Although these crucial bits of misinformation and falsehoods were given to me by my insurance company, anyone can fall victim to being misdirected, misinformed and perhaps even lied to by insurance companies and their agents, adjusters and other representatives.
Top Five Falsehoods I have Been Told By My Insurance Company
In 1995, I bought my house and my realtor suggested I insure it through her nephew who worked for Farmers Insurance. Being a bit naive and overly-trusting, I gave him a call. The first falsehood came from my new insurance agent.
1. You Don’t Need Flood Insurance
I well remember the day Ray and I discussed my house while he laughed with me as he said I would not need flood insurance because my house was halfway up a hill. This turned out to not only be untrue, but it caused me to go into debt for over $100,000 to save my house after an earth movement in 1997 (and to face more problems after the terrible Nashville flood of 2010). I don’t know about insurance in other areas, but in Tennessee, the only kind of insurance that covers earth movement is flood insurance. Now my house is nicely buttressed and fortified with a great drainage system to prevent future earth movements, but insurance didn’t cover a dime of the massive amount of work it took to save my house, because my agent misrepresented the facts to me.
2. You Can Call & Have An Adjuster Look at Damage & Not File a Claim
A few years after I bought the house, there was a little wind damage, so I called the Farmers Help Point line and asked if it would be OK just to have someone look at the damage to see if I needed to file a claim. I knew if you filed too many claims in a certain period of time, they could cancel your insurance. The Help Point person told me I could ask the adjuster when they called to set up an appointment, so that’s exactly what I did.
The Farmers adjuster said she could come and look at it, and if it was more than my deductible, I might want to file a claim, but she assured me just having an adjuster come out to look at damage would NOT count against me. Furthermore, she reiterated what my agent told me — it was up to me to be proactive about addressing damage immediately, so she said I should always have someone from Farmers check out any potential damage. That is why through the years whenever I have seen something that looked like it might need more than a simple fix from a contractor, I have called the Help Point line and asked to have someone look at any potential damage.
When the Nashville flood of 2010 hit, even though I did not have flood insurance, I called Farmers simply to report I had seen some water going into the crawl space. I told them I didn’t have flood insurance and that I doubted Farmers would help me if I did have any damage, and I asked them if there was any reason to send someone out to look at the crawl space. Yes, I was told, I needed to have an adjuster look to see if there was any damage. The adjuster didn’t even go into the crawl space, and I never filed a claim.
The same thing happened after I had a new roof put on. Some odd large pieces of shingle showed up in my yard after the next heavy wind. I dutifully called Farmers and reported that I saw no damage to my new roof, but I had some odd pieces of shingle in my yard. Did I need someone from Farmers to look at it? Yes, they told me, I needed to have an adjuster check it out. What I didn’t know was each time I had an adjuster come out, even if I did not file a claim, Farmers counted it as a filed claim. Even my call about the shingles, which turned out to be simply loose trim pieces, was considered a “claim” even though there was no damage.
Farmers was eventually able to cancel my insurance because of too many “claims” filed in a certain period when I had been told by Farmers personnel I was not filing claims when I just had someone look at possible damage.
4. You Don’t Have to Itemize Your Damage
After having a washing machine hose break and cause a flood in my home in October of 2010, Farmers Insurance sent an adjuster out to look at the damage. I had been carrying wet and damaged items out of the laundry room, and I asked him if I needed to keep a list of the things I was moving or to itemize the damaged items. No, the adjuster told me. Farmers would give me a blanket amount for the room’s loss. Months later when it was time to settle, the same adjuster asked me for an itemized list of all the damaged items — after I had disposed of them. The same thing happened with ruined food. I showed my Farmers adjuster the itemized list I had started of the food, but the adjuster said I would not need to do that and he took photos of the boxes full of ruined food. However, a couple of months later he wanted to know the value of the food after it had been disposed of.
5. Randy Will Do a Good Job
Farmers recommended ServiceMaster to pack out and store my possessions and ConstructAll to do some of the restoration. Both companies that did a very shoddy job of the work they were assigned and caused quite a bit of damage to my possessions. When the damage was reported to Farmers, Farmers told me I had to work it out with the contractors they had recommended. After getting no satisfaction from either company, I reminded Farmers that my insurance premiums to cover the items had been paid to Farmers since 1995, and that I would have used neither company had Farmers not recommended them. As of the writing of this article, it is still unclear what steps will or will not be taken to reimburse me for the many damaged items.
How to Avoid Falsehoods from Insurance Companies
Take the time to pull out your insurance policy today and read it over. If you have questions about it, ask your agent to respond to your questions in writing. A handshake and an agent’s or adjuster’s word don’t count for anything if you have a problem.
Do not assume that just because your insurance agent recommends a business or contractor that company will do a good job. All it really means is that company will give your insurance company a good rate.
Itemize everything after any damage even if your agent or adjuster tells you that you don’t need to. Document everything. Keep all email correspondence. Take photos. Do not trust your agent or adjuster to do the right thing. They might MEAN to do the right thing. They might intend to do the right thing, but there is too much room for error, mistakes, misunderstandings and falsehoods when your home and possessions are at stake.
Even if the agents and adjusters who gave me so much misinformation were simply confused, they should have known better. They are either trained professionals or they shouldn’t be out giving advice and answering questions. Whatever the case, the information I was given on more than one occasion by my insurance company turned out not to be true. If it isn’t true, it’s a falsehood. I hope sharing my own experience helps my readers avoid the kind of misinformation and falsehoods I have been given by my insurance company.
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