I wrote a few days ago about an investigation into shady auto insurance companies such as Fred Loya Insurance and Old American County Mutual Insurance. The investigation was done by the Dallas Morning News, and the newspaper has now followed up with an editorial about reporting sleazy insurance company tactics to the State of Texas. Here are excerpts:
Every time you pull out of your driveway, it’s a roll of the dice. You could be the most careful and reasonable driver in Texas and still find yourself calling a body shop or, worse, in physical pain because some less careful, less reasonable goof ran into you.
You take this chance because you have places to go, people to see. Almost always, fortune smiles and you arrive safe and sound.
When you don’t, you begin a new gamble. Does the other driver have insurance? The state requires it, but as you’ve read here and elsewhere, it’s about 1-in-4 that the other guy doesn’t. Even if he does — or appears to be covered — your long road has only begun.
If you’re lucky and not at fault for the wreck, the other guy calls his insurance company, which deals with you in good faith. You are made whole for damages to your car and person.
If you’re not lucky, that insurance company stalls. Or tries to low-ball your claim. Or disputes all evidence, including your witnesses, and refuses to pay, perhaps hoping you’ll take less or maybe even go away.
This may not be the rule in Texas, but it happens more than anyone should tolerate. A recent Dallas Morning News report highlighted the cases of a Mesquite woman denied her claim because the other driver was on his mother’s policy and a Rockwall man shorted $1,000 on a promised rental-car reimbursement.
Consumers filed more than 6,600 complaints last year against auto insurers in Texas, more than half by drivers who contended they were not at fault in an accident but had trouble getting an insurer to pay. Another 4,200 claims were filed in the first three quarters of this year, according to Texas Department of Insurance statistics.
Two companies, Fred Loya Insurance Co. and Old American County Mutual Insurance, have complaint rates far higher than the state average and are under department investigation. Potential penalties range from fines to the so-called death penalty — revoking a company’s license to write policies in Texas.
What can the rest of us do? Add this to your post-accident to-do list: File a complaint with the state insurance department. It may seem like one more waste of time, but your voice has value. Don’t let anyone tell you that you have no recourse, because you do.
The state needs your data on slow-paying or no-paying insurers, who build such cheating into their business model to undercut better insurers on cost. Reputable companies — they do exist — have little fear of state investigation because they tend to operate in good faith and pay what they owe.
The state needs your complaints on the other guys to build a pattern of unethical business practices against them that could chase them out of Texas for good. More complaints, clearer pattern. The sooner that happens, the better for everyone.