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"And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." - John 8:32
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Author:  Larry Simoneaux
Bio: Larry Simoneaux
Date:  April 8, 2007
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Topic category:  Other/General

Score one for the little guy.

Heres one for you. One of the guys where I work recently retrieved some money owed him by an insurance company.

You see, a while back, hed been rear-ended by a motorist who, after the accident, decided to depart the scene.

Unfortunately for the motorist, the cops were nearby and the chase ended rather quickly.

The police report noted all of the pertinent details of the accident including the fact that the motorist at fault was uninsured. Such lack of insurance was written in plain English on the report for all to see and, if you were looking for that statement, you could find it without working up much of a sweat.

Anyway, my friend called his insurance company and was told to get several estimates and that theyd handle his claim. He did so and was sent to a repair shop that quickly and professionally fixed his car.

Herein began the problem. My friend had to pay a $500 deductible unless the other driver was uninsured in which case, the deductible dropped to $100.

Because there was " a delay" in the accident paperwork, my friend was told to pay the $500 but that the $400 difference would be refunded once the insurance company had "proof" that the other driver was uninsured.

Time (as in, "a lot of") passed.

My friend called the insurance company to find out why no refund.

They said that they still hadnt received "proof" that the other driver was uninsured. Having obtained a copy of the police report, my friend forwarded a copy to the claims agent with the notation "uninsured motorist" highlighted.

Much more time passed.

Minor aside. In dealing with any large organization, its good to remember that they measure time differently. "Now" is tomorrow. "Tomorrow" is next week. "Next week" is next year. And, "As soon as possible" is usually a geological epoch.

My friend called again.

He was told that the claims agent hed spoken with was "out," but that a message would be left and the individual would call him back.

(Sounds of crickets chirping.)

My friend gave up on waiting and called the claims agent who told him that they still hadnt received the "proof" required.

"What about the police report I sent?"

"Ill get back to you."

No response.

My friend called yet again (this time I was close enough to hear the conversation) and, when the agent answered, my friend asked for the fax number and again sent the police report they already had.

As I was listening, he walked the guy down to the line where the words "uninsured motorist" were written and asked, "Which of those two words are you having trouble with?"

He then told the agent that he would be filing in small claims court the next day, sending a letter to the state insurance commissioner, and telling his story to the consumer reporters of several newspapers.

The check arrived two days later.

Now, the cynical amongst us might think that this insurance company a large one with a very familiar name had been working hard to make this young man go away.

Those with a more charitable streak, however, would offer that it was all a misunderstanding that was cleared up when the claims agent finally "found" the "proof" needed to release the money.

I confess that Im leaning towards the cynics on this one, but heres the thing.

This was a "big name" insurance company. To them, $400 is probably snack money. Still, this thing went on for months. My friend spent those months, as you might guess, telling everyone who works at our company, most of his relatives, and likely the odd passerby just how hed been treated.

So lets have a show of hands as to how many of you think that anyone who heard the story would think of buying insurance from this company in the future.


Which, in terms of dollars lost, is likely several orders of magnitude greater than the amount of the claim.

All of which makes you wonder if, after taking "Bottom Line 101," the folks in the claims department of this company decided to skip "Word of Mouth Advertising" and "Introduction to Customers How Not to Lose Them."

Which are, in the end, every bit as important if you want to stay in business.

Larry Simoneaux

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Biography - Larry Simoneaux

Larry Simoneaux is a regular columnist for The Everett Herald in Washington state. He is a retired ship driver for the US Navy and NOAA.

Read other commentaries by Larry Simoneaux.

Copyright 2007 by Larry Simoneaux
All Rights Reserved.

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