Monday, December 23, 2013

State Farm? You're better off on a bicycle.

Ho, ho, ho, State Farm: How much are your premiums for insuring a bicycle?

The "good neighbor" has an ad that gets it right: Having insurance certainly isn't like having State Farm. It wuzza delight tellin' State Farm goodbye. If only I'd known years ago what a sleazy bunch they are.

As of today, the jerks still haven't paid Suddeth Automotive for those repairs State Farm directed way back in July before reneging on their agreement to fix my car. Apparently, State Farm sees the holidays as an opportunity to put a little more pressure on folks. Isn't it a shame that the government lets corporations kick folks around with such impunity? Bought-n-paid-for politicians - Repukes n Demagogues alike - kissin' up to corrupt businesses. Complete with so-called regulatory agencies runnin' roughshod over consumers. If state insurance commissions were anything other than complicit in rippin' people off, corporations like State Farm wouldn't dare behave the way they do.

Am I ever thankful for having an extensive background in bicycling. Hadn't ridden in about two years when State Farm reared its ugly head. After filing my claim, I walked to the grocery store for several weeks, then realized that the "good neighbor" thought they had me over a barrel and wuz gonna drag things out until I "cooperated." So I took a closer look at my 1973 Schwinn World Voyageur. Wonderful bike. Steel frame. Ten usable gears. Now a collector's item.

All I needed was a seatpost rack. 'Bout forty bucks.

Never had tried utility bicycling. Always suckered into viewing bicycles as toys. Wear weird clothes, see how far - my longest ride is 102 miles in one day - and how fast ya can go. Try to beat yer last "record." Then shower down, fire up yer motor vehicle, and embark on a whoppin' four mile round trip to buy a few items at the store. Keeps the auto, oil, and insurance industries very happy.

I cruised along (literally) for decades, not payin' much attention to the transportation ripoff. Carried way too much insurance, drove needlessly. Incredible waste, even with $2,000 deductibles. 'Course, I assumed there would be fundamental fairness if I filed a claim...

Slob industries in cahoots with a slob government are gettin' their comeuppance. I'm saving a ton of money - and havin' a ton of fun - usin' my bicycle 'steada my cars. Been at it almost seven months, pedlin' over 1,100 miles. All across the country, folks are catchin' on to the transportation scam. Bicycles designed for serious use are easy to find, harder and harder to resist.

Betcha State Farm didn't count on a soon-to-be-seventy-year-old ridin' a bicycle.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

"BYE" to State Farm. I "BUY" Amica.

Amica sure beats State Farm. Lots lower premiums, increased coverage. The website "Fight Bad-faith Insurance Companies" recommended Amica, so I took a look.

Amica even offers a plan for those of us who choose to ride a bicycle instead of driving a motor vehicle. Premiums can be deducted each month from a customer's bank account (with State Farm, I had to log in every six months to pay online). Whenever ya wanna start ridin' yer bicycle 'steada usin' yer motor vehicle, give Amica a ring, and they start charging for comprehensive coverage only. Now get this:

My estimate for nine months worth was a TOTAL of SIXTY bucks. WOW!!!!!!!!!!

Even though I now have my car and it's runnin' fine, I've been ridin' my bicycle about 95% of the time instead of driving. Utility bicycling can bear an acquaintance. Next year, I look forward to reapin' the benefits Amica offers folks like me.

Meanwhile...

State Farm still refuses to pay Suddeth Automotive and refuses to approve the remaining repairs on my car. This week, I got a letter from the "good neighbor." Sheer harassment. Playin' dumb (they're dumb enough as it is, without actin' the part) by acting like our dispute centered around the value they had placed on my car, and ignoring any mention of the fact that there's no reason whatsoever to declare total loss. Tried to make me think I was now required to hire an appraiser, etc. ad nauseum. Real slobs.

I wonder if State Farm realizes (or cares) how utterly ridiculous they look. Here I am driving my car, enjoying the fact that it runs as good or better than ever, while State Farm insists on declaring it a total loss, tries to pressure me into getting rid of it, and refuses to pay the folks State Farm directed to complete close to half of the repairs.

Let's face it. A corporation wouldn't dare behave the way State Farm is behaving unless it could do so with impunity insofar as governmental oversight is concerned. Read the "Fight Bad-faith Insurance Companies" website. Educate yourself about an industry - and a government - that's runnin' roughshod over consumers. And if you can't avoid insurance entirely - few can - at least take a closer look at Amica.

Update 12/12/2015 - Yep, Amica beats State Farm (who doesn't?), but their "comprehensive only" plan wasn't as good as I thought it would be. I no longer trust any part of the insurance industry, so I just shop around for the lowest rate. Went from Amica to Liberty Mutual, currently with Travelers.  

Update 6/14/2015 - recently renewed with Travelers.  

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Suddeth Automotive STILL not paid

What kinda government allows an insurance company to refuse to pay a legitimate bill?

'Bout a week ago, I got a call from the owner of Suddeth Automotive inquiring about the status of my claim and asking if I could give him any contact information for the appropriate person to talk to at State Farm. He submitted a bill to State Farm months ago, but has yet to hear from the "good neighbor." Mr. Suddeth - much to his credit - agreed that it was State Farm's place to pay the bill.

We're not talking small change. Suddeth's repairs came to almost $4,000. How would State Farm like it if they weren't paid for their services? What a pathetic, slob corporation. State Farm obviously sees the situation as an opportunity to pressure me into either turning my car over to them or agreeing to keep it with a salvage title. And if that sort of thing ruins the relationship a business had with a long-time customer, the "good neighbor" couldn't care less.

I've experienced nothing but a runaround from State Farm ever since the mishap - which occurred almost six months ago - and I'm not gonna be bullied into accepting State Farm's inane offer. The same day Suddeth Automotive called, I also got a telephone call from State Farm. Hadn't heard from 'em in months, and they wanted to know if I had given any thought to settling the claim. I assured them that my position (which they've been aware of from the get go) had not changed in the least - that I expected them to get my car repaired.

This matter sure has been an eye-opener for me about the insurance industry. In the future, I'll be spending a lot less for their lousy, misrepresented product.

Update 11/2/2013 - Wonderful nine mile bicycle ride this afternoon. Dropped off garbage, bought groceries. Yes, Virginia, you CAN live - quite well, if not better - without insurance. Er I mean without a car. 

Update 11/4/2013 - A week ago, shortly after he spoke with me, the owner of Suddeth Automotive left a message for Lester Walker, Claims Manager at State Farm's regional office in Atlanta, but is receiving no response. Meanwhile, my car is runnin' fine - better, if anything, than it ever has. I've recently driven it on two out-of-town trips - now it just needs some bodywork. No excuse whatsoever for State Farm to declare it a total loss. At least the remaining damages have turned out to be a great conversation starter about the insurance industry.     

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Court: State Farm guilty of fraud

"While the decision was restricted to a single case of fraud, The Sun Herald reported it could potentially open a review of  'thousands' of other, similar claims..." ABC News

Another case of outright thuggery that made headlines in 2013. What kinda company have I been shelling out fat premiums to for decades?

Auditors say they saw State Farm supervisors "demanding damage reports be buried, replaced or changed so that claims wouldn't have to be paid." Sounds similar to State Farm directing a body shop - the body shop squealed on 'em - to submit a nonsensical supplement of damages regarding repairs to my car (see 9/18/13 post), not to mention keeping me in the dark from the get go by refusing to provide a written estimate. Close to half of the repairs have been completed, and I should be informed of all the details. After all, it's my car - not State Farm's.

Auditors say they saw special files marked "Do not pay bill. Do not discuss." Here again, that appears to be what's going on in my case. Why am I being harassed (see 10/7/13 post) with unitemized statements from Suddeth Automotive? My case is - or at least should be - a relatively minor blip on the accident radar screen: single car mishap, no injuries, and a readily repairable vehicle with legitimate repair costs that don't equal or exceed 75% of the vehicle's value.

I'm not about to turn my prized possession over to State Farm. I want to know why the "good neighbor" is behaving in such an inexcusable manner.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

State Farm employee robs customer accounts

"An employee of automobile insurer State Farm was fired after making purchases with customer credit cards, ultimately compromising their personal data." Adam Greenberg, SC Magazine

Wow. 687 looted accounts. Nothin' like a neighborly attitude toward customers.

I wasn't surprised when I read the article. State Farm has established a culture of disrespect toward the folks they're supposed to serve. Check out complaints about their auto insurance. Homeowners? Look at this. Banking? Visit My Bank Tracker. Peruse the Ripoff Report, then do a few searches of your own. There's no excuse for government allowing corporations to kick people around. State insurance commissions are a taxpayer funded farce.

Why would anyone trust a company like State Farm?

Monday, October 7, 2013

State Farm refuses to pay auto shop

The nightmare continues, with State Farm refusing to pay Suddeth Automotive $3,869.59 for the mechanical repairs (see 9/18 post, "Why is State Farm 'totalling' my car?"). Suddeth initially billed State Farm, but is now sending statements - unitemized - to me. Apparently, State Farm thinks they can bully me into submission by threatening me with large bills unless I turn my car over to them or agree to keep it with a "salvage" title.

The moral to this story - at least for me - is to have as little as possible to do with the insurance industry. There are horror stories all over the Internet, and repairs to my car should have been completed four months ago. Instead, it's been partially repaired amidst unnecessary delays, misrepresentation, secret damage estimates, lowball offers, verbal abuse and an assault by one of State Farm's agents, secret repair bills, financial threats, and bad faith efforts to declare total loss.

It takes gall for Suddeth Automotive to bill me instead of State Farm, not to mention the sheer absurdity of presenting a customer with an unitemized statement. I find it more and more puzzling that State Farm is going to such lengths in an effort to take possession of my car.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Why is State Farm "totaling" my car?

Update 2/12/2015 - The insurance industry's crooked, dangerous dealings have now made headlines - State Farm figuring prominently - as some 500 auto repair shops - fed-up with being bullied - join together in a lawsuit. Yet to be aired is the "total loss" racket, whereby insurance companies estimate repair costs for OLDER vehicles based on OEM parts in an effort to increase the estimate, declare total loss, and bully owners into buying new vehicles. Owners of older vehicles should be given a choice between acceptable used parts, etc. or paying the difference to have OEM parts.   

"Total loss" used to simply mean that repair costs came to more than a vehicle was worth. But "thar's money in them thar hills," and lobbyists have quietly persuaded legislators to pass laws which mandate declarations of total loss if repair costs exceed a certain percentage of a vehicle's "actual cash value." In South Carolina, for example, the law requires insurance companies to declare vehicles a "total loss" if repair costs equal or exceed 75% of a vehicle's "actual cash value" (good luck getting your insurance company to set a fair market price). Declarations of "total loss" are increasing, people are being bullied into handing over their cars, and auto-related industries are making enormous, often illegal, profits. 

When your car is "totalled," the insurance company gives you two options:

1. Lose your vehicle: Accept the amount (minus your decuctible) your insurance company says your vehicle was worth before the accideent, and turn the vehicle over to them. This is what you're "supposed" to do. 

2. Keep your damaged vehicle, but have a ruined title: Accept the amount your insurance company says your vehicle was worth before the accident, reduced not only by your deductible, but also by the "salvage" value your insurance company places on your unrepaired vehicle. You also agree to have "salvage" permanently branded onto your vehicle's title, whether you have it repaired or not. If you repair it, you pay the state an inspection fee. Many insurance companies won't insure a "salvage" vehicle. Others charge extra and refuse complete coverage. Banks won't finance one, and if you decide to sell, be prepared to get about half of what the vehicle would be worth with a clean title. Makes no difference if the repaired "salvage" vehicle is as safe, sound, and enjoyable as it ever was.

There's actually a third option (which State Farm quickly mentioned since I didn't like #1 or #2). You can withdraw your claim and foot the bill yourself...     

Bad faith efforts to declare "total loss" are a nightmare. And forget about state insurance commissions coming to your rescue. Leading consumer advocate Fight Bad Faith Insurance Companies has yet to hear of a single case where a state insurance commission directed an insurance company to do the right thing.         

In my case, it was several weeks (expect "delays") after the accident (single car, no injuries, drove the vehicle home) before a State Farm claims adjuster finally contacted me. My car had been setting in a shop awaiting repairs, and I had never received an itemized, written estimate. A law has been proposed that would require repair shops to provide customers with such estimates, including the type of parts a repair shop plans to install. But as things now stand, many repair shops are puppets for the insurance company. Offend an insurance company, and a shop might find themselves blacklisted for future business. According to a "Smart Money" article, State Farm's Service First program even includes a gag clause that prevents shop owners from talking to customers about their cars until they've cleared it with State Farm. 

The claims adjuster "misread" the mileage on my car, overstating it by more than 30,000 miles. The adjuster rattled off that my car was a "total loss," blabbered about repair costs, and then made a ridiculously low offer. State Farm would either pay me a pittance and take my car, or pay me even less, and allow me to keep the unrepaired car, along with a "salvage" title. When I asked about getting things in writing, I was told that I wouldn't get anything in writing until I agreed to settle the case. I was hamstrung from the get go, having to guess what specific damages State Farm was alleging, the kind of parts that would be used for repairs, and the cost of those parts. I was kept in the dark about virtually everything associated with the claim.

I contested the "total loss" nonsense, and after arguing back and forth for several weeks, I submitted comparables to challenge the exceptionally low value State Farm had placed on my vehicle. My comparables showed that State Farm's alleged repair costs (which, according to State Farm, were somehow getting higher and higher) did not equal or exceed 75% of my car's value. After more arguing (I had been without my car for about two months), I rode my bicycle (I've discovered that I really don't need insurance - er I mean a car - in the first place) to one of State Farm's sales offices and began picketing with a sign that read "UNFAIR TO CUSTOMERS." Their agent - Liz Portee - came out, screamed and hollered, grabbed my sign (I managed to hold on to it), and called the police. When the police arrived, State Farm's agent called me an idiot and admitted to grabbing my sign. The police initially told me I would have to get a permit to picket, but finally agreed that it was my constitutional right to stand on public property and hold up a sign. Passing motorists started giving "thumbs up" signals along with friendly beeps and waves. Next morning, State Farm called and said they would take a closer look at the value of my car. After several days, they called again and agreed to repair my car instead of declaring it a total loss. Then they proceeded to quietly run up the repair costs in an effort to meet the legal requirement for "totalling" my car. New OEM mechanical parts were installed, when used OEM parts should have been offered. I should have been given the option - itemized in writing - of paying the difference if I wanted new OEM parts, and the cost to repair my car should be based on used OEM parts, not new ones. No wonder State Farm didn't want me to have a written, itemized estimate.

After mechanical repairs were completed, my car was driven to a body shop. That shop did the right thing and gave me a written estimate for body repairs. I approved their estimate and thought the repairs to my car would soon be completed. At that point, State Farm sent a claims adjuster to the body shop and directed the body shop to add an additional damage estimate for nonsensical items not associated with the accident. That brought the entire bill (mechanical and body work) to over 75% of what State Farm had set as the "actual cash value" of my car. On this purely fictitious basis, State Farm is once again declaring my car a "total loss." They insist on either writing me a check and taking my car, or writing me a smaller check and allowing me to keep the unrepaired car with a salvage title.

Both of the afforementioned shops have assured me that my car is readily repairable with no lingering safety issues. Mechanical repairs (close to half of the entire bill) have been completed, and my car handles as well as it ever did. Legitimate repair costs do not equal or exceed 75% of the "actual cash value" eventually set by State Farm, even with the extra expense of the new OEM parts. There's no justifiable reason for State Farm to refuse to complete the repairs. The cost to State Farm would be $6,500 after my $2,000 deductible. Since $4,000 worth of repairs have now been completed, State Farm is refusing to pay $2,500 to complete the repairs. Talk about ridiculous. I've been a State Farm customer for decades (multi-line), and I have an excellent record - including a safe driver discount - when it comes to accidents and claims.

Nobody can be faulted for speculating as to why State Farm exhibits such a keen interest in taking possession of my car. Companies bullying owners into turning over their vehicles by threatening to ruin the title is hardly unheard of. After taking possession of a vehicle they've "totalled," companies have been known to "forget" that the law requires them to record "salvage" on the title. Then they sell the "clean titled" vehicle for more money than they could have gotten if "salvage" had been disclosed. Not long ago, State Farm was fined for not stamping "salvage" onto the titles of thousands of vehicles they had "totalled." The "good neighbor" sold the vehicles with clean titles, raking in enormous, illegal profits. 

My car is a bright red 2000 MR2 Spyder, sporting a nice, clean title. It's been meticulously maintained, has always been housed in a garage, and it's been parked in the shade when I'm out and about. It's loaded with desirable options including a beautiful, black leather interior (smells like new 'cause I'm a non-smoker), and has been driven only about 63,000 miles. At 30,000 miles, the engine was completely rebuilt and a new exhaust system was installed (both items via a Toyota manufacturing defect, which took $8,500 outta my pocket). This makes my car exceptionally desirable, because there's reason to believe that the defect in my engine was permanently corrected (Toyota continues to stonewall). Not many MR2 Spyders were produced, and they were no longer manufactured in the U.S. after 2005. The cars have become collectibles, values have increased, and it's very difficult to find an MR2 Spyder for sale that's in top notch condition like mine.

Is anyone surprised that State Farm wants my car?