Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there -- to pay, but not to defend
Dec 18, 2001 (Updated Dec 7, 2002)
Review by Arthur.Rubin
Rated a Very Helpful Review
In my experience, State Farm is quick to process claims, but not willing to take the insured's (that's me) part if there is disputed liability.
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I'm taking a risk in writing this review, in that I'm admitting to being involved in an accident, reported to my State Farm of Arizona auto insurance company, which apparently is not being considered as a factor in pricing my current State Farm of California auto company. I can't tell whether it's supposed to count.
Now that that's out of the way, this review is based on my experience with State Farm of Arizona from 1996 to 2000 and State Farm of California from 2000 to present.
Accident 1. Spring 1997. Awahtukee, Arizona
Driving along a freeway, something came off the truck ahead of us and cracked our windshield. (We think it was one of the mud-flaps.) After we arranged glass fragment removal from my wife and transportation for us and the car back home, we arranged for a glass repair service to come to our car to repair it. As we had previously arranged a special rider on the policy for no deductible on glass repair, we never saw a bill. (I admit, some of the local glass repair places offered to cover your deductible (up to $250) and pay for 12 meals at a local restaurant if you have insurance coverage for a windshield replacement, I'm not sure we got a good deal, but....)
Accident 2. November, 1998. Somewhere west of Scottsdale, Arizona.
Note. I wasn't there for this one. The facts of the accident are based on my wife's report.
A friend, "C", was driving because my wife's right leg was in an immobilizer after knee surgery. "We" were making a protected left turn onto a freeway on-ramp in a Toyota Corolla, when we were hit by a little old lady (probably not from Pasadena, but hold that thought) in a Cadillac. She was 88 years old, had an unrestricted drivers license, and, according to the tribal police report, didn't slow down. The police report refused to find fault, and neither did our insurance company. Also, neither insurance company offered to pay my wife's or "C"'s medical expenses.
We had to arrange towing from the impound yard to our auto mechanic (which was next to a body shop). (We had AAA Plus coverage, so there was no charge, although AAA and State Farm could have fought over the payment.) Within a week after we made the car accessible to State Farm, they declared it "totalled" and, within another week, paid high blue book (less collision coverage deductible). Our rental coverage paid 80% of a rental from the accident until the car was declared "totalled", and for 5 days thereafter. (Oddly enough, the 5 days did not have to be the 5 days immediately after the car was declared "totalled". We used them to rent a car in CA in order to pick out a replacement car. I think my wife found Abdul's used car(pet) lot, but I digress.)
Accident 3. July, 2000. Pocatello, Idaho. (Still with State Farm of Arizona).
We were nosing along (with me driving), looking for a place to eat, when we were struck by a pickup truck that ran a red light. Well, I'm not sure his light was red, but ours was certainly green. Again, the police refused to find fault.
In spite of a large dent in the side of the car above the right front wheel, the car would have been drivable except for the bent front axle. This time, we only had to authorize a towing company to move the car from the police lot to a body shop. The other insurance company was also State Farm. We used our rental coverage to continue that segment of our vacation to the Hobo Rendevous in Elko, Nevada. When I got back to Phoenix and my wife to Los Angeles, I found that I was laid off from work. But that, again, is a digression, except that it allowed us to use some of the rental benefits to rent a mini-van to move some of the smaller items (including two cats) from Ariznoa to California.
Aside from being routed between 4 different adjuster teams, one of which had a phone number which was only toll-free in Idaho, and State Farm's (and the police's) refusal to try to track down a witness, their service was quite reasonable. The car wasn't ready until September, and we couldn't get there to pick it up until October. We only had to pay the $250 deductible to pick up the car. We did max out the rental coverage ($500), but Enterprise continued to allow us the insurance rental rate. In June 2001, my wife settled with the two State Farm insurance companies for medical damages of around 2-3 times direct medical expenses. (There was considerable dispute as to exactly which medical expenses were attributable to the accident.)
Accident 4. March 2001. Tustin, California.
I was sideswiped by a car on the freeway, lost a wheel against the off-ramp barrier, and eventually came to stop (at about 15 mph) against another car. The police couldn't find any evidence of the other car, and found me at fault. I assume State Farm paid the other driver's damages (probably only a dented rear bumper) and medical expenses. This time, to get the car transported to a body shop, we only had to authorize State Farm to arrange the tow. We do have towing on our policy, as we did in the other 3 accidents. After about a week, when they (the body shop) finally got a chance to look under the car, they found enough undercarriage damage that the car was declared "totalled". They again paid high blue book (less deductible) under our collision coverage. This time we had medical coverage on the policy, so it paid for a couple of chiropractic visits for me.
Oddly enough, although State Farm paid under this coverage, and the police found me at fault, we still have a "Superior" rating on our policy, although we no longer have the "California Good Driver" discount.
Accident 5 April 2001. Fullerton, California
My wife was driving the new car we got to replace the one totalled in the Accident 4 on the 57 freeway, when the truck ahead of her lost the two right wheels on his rear axles. Fortunately for us, but unfortunately for the car, the wheels fell over on their side so the car could overrun them. After the truck ground to a stop, the driver opened the door, ran across the freeway, and jumped off. (He later said he was going to get help. Ha.)
In any case, the car was repaired, the deductible we originally paid to the body shop was refunded (by June) under our uninsured motorist coverage, and there was no trouble with the rental coverage. Our insurance paid a few direct medical expenses under the medical coverage.
And our rating is still superior. I wonder if anyone from State Farm is reading this. Oh, well, all the accidents were reported to State Farm and the state Motor Vehicle departments.
Update 12/7/02: Reading another review of an auto insurance company reminded that I should probably include the official story on driver record discounts and surcharges.
Basically, you start with an "A" rating. Each three years without an "incident" raises the rating another level (to AA or AAA), and each incident reduces the rating one level (B, C, ...). However, if you've been at AAA for 6 years, one incident is disregarded, and if for 9 years, two incidents are disregarded.
An "incident" is defined as a ticket or an accident where (under state law) you are found (partially) "at fault", and they pay over a certain dollar amount ($750) due to your actions.
For the above accidents, the police failed to identify fault in accident 2, and declared 50% fault in accident 3, which, under Idaho law, is not considered "fault". In accidents 1 and 5, we were clearly not at fault, and in accident 4, I was clearly found at fault -- so only accident 4 counts against our insurance record.
Discounts (called Premium Reductions) on our policies:
Multiple Line. We also have homeowner's insurance with State Farm. Around 10% of the amount due.
Multicar. Around 23% of the amount due.
Vehicle Safety. This, for 1997 and more recent cars, is based on the factory-installed safety devices. On pre-97 cars, it is based on the actual safety devices, whether factory-installed or retrofitted. Around 1.5% of the amount due. This may only apply to medical coverage, which would explain why the discount is so small a percentage.
Driving Safety Record No comment. Around 100% of the amount due.
California Good Driver Around 30% of the amount due, on one of the policies.
Loyalty Around 7% of the amount due.
In accident 1, they asked why "C" was driving. That my wife had just had knee surgery was considered acceptable, but, if you really do have someone else who frequently drives your car, State Farm may insist that they be on the policy or they will not be covered if driving. Whether that insistence would hold up in court if disputed, is another matter.
The agent is trying to sell us additional policies, including umbrella liability insurance (which offer we have not taken), and an increase in the property damage liability insurance from $25,000 to $50,000, which offer we did accept.
In summary, State Farm is generally good at paying claims, although they are not willing to defend you against claims, even within the policy limits.
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