which other appraisal companies does Commerce use?"  It's not as if it's a trade secret; it's a simple question.  Once I get that answer I am going to post it everywhere so people don't have to dig.

This is the last thing I wanted to think about going into having my car fixed, but it is what it is, I suppose.  The body shop - different place than the one I used three years ago, but located in the same area - has a great owner who used to work with some Mercedes specialists back in the day.  He said there's likely hidden damage under the bumper and there would be follow up appraisals, but is confident that I'll be treated fairly by the folks he usually works with. 

Time will tell.