Sunday, March 28, 2010

What If My Insurance Company Doesn't Want To Pay My Claim?

You've had the same insurance company for years and you've never had a problem. Fortunately, you've also never had a claim. Now, you need help with a car accident or a hail storm or something else that should be covered under your insurance policy but you're being told you don't have any coverage and you're on your own for the damages. "What, no coverage!?! After paying for insurance all these years?!?" It can (and does) happen, but there might be some things you can do to get things paid for anyway. Here are a few tips in case your insurance company does not want to pay your claim:

1. Contact Your Local Agent. You personal agent represents the insurance company, but they work for you! The insurance company may write the paycheck, but the clients are where the pay comes from. No income, so call your local agent and get some personal help. Although an agent cannot change the company's rules, they often know the best way to get claims paid with the company they represent. They also have a relationship with the claims representatives that you don't have, and they can go to bat for you on why your claim should be paid.

2. Ask To See Your Policy. All insurance policies list what is - and what is not - covered under the policy. Sometimes a claims representative may read the policy one way, which you may be able to interpret differently. At the very least, if you look at the specific portion of your policy that the insurance company is using to deny your claim you may be able to find another way to present things to help get them paid for.

3. Talk To The Claims Manager. No one likes it when you ask to speak to their manager; claims representatives are no different. Sometimes just asking to speak to a claims manager will get an uncooperative claims representative to be more fair about things. If it does not, be ready to plead your case in a calm and professional way to the claims manager. The manager can often make adjustments or exceptions on a claim that allows you to get your damages taken care of.

4. Have Your Claim Taken To Claims Committee. If all else fails, ask that your claim be taken to the claims committee. Although this typically takes a week or two, it can often lead to claims being paid that have previously denied. A claims committee is typically made up of 4-5 people in different positions that may see a claim differently than the original claims representative. The committee will vote on your specific claim, similar to the way a jury votes in a trial. If the commitee finds in your favor then your claim will be paid regardless of what has previously happened.

What You Should NOT Do When Trying To Get Your Claim Paid. Although it can be difficult after hearing that your claim is not going to be paid, it is important to try and remain calm. Yelling or swearing at your claims rep usually does not get you anything but hung up on. Claims reps are people too, and they don't want to be screamed at any more than you do. Threatening to leave the company will usually do little to help your cause either. While the insurance company wants to keep you as a client, it is typically not factored into the decision on whether your claim is going to be covered. Threatening to sue is also not effective. Insurance companies have attorneys on staff that get paid to review claims for possible lawsuits, and handle any issues that may come up.

Your best bet when dealing with an insurance company that does not want to pay your claim is to get help from your local agent and have all of your facts and figures straight in case you need to dispute an insurance company's decision. Although it does not always feel like it, your insurance company really is on your side and wants to resolve things for you as quickly as possible. Remember, the company you're dealing with may be a corporate giant, but the claims rep you are talking to is just another person like you. Being nice can go a long way.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Renting a Moving Truck - What Kind of Insurance You Need

     It's time to move; the boxes are packed, the truck is loaded and you're about to drive off into the sunset towards your new home. Then you wonder, what happens if I have an accident on the way? Who's responsible to fix the truck? What about all of your precious cargo in the back? You start to question "what kind of insurance do I need for this move?"

     There are 3 primary concerns when you are renting a truck to move your belongings from house 1 to house 2. They are:
  1. What if something happens to the truck?
  2. What if I crash into someone and hurt them?
  3. What about all my stuff in the back?
The size of the truck plays a part in the answer, as does the specific coverage provided by your insurance company, but in general here is what you should know.

What if something happens to the truck? Most insurance companies provide coverage to rental trucks, but ONLY if they are UNDER 10,000 pounds. Since you probably won't have your truck scale with you when you're looking for a rental, it is typically for the smallest (or 2 smallest) trucks available to rent. Any truck heavier than 10,000 pounds is considered a commercial vehicle and therefore it is typically not covered by your personal auto insurance policy. The way to get the coverage is to buy it from the rental company. It's an extra expense, but it's far cheaper than buying a new truck if you crash the rental!

What if I crash into someone? Unfortunately, answer number one usually applies to question number two as well. Liability coverage (the coverage in your policy that protects you if you are liable for other people's injury or property damage) will probably need to be purchased from the rental company if the truck you are using is heavier than 10,000 pounds. However, many insurance companies will have a provision that extends your liability coverage to other vehicles as a back up coverage. This means you may only need to buy the minimum coverage offered by the rental company if you carry good liability limits on your personal insurance policy (something that we've recommended repeatedly!)

What about all my stuff in the back? Most insurance companies will extend coverage from your property insurance to cover your personal belongings while in transit. HOWEVER, you must have an active property policy (insurance on either the place you are moving out of or the place you are moving in to) in order for there to be coverage. Also, some companies require that you add an endorsement to your policy. There may be a small extra charge for the endorsement, but it is a very small expense compared to replacing everything you own if something were to happen during your move.

Check with your local, professional agent for the specifics on your policy, and have a safe move!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Mary did the right thing for her family

We lost one of our clients a couple of days ago. We spoke to Mary’s daughter on Tuesday, 4 days before a passer-by spotted her car at the bottom of a ravine 250 feet below the road; she was worried because her mom had not come home the night before. On Saturday, 2/27/10, Mary's daughter was notified that her mother was ejected from the car after it went off the side of the road and was killed. I saw the story on the news and immediately thought back to my last meeting with Mary just one month ago. Our conversation about her job loss and her largest priority – taking care of her family – stuck with me. I never imagined it would be the last time we would speak.
Last month, we invited Mary into the office for her annual insurance review; something we had done with Mary for the past 9 years in a row. Mary never turned down our annual meeting and as always, she was pleasant and attentive as we reviewed her insurance program with her – car, renters and life insurance. Since our previous visit, Mary had lost her job and was living off of her unemployment benefits. She was using the time off to spend time with her brother who was terminally ill and care for her disabled son. Although she was anxious to get back to work, she was thankful for the time she had to spend with them both.
Mary only had one concern she brought up at our last meeting; she needed to reduce her insurance costs. She needed to make adjustments to make ends meet until she found a new job. We went over some options with her car and renters insurance. Then, we moved our attention to her life insurance but she did not want to discuss any changes to her life insurance plan. She was very adamant that she would not lower her life insurance coverage because that money was there to take care of her family in case something happened to her. Her permanently disabled son always needed help and if she was not there to give it, money would need to be available to make sure someone else would be. She would rather cancel one of her other policies (if it came to that) before lowering or cancelling her family’s life insurance. We were able to make enough tweaks for Mary to last another 6 – 12 months before we would need to consider more drastic alternatives. Hopefully, that would buy Mary enough time to find another job.

Mary did not make it another 6 - 12 months. Just one month after our meeting something happened that could have happened to anyone. Colorado’s icy roads took Mary’s life. Someone else will have to care for her disabled son. Someone else will have to look after her family. Fortunately, because of Mary’s commitment, her family’s financial loss will not equal their emotional loss. Mary did the right thing for her family and she set a great example for the rest of us. You will be missed, Mary.