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July 1st, 2003

Insurance Companies you want to Watch

by D. Clark MacPherson

Those of us who live in lower Manhattan and spend a great deal of time in the Hamptons were very thankful that the beautiful dunes were still pristine after witnessing the planes crashing into the World Trade Center. The escape was tension filled and the very real drama of waiting for the bridges and tunnels to open again before we could leave Manhattan was frightening. “Escape from New York,” the movie, became all too real.

The aftermath was all too real, as well. The months of inhaling that “safe” air which left many of us with chronic breathing problems was nothing compared to the nightmares that lasted for more than a year. For some, those images of people that we lterallly watched jumping from the burning buildings, 90 stories up, still haunt our dreams. The horror was something you live and re-live for a lifetime. And my four year old still asks about the fireman who went into those buildings. In his playtime, he still constructs tall structures and discusses their falling “like the World Trade Center” where he occasionally went to the bookstore.

Hardcore New York people seem to have friends on both coasts, but are not so popular inland. While the current stance on patriotism is that we were attacked and must respond – it is as if the attack occurred in Toledo. But, it didn’t happen in Toledo. It happened in New York. And that poses a problem. It’s not that people in Toledo don’t like New Yorkers, but when you talk to people anyplace other than in lower Manhattan (or maybe in the Pentagon), they really have no idea what it was like to be here. Then the old anti-New York remarks or attitudes just pipe right in – as if the only thing we were useful for was a reason to get all pumped and aggravated at the aggressors but not so angry at what was blown up. In other words, we were useful to Bush with Afghanistan and Iraq. But when it came to our budget deficit, we were expendable.

Now this curious phenomenon has some real implications for those of us who filed claims with insurance companies. The number of property damage claims, death claims and disability claims for this little terrorist attack was incredible. Many claims were paid and many claims were fake claims that were not paid. And then there were some which were legitimate claims that were never paid. Why weren’t they paid? Because they could get away with it. For the most part, insurance is a voluntary business. There are so many loopholes, exclusions, and claim requirements that you are held hostage to the integrity of the company that sold you the policy.

So here’s a little primer on companies to use or avoid.

For automobile insurance, the two company extremes in the market are Allstate and Chubb.?Ǭ Allstate is the cheapest and is the policy of choice for those of you who want to screw the guy you hit when you are on the road. As long as you do not need to recover any money for yourself, this is the company that will move heaven and earth before paying a claim. A friend of mine was hit in the rear by an old woman. He had real back problems and Allstate knew it. Then, even their client died leaving them with no one to testify in the client’s defense at a trial. It did not stop Allstate from calling the victim’s neighbors and attacking his poor credit rating to traumatize him into giving up his case. He couldn’t take the pressure and phone calls at his job and he finally settled the case for a fraction of what he deserved.

Chubb, on the other hand, is the company to have if you want to be sure that you are taken care of in an accident, whether it is your fault or someone else’s. They will let you rent a decent car during the time yours is being repaired and pick up the tab up front – they don’t make you lay it out and wait to get it back. They are the “five stars” of the insurance business and they are understandably expensive. They do not hassle the customer about specifics. In other words, they pay.

Chubb also writes property insurance and you should seriously consider them if you want either homeowners or renter’s policies. Note, for you loft dwellers. If you have done considerable work on your own space, you should consider the additional premium for condo insurance even if you don’t own the apartment. This is an additional rider that is meant for those whose spaces have improvements that are permitted under the lease. They do not hassle the customer about specific dates on which a loss may have occurred and do not nickel and dime people about paying. They come through. A reliable broker you can contact who is an agent for Chubb is Felsen?Ǭ Associates in Great Neck. (Chris Matchton can help you, at (516) 466-9760)

On the other hand, Atlantic Mutual is a company that falls into another category.?Ǭ They follow the terms of the policy and their lawyers are positively orgasmic about enforcing their rights to NOT pay. A friend had a legitimate claim that this company simply did not want to pay. The payout would have been between $20,000 and $30,000 depending upon the details and negotiations. Instead of paying the claim, they spent $400 per hour to grind down the client, using Ahmuty, Demers & McManus, a high priced law firm located on Long Island to essentially beat up their former customer. On the phone, a Mr. Maguire who is a partner of the law firm acted like “big brother” – actually wanting the client to understand the company’s point of view. He did. It was simply that Atlantic Mutual did not want to, and therefore did not have to pay a dime (by virtue of being able to litigate you to death, right or wrong). You’ve been warned.

Disability insurance is purchased to protect you from physical and psychological damage and loss of income. The terror attacks created just such a situation for many of us. But for those who had such policies, they fell far short of the mark. One of the companies that fell OFF the mark is Monarch Life, a company in Massachussetts. We have evidence of claims that they stalled on and when called on this fact, they refused to comment. When patriotism is convenient, we have hawks that want to use the disaster we experienced in Manhattan in the spirit of patriotism, then deny us financial protection, and then attack other lands using our name.

As a final note to those of you who may have a property claim, we have an important suggestion for homeowners. Consider hiring a public adjuster. This person works for you, not the insurance company, and this assures you that you are obtaining the best service and payment under your policy terms. We recommend Bob, with R. Oshinsky & Co., at (516) 921-3666.

As a customer who wants fair value and wants to be paid when you most need it – you’ve been warned. Ask about the companies from people who have had claims, not just the broker.

-D. Clark MacPherson

Filed Under: Articles | New York | Politics

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