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Beware of Farm Bureau Insurance

Long Version of Account of Unethical Handling of Damage Claims by Farm Bureau Insurance

Michael T. Griffith

Updated on 10/4/2002

On August 3, at around 2:15 PM, at the Sunset Mall in San Angelo, Mr. Cleve Moore, a Farm Bureau Insurance policy holder, backed into the driver's side of my 2001 Kia Sephia. My wife and two junior high school students were in our car. My wife was driving. Mr. Moore was driving a large truck. After he backed into our car, he began to drive off, acting as though he was unaware he had hit us. My wife exited our car, flagged down Mr. Moore, and advised him that he had just backed into our car. He then got out of his truck, looked at the damage, and apologized several times. My wife says that when stopped Mr. Moore, she had the impression at the time that he knew why she was stopping him. My wife told Mr. Moore she needed to call the police so that they could do a police report. Mr. Moore said he was in a hurry and that he wanted to just leave his insurance information. Right at this time a woman who was walking by overheard this conversation and could see that my wife and Mr. Moore had just been in an accident. She stopped to tell my wife that she had recently been in an accident and that it was vital that she get a police report in order to be sure the insurance claim would be paid. My wife then turned to Mr. Moore and informed him she was going back into the mall to call the police in order to have a police report done on the accident. She then went into the mall and called the police. When she returned, she found that Mr. Moore had left the scene of the accident and that he had left his name, phone number, and insurance policy number on a piece of paper. Two days later, on Monday, she went to the police station and filed a "blue report," a personal account of the accident.

A couple days later I called the local Farm Bureau office and spoke with Mr. Calvin Boatright, a local Farm Bureau claims agent. He told me to have my wife bring our car to their office so he could take pictures of the dent. The next day, he told me to have my wife get some estimates and to bring them to him. I should add that he said he didn't think there would be any problem with the claim but that he was still trying to contact Mr. Moore. My wife went and obtained an estimate and took it to Mr. Boatright. Frankly, she thought the estimate was kind of high. She even offered to get more estimates. Mr. Boatright said that wouldn't be necessary and that the estimate she had obtained was good enough. He then said he'd get back in touch with us.

The next time my wife or I heard from Mr. Boatright was when I received his letter, dated August 12, 2002, informing me that he had concluded Mr. Moore was not "legally responsible" for the accident and that therefore he was denying my claim.

My wife phoned Mr. Boatright, the local claims agent, the day after Mr. Boatright's letter arrived to ask him how he could have reached the conclusion that Mr. Moore was not responsible for the accident, especially since Mr. Boatright hadn't even bothered to interview the two other occupants of our car and when he hadn't done a bumper-to-dent comparison with Mr. Moore's truck and our car. Mr. Boatright simply replied he had concluded both cars may have been moving at the same time, and he added that Mr. Moore didn't know he had hit our car and therefore may not have even caused the damage.

If Mr. Boatright had done the bumper-to-dent comparison with our car and Mr. Moore's truck, he would have easily seen that Mr. Moore's bumper is exactly the right height--that it's exactly the same height as the dent in our car. He would have also noticed that Mr. Moore's bumper has a black rubber strip on it, and that explains why there were black smears in the dent that he made in our car. If Mr. Boatright had bothered to interview the two other occupants of our car, both of whom are in junior high school and thus quite able to recall an event like this, he would have confirmed my wife's report that she had stopped when she saw Mr. Moore's car backing towards her, that she tried to alert Mr. Moore (but to no avail), that Mr. Moore's truck backed into our car, and that they felt the impact of the collision--and that my wife then flagged down Mr. Moore and had him look at the damage he had just done. Mr. Boatright would have further learned that the occupant who was on the side of the car where the damage was done recalls hearing Mr. Moore apologize for having caused the damage.

I phoned Mr. Boatright several times and left messages for him to call me, but he never returned my calls. (Also, Mr. Boatright promised to send us the transcripts of my wife's and Mr. Moore's recorded statements. To date Mr. Boatright has only sent a copy of the transcript of my wife's taped interview, and he only did so recently after repeated requests and complaints from us to him and to one of his insurance associates in the local Farm Bureau office.)

That's when I decided to call Mr. Joe Drabek, who works at the Farm Bureau district office that oversees the San Angelo area. I phoned Mr. Drabek on August 20. In addition to the facts mentioned above, I also informed Mr. Drabek that I have very recent photos of my car, taken only a week or two before the accident, that show there was no damage at all to my car in the area where Mr. Moore hit it.

After a couple of calls, Mr. Drabek said he would ask Mr. Boatright to do the bumper-to-dent comparison with our car and Mr. Moore's truck. Then, about an hour after this, Mr. Drabek called back and said he was denying the claim on the basis of Mr. Boatright's conclusion that both cars were moving and that the damage may have been preexisting. I asked him why he wasn't going to have the bumper-to-dent comparison done, which would be a simple thing to do, and why neither he nor Mr. Boatright would interview the two other occupants of our car. I also asked Mr. Drabek why Mr. Moore had left his insurance information if he genuinely felt he hadn't hit our car. I further asked about the fact that Mr. Moore apologized for having made the dent several times right after my wife stopped him and explained to him what had happened. Mr. Drabek would not reply to these questions, but simply kept repeating he was standing behind Mr. Boatright's decision.

When I asked Mr. Drabek who his boss was, he replied, "I don't have a boss. My decisions are final." But when I spoke with another district claims manager in the district office, he was kind enough to inform me that, in point of fact, Mr. Don Skipworth was Mr. Drabek's boss. Mr. Drabek couldn't even tell the truth about whether or not he had a boss.

Both Mr. Boatright and Mr. Drabek pointed out that there was a preexisting dent on the same side of our car that Mr. Moore hit. But this dent has nothing to do with the dent that Mr. Moore made. The earlier dent is on the left side of the gas cap and is clearly much shallower and much different in shape than the dent that Mr. Moore made. It resulted from a brick being thrown at our car by some teenagers on the highway. It is a rather neat, square, shallow dent, and it's several inches away from the dent that Mr. Moore made. The dent that Mr. Moore made is to the right of the gas cap, while the earlier dent is to the left of the gas cap. Furthermore, both my wife and I told Mr. Boatright about the earlier dent when we first spoke with him. We made clear this dent had nothing to do with the dent that Mr. Moore had made. I explained this clearly to Mr. Drabek and even offered to send him digital photos that I'd taken of that area of the car. He declined to even look at the photos.

My wife has gone to some other body repair shops to get more estimates. Some shops have told her that because both dents are in the same section of the body, they'd have to repair both dents--that they couldn't repair just the dent that Mr. Moore made without also fixing the smaller dent to the left of the dent that Mr. Moore created. In any case, again, when she brought the initial estimate to the local claims agent, Mr. Boatright, she offered to get more estimates, but he replied that the estimate she had brought him was acceptable. And, shortly after that, he told me he didn't think there would be any problem with our claim.

In summary, let me briefly review my objections to the rather dubious reasons that Mr. Boatright and Mr. Drabek have given for denying our claim:

1. "Mr. Moore didn't even feel the impact." I finally got Mr. Drabek himself to admit this was a rather bogus argument. A driver in a large truck who slowly backs into the side of a Kia Sephia, which does not have a very hard body, may very well NOT feel the impact. This doesn't mean he's not responsible.

2. "There was already a dent in your car in that general area." One, that's irrelevant. Two, that dent is several inches away from the dent that Mr. Moore made. The dent that Mr. Moore made is clearly a deeper, larger dent, and it's also much different in shape than the dent that's to the left of the gas cap.

3. "Both vehicles may have been moving." This is a claim based on no evidence, and it ignores my wife's emphatic emphasis in her recorded statement for Mr. Boatright and in her report to the police that she stopped when she saw Mr. Moore's truck backing toward her, that our car was stationary when Mr. Moore's truck hit it, and that she tried to warn him to stop. This claim also ignores the fact that both of the two other occupants in our car can verify that my wife had stopped our car before Mr. Moore's car hit it. Our car was stopped for several seconds (like three to four seconds) before Mr. Moore hit it.

4. "Mr. Moore may not have done the damage that you claim he did." Then why did he leave his insurance information? Why did he apologize on the spot? Who did the damage, then? As mentioned, Mr. Moore's truck has a black rubber or plastic strip on the bumper, and there were (actually still are) visible black smears in the dent that he made in our car. I see no need to dignify this claim with further response. And, we have two witnesses who were in our car who saw and felt Mr. Moore's truck back into our car.

My advice to anyone reading this page is that you don't get Farm Bureau insurance, and that if you already have Farm Bureau insurance that you don't renew it when it comes due for renewal. My experience has been that the Farm Bureau's claims agents and claims managers are unfair and dishonest. In my opinion, an insurance company that deals dishonestly and unfairly with damage claims doesn't deserve customers.

If you'd like to e-mail Mr. Skipworth and/or Mr. Drabek to tell them what you think of their handling of our claim, Don Skipworth's address is dskipworth@txfb-ins.com and Joe Drabek's address is jdrabek@txfb-ins.com.

Mr. Skipworth's boss is a Mr. Steve Williams in the Farm Bureau's Waco office. His e-mail address is swilliams@txfb-ins.com.

If you'd like to contact me for any reason, my e-mail address is mikegriffith1@cs.com. Thanks for your time.

UPDATE MATERIAL:

Copy of 1 October 2002 letter of complaint to the Texas Better Business Bureau concerning Farm Bureau's refusal to pay our claim.

Copies of the sworn notarized statements of the two people who were in the back seat of our car during the accident.

Michael T. Griffith

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