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Old 11-10-2010, 02:28 AM   #1
NOVAbimmer
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**OFFICIAL** Ask an insurance adjuster anything...

Alright, so I'm getting tired of reading threads about accidents and then seeing thirty posts about how OP should call a lawyer because the insurance company is trying to screw him. So here goes. If you have any questions about an accident that you want to go through insurance, I will try to help as much as possible. If you have questions about rates, discounts, etc, I can't help with those.

I've worked for an insurance company for several years now. I work(ed) in Virginia, Maryland and Washington DC, but I may be able to answer questions outside of there as well.

Couple ground rules:

1. I will not write an estimate for you here. Don't post pictures and ask how much it's going to cost. People that give guesses on here are doing just that, giving guesses. They don't have a parts manual, an updated LKQ directory, or a chance to examine the car in person. They also don't have a shop that can tear down the car for a full estimate.

2. Remember that insurance companies operate with the law in your state. Insurance companies are not trying to screw you, they are doing what is allowable by your state's laws. Have a problem? Write the state senate. You can go to any number of companies to buy the exact same product. For most companies, the price will be more or less the same. Where insurance companies make money is by keeping customers. So no, we're not out to screw you. The exact opposite, in fact. I've bent over backwards to help a$$hat customers and do more for them than I should more often than I've actively worked to screw somebody.

3. I cannot give you rate quotes, or answer questions about why your rates are higher than somebody elses. I'm an adjuster. I write estimates and settle claims. If you have a question about your rates, call your insurance company and ask to speak to the Underwriting department.

Want to share accident stories? Ask for advice in a certain situation dealing with an accident? Go ahead. If you're looking for a sympathetic ear about how XYZ Insurance company screwed you out of $25 dollars because there was another car in Western Zambezi that had a slightly higher selling price than what they gave you for your total, then GTFO.

k. GO
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Old 11-10-2010, 02:49 AM   #2
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Ever get that "under the table" money for writing up the estimate more?
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Old 11-10-2010, 03:19 AM   #3
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Can you give a clear definition of what "salvage title" means? Also, should a salvage title always deter a buyer from purchasing a car?

I have never bought or owned a salvaged vehicle but I know countless people who are confused on the subject. The word alone almost seems taboo. Aren't there many things that can title a car as "salvaged" (not even necessarily title the car but being obligated to "list" the car as salvaged?) maybe I have the two mixed up...

How do mods come into play (aftermarket bumpers for simplicity sake)? Would I need a receipt from the date of the transaction that I bought the mods? Comps aren't enough, correct?

I have seen each come up on here and other forums with answers pulled from the posters ass, or, "guesses" as you put it.
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Old 11-10-2010, 03:23 AM   #4
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Old 11-10-2010, 03:30 AM   #5
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Old 11-10-2010, 03:31 AM   #6
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Ever get that "under the table" money for writing up the estimate more?
That is insurance fraud, is illegal, and would cost me my job.

No. It's not worth it.

A caveat on this. If you really want to try to bribe me to help out your estimate a bit, keep in mind that I'm jeopardizing my career. You slide enough money my way to take care of me and my family for the rest of our lives, and we might be able to talk. But you better start at 8 figures
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Old 11-10-2010, 03:32 AM   #7
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Old 11-10-2010, 03:57 AM   #8
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Can you give a clear definition of what "salvage title" means? Also, should a salvage title always deter a buyer from purchasing a car?

I have never bought or owned a salvaged vehicle but I know countless people who are confused on the subject. The word alone almost seems taboo. Aren't there many things that can title a car as "salvaged" (not even necessarily title the car but being obligated to "list" the car as salvaged?) maybe I have the two mixed up...

How do mods come into play (aftermarket bumpers for simplicity sake)? Would I need a receipt from the date of the transaction that I bought the mods? Comps aren't enough, correct?

I have seen each come up on here and other forums with answers pulled from the posters ass, or, "guesses" as you put it.
A salvage title simply means that at some point in the cars life, it was declared a total loss. In Virginia, the only cars that receive salvage titles are later model cars (anything less than 7 years old). So my 2001 330i could be in a wreck, be declared a total loss, and not come out with a salvage title.

There are two types of Salvage titles, "Repaired" and "Rebuilt". In Virginia, damage greater than 75% of Actual Cash Value (what you could reasonably expect to sell your car for today, in your neighborhood) results in a Total. If the damage to the vehicle is between 75% and 90%, the title will indicate "repaired" after the vehicle is deemed to have been repaired. If the damage is greater than 90%, it will receive a "rebuilt" title.

When writing total losses, we are encouraged to write as much as necessary to deem the car a total loss, and then stop. When a customer keeps a total loss, I generally do not give them a written estimate, because I've had customers take their car to shops, not tell them it was deemed a total, and then the shop sends me a supplement for things I didn't write. Then the argument starts between me, the customer, and the shop. And arguments like that are never good. I'm happy to give a customer a "ballpark" repair cost, but on a total loss, there is nothing that legally compels me to provide a written estimate.

"Salvaged", strictly speaking, is a legal term only. If your car gets flooded and you never report it to insurance, it will never appear on your title. Similar to accidents. If you pay $10,000 to fix your car after a collision and go out of pocket, "Salvage" will never show up on your title.

Personally, i would not buy a car with a salvage title. Realistically, though, I know that there are a number of different reasons the car may have one. A thorough vehicle history and strong PPI on a salvage-titled car is a definite must. I would consider having a body shop take a look at the car as well, because they will best be able to tell you what possibly went into the repairs.

As far as mods go, definitely keep receipts. If someone else hits your car, go through there insurance. Their insurance is liable to replace aftermarket parts you have. Remember, though, that many body shops pay by credit account with parts dealers and simply receive a bill for that monthly/quarterly/whatever. So don't be surprised if they ask you to buy those aftermarket parts and bring them in. There have been a couple shops I've worked at that absolutely refuse to buy parts from anyone besides their suppliers, and if customers have "different" parts on, they will need to bring them in on their own. Which throws a whole lot of nuisance into who guarantees those parts. If they're not CAPA certified, the insurance company probably won't guarantee them. Since the shop is putting on parts that you brought in, the shop will most likely be hesitant to guarantee them as well.

On the other hand, if you damage your own car and want your mtech 2 bumper back on your non-zhp, that's going to come down to you and your adjuster or the shop. I know I was usually willing to work with people on mods to their car. If the bumper is available OEM like the mtech2, the price is very similar as well, I would be more than willing to help out. In Virginia, your insurance company is required by law to cover up to $1000 in "customizations" with no additional rider on the policy. These customizations must be "permanently mounted" in the car in order to be covered. There is a range of interpretations on what "permanently mounted" means. But it definitely doesn't mean the 2 12" subs you have in a box in the trunk. It most likely will cover an A/M intake, though, if that gets damaged in a wreck. If you have a $2000 dvd/nav/gps/sat radio headunit that gets stolen though, and you didn't tell us about it to get it covered, we'll give you $1000 for the part and installation.

Bottom Line: With mods, keep receipts for the best chance at getting them back incase of accident.
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Old 11-10-2010, 04:08 AM   #9
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Awesome new info, thank you
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Old 11-10-2010, 06:30 AM   #10
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A word on total losses...

So the worst case scenario has happened... you were in an accident, and now you're coming to me as your insurance company's adjuster and I've told you that most likely, your car is going to be a total loss. What am I going to do next, you ask? Well, here goes:

My company uses CCC Pathways for our estimating software (there are several different ones out there, though). At the top of my estimate is a running ticker that counts up to the total loss threshold. It has a generic value set based on year make and model of car. Once that hits 100%, I know that there is a potential for a total loss.

The next thing I do (after letting you know that there is a potential for a total) is I get a good overall condition of the car. We rate in these categories:
- Body (condition of the sheet metal and bumpers. Is there prior damage? Is there rust? Are panels misaligned or ill-fitting? The amount this affects value depends on the year of the car. For instance, several dings will not hurt a 2001 model like they would a 2011 model. This applies to all categories)
- Paint (how does the paint look? Is it faded? De-laminating? Does it match across the car? Is there obvious overspray? Is there obvious paintwork? Obvious meaning "I can spot it from across the lot", not "My spectrochromograph shows a 1% variance in hue".)
- Glass (any chips, stars, cracks, or pitting?)
- Tires (what is the current tread depth? Measured in 32nds of an inch. New is between 10 and 12/32 of an inch)
- Mechanical (Pop the hood, how does it look? Is there a lot of seepage around seals? Pull the oil dipstick, is the oil black? Or does it look pretty clean? Pull the trans stick. Is the trans fluid burned up? Are there huge scorch marks on the bumper around the tail pipe? Start the car. Does it start right up, or does it struggle to crank?)
- Interior (How is the inside of the car? Are the carpets in decent shape? Does the headliner sag? Are the seats worn to crap? Is the dash all torn up? Does the interior smell clean?)

Each category is rated on a 4 point scale: Excellent (never seen anything rate Excellent. Doesn't mean they're not out there, but it would basically be an absolutely flawless vehicle), Dealer Ready (car can be sold as is other than normal dealer prep work), Average Private (What we expect to see in a car with the year and miles yours does. AP in a category neither adds nor takes away value.), and Rough (car needs some serious TLC).

I also make sure that I have all the options correct for your car.

After I have my evaluation, I'll ask you if there has been any major work done to the car lately. A new engine or transmission would rate this. A new all-over professional paint job. Regular maintenance doesn't count, nor do new tires, or a really sweet vinyl job.

From here, I send all the information I have about your car to CCC Pathways. Most of the time, I'll get a response within about 2 minutes of sending it. What they give me, first and foremost, is a number. It will also give me all the locations it used to find this value, as well as all the cars used in the comparison. Pathways searches through dealer ads and classified ads, starting in your zip code and working out from there.

Once I have the value of the car, I'm going to take a minute to put some numbers together. I'll add in state sales tax for the vehicle (varies by state, VA is 3.5%), I'll add in tag and title fees ($12 for VA outside of Virginia Beach.), and I'll subtract your deductible. I'm also going to determine a salvage value for your car. We have what are called "guaranteed bids" for certain classes of cars (domestic, year range 1. domestic year range 2. import year range 1. import year range 2.). We are guaranteed to receive no less than that when your car goes to a salvage auction. I cannot give a lower salvage value than that. I usually start at about 20% of the ACV for any car less than $6,000. If it's more than that, I'll make a couple phone calls to local salvage yards I trust and ask them what they would bid for it.

Now is when we start chatting. If you own the car free and clear, you have two options. Let us keep the car, and you get the full ACV minus deductible, or you keep the car, and we keep the salvage value. This is typically where the debates start. Your car has intrinsic value to you. This was the car you first learned how to drive in. So on and so forth. Divorce yourself from the emotional attachment and start thinking reasonably. If I tell you that I'm offering $5,000, and you say the car is worth $10,000, then the conversation is more or less over. I can't negotiate on 100% of the value. Different bosses will give differing amounts of leeway to their adjusters based on experience and company policy, but my boss usually gives me about 20% of the value to negotiate with.

Things I can negotiate on: Cash value, category analysis, and salvage value. Things I cannot negotiate on: your deductible, the options that exist on your car (if I missed something, let me know. But each option is specifically defined. There is no room for interpretation as to what "Power seats" means.), tax/tags/title. If you feel that negotiations between you and me aren't getting far because you can't negotiate on what I can, then feel free to ask for my boss' phone number. I had one total loss settlement go all the way to our regional Vice President once. He settled for $250 more than I was offering. I was thoroughly puzzled, as the guy showed no interest in talking to me about it. I'm happy to give you my boss' number, but give me a chance first. If the first thing you want to do is talk to management, you're just going to annoy me, and them, and make it tougher on yourself. You approach my boss in an understanding way, he's going to be a lot easier to deal with.

Bring solid evidence to negotiate with, as well. You give me good info, and I'll deal with my boss and work it out for you. You bring me a newspaper clipping for someone in California selling a car similar to yours and asking for $2000 more, though, and I can easily dismiss it. Bring me some info on cars similar to yours that were sold around the block from your house for more, and we've got something to go on.

My goal with a total loss (and really, and customer interaction) is to get you off the phone/out of my office as soon as possible, and as happy as possible. The last thing I want is for you to call my boss with a legitimate complaint about something that I did or failed to do.
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Old 11-10-2010, 06:46 AM   #11
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I use to adjust claims as well! It was enjoyable, but most people you deal with are 'tards.

Example, "no sir, you're not gonna get $500,000 for the scratch on the bumper of your 1990 honda civic dx".

Example B, "ma'am it's been 25 min since we last talked, the company hasn't had a chance to get anyone out there yet".

Example C, "I realize the other guy 'came out of no where', but you had the stop sign and he didnt"

I'm in underwriting now
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Old 11-10-2010, 06:54 AM   #12
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I use to adjust claims as well! It was enjoyable, but most people you deal with are 'tards.

Example, "no sir, you're not gonna get $500,000 for the scratch on the bumper of your 1990 honda civic dx".

Example B, "ma'am it's been 25 min since we last talked, the company hasn't had a chance to get anyone out there yet".

Example C, "I realize the other guy 'came out of no where', but you had the stop sign and he didnt"

I'm in underwriting now
I love that one. Just because you didn't see him coming doesn't mean you suddenly have the right to run a red light.

And explain to me again exactly how somebody hit your car in the parking lot and drove off, when the only damage to your corvette is to the underside of the bumper.

The "hit and run" cases are the worst. Because our company tells us that for the most part, we're not allowed to question the customer's story.
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Old 11-10-2010, 07:19 AM   #13
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when my car was pretty new, someone threw a chunk of concrete through my sunroof, smashing it and f'ing up the interior. the insurance company estimated it at $700. i knew that was waaaaay low, and the adjuster told me not to worry, it would be adjusted if the shop estimated more. i left my car at the dealer (leave that aside for a second) and told them i would be going through insurance. the dealer called back quickly and said $700 was laughable, but a short time later the adjuster called me to say he determined that the dealer "started the work" and the claim wouldn't be adjusted. for a a smashed sunroof, scratched up driver's seat, and cracked wood trim, i got a $200 check and was basically told to **** right off.

i chalked this up to my own fault for not knowing enough about making a claim, so i just took it as a "live and learn" type of thing... but in retrospect, the dealer couldn't have done any real work by that point. they called me asking which repairs from the list i wanted them to go forward with, since it wasn't going to be covered... and i said sunroof only. so they definitely hadn't fixed anything by then. maybe they had vacuumed out glass and took the headliner down, but nothing was repaired.

now i know more about how claims work, i don't think that should have counted as "starting the work" and i think i got boned. thoughts?
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Old 11-10-2010, 07:23 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wrighterjw10 View Post
I use to adjust claims as well! It was enjoyable, but most people you deal with are 'tards.

Example, "no sir, you're not gonna get $500,000 for the scratch on the bumper of your 1990 honda civic dx".

Example B, "ma'am it's been 25 min since we last talked, the company hasn't had a chance to get anyone out there yet".

Example C, "I realize the other guy 'came out of no where', but you had the stop sign and he didnt"

I'm in underwriting now
What lines do you uw?
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I don't see what is ridiculous by robbing with a sword.A sword in one od the most lethal wepon !!!

It's more easy to kill with a sword than with a gun.

A sword is more frightening than toy-looking gun like glock.

robbing with a sword is a good thing
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Old 11-10-2010, 07:46 AM   #15
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when my car was pretty new, someone threw a chunk of concrete through my sunroof, smashing it and f'ing up the interior. the insurance company estimated it at $700. i knew that was waaaaay low, and the adjuster told me not to worry, it would be adjusted if the shop estimated more. i left my car at the dealer (leave that aside for a second) and told them i would be going through insurance. the dealer called back quickly and said $700 was laughable, but a short time later the adjuster called me to say he determined that the dealer "started the work" and the claim wouldn't be adjusted. for a a smashed sunroof, scratched up driver's seat, and cracked wood trim, i got a $200 check and was basically told to **** right off.

i chalked this up to my own fault for not knowing enough about making a claim, so i just took it as a "live and learn" type of thing... but in retrospect, the dealer couldn't have done any real work by that point. they called me asking which repairs from the list i wanted them to go forward with, since it wasn't going to be covered... and i said sunroof only. so they definitely hadn't fixed anything by then. maybe they had vacuumed out glass and took the headliner down, but nothing was repaired.

now i know more about how claims work, i don't think that should have counted as "starting the work" and i think i got boned. thoughts?
That's a weird one, and I'd really need to know more of what happened on the insurance/dealer side to figure it out. I can tell you, though, that my initial estimate will, most of the time, need to be supplemented. I can only write the damage that I see, no more, no less. With an interior job like that, though, it's usually pretty easy.

I write supplements all the time after the work has started, but the shop has to know that they can't just give us a bill at the end and expect us to pay it all. Every estimate we write has the line "All supplements require 100% reinspection, no exceptions." And gives our supplement fax line, and tells the shop that if they don't hear from someone within 24 hours of the fax to call the original adjuster. I've had shops try to throw in replacement parts and not keep the originals before, in which case I can only deny the supplement and let the customer know what's going on.

I tell customers all the time to not worry about the total cost of repair, and really, they shouldn't. The total cost is simply a negotiated amount between the shop and the insurance company. What the customer should worry about is that all their concerns regarding damage have been addressed. If there is damage on the car from the accident that doesn't appear on the estimate, ask about it. The adjuster should be able to give you an explanation as to why it's not on there.

And don't forget, that we are just people. We make mistakes sometimes. If I miss damage, I will hand write and sign on the estimate for the shop to supplement it back to us (if it's minor), or I'll simply rewrite the estimate if, for some reason, there are several things.

Remember that shops and insurance companies write estimates from two different perspectives. A shop writes an estimate as money coming in for them, and money going out for you. The last thing they want to do is call you up halfway through a repair and say "Oh, by the way, we thought X part was going to be repairable, but we need to replace it. That's going to cost you $500 more." We write estimates as money going out for us, so we want to keep that estimate as tight as possible. It doesn't break my heart at all if a shop calls me and tells me they need more money.
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Old 11-10-2010, 07:57 AM   #16
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What lines do you uw?
all commercial/business insurance. from joe "on-the-side" plumber to multi-million dollar businesses.
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Old 11-10-2010, 08:02 AM   #17
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That's a weird one, and I'd really need to know more of what happened on the insurance/dealer side to figure it out. I can tell you, though, that my initial estimate will, most of the time, need to be supplemented. I can only write the damage that I see, no more, no less. With an interior job like that, though, it's usually pretty easy.
yeah, i think i'll never know what happened, but oh well.

thinking about it, i'm not sure what kind of price list the ins. co. used for this estimate. sunroof glass, driver's side window, 3 wood interior trim pieces, and leather seat bottom cover? $700?

i probably have it somewhere, i should dig it up for giggles.
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Old 11-10-2010, 08:04 AM   #18
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What is the deal with a homeowner's trees falling on their car? Will insurance companies really refuse to pay if they trees aren't trimmed when needed?
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Old 11-10-2010, 08:08 AM   #19
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What is the deal with a homeowner's trees falling on their car? Will insurance companies really refuse to pay if they trees aren't trimmed when needed?
Are you talking about homeowner's insurance or auto policy?

I have no idea about a HO policy, but with your car, you can read your family auto policy for more clarification. But realistically, I'm not going to go to your house and try to use my vast knowledge of landscaping to figure out if your tree was properly trimmed or not. I've never heard of a claim denied for that before.
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Old 11-10-2010, 08:21 AM   #20
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yeah, i think i'll never know what happened, but oh well.

thinking about it, i'm not sure what kind of price list the ins. co. used for this estimate. sunroof glass, driver's side window, 3 wood interior trim pieces, and leather seat bottom cover? $700?

i probably have it somewhere, i should dig it up for giggles.
what was ur deductible? the estimate might have paid $700, you have to pay ur own deductible.

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What is the deal with a homeowner's trees falling on their car? Will insurance companies really refuse to pay if they trees aren't trimmed when needed?
i can answer this.

it depends. they'll look at the overall health of the tree. if it was old and dead and you should have removed it, denied.

if the tree was 100% healthly and maintained and weather brought it down, paid.
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