Farmers Auto Accident Claims
Farmers used to be a fairly good insurance company to settle cases with. But recently in the last few years, they’ve become so big that they feel that they can take liberties in dealing with claims. They have purchased 21st Century Insurance Company from AIG. They own Mid Century Insurance and several other smaller insurance companies.
So they’ve become very big. And they’re using their giant status as an insurer– I’ believe they’re the third or so in the United States– to try to force people that are injured to take less money. And they do this through two different processes. First of all, they use a software computer program to evaluate claims, which really don’t take into account the real pain and suffering that an individual is going through, whether or not they make a good witness, things of this nature.
The other thing that Farmers has pioneered it is the claims unit approach. I’ve been practicing over 30 years. And in the old days– and by the old days I mean up until about two or three years ago– you would handle a case with a particular adjuster all the way through the process until the case is settled. And even if a lawsuit is filed, you deal with that adjuster afterwards to see if you could settle the case before trial.
Farmers about two or three years ago came up with what they call the claims unit approach. They want to take the human-to-human interface away. What they want to do is they want to blame everything on what they put in their computers so a human being doesn’t feel that he has to make any individual type of assessment on a case. So what they do is, as soon as your claim is filed, it goes to a claims unit.
So what this means is your client gets involved in an accident, immediately gets assigned to a certain unit. Farmers units I believe are mainly in San Diego now. And what happens is all through the process you are not dealing with a person. You are dealing with a unit number.
And so when you send in your medical documentation and medical expenses and you send a settlement letter that describes what the injuries are and what you feel the case is worth, someone will give you a call at some point. Or maybe they’ll just send you a letter. And the letter is signed “Claims Unit.”
And you call them back and you try to negotiate with them. And you won’t get a particular individual very often. You’ll get whoever answers the phone on the claims unit. And they will look in their computer. And they’ll say, well, I see we evaluated this case at let’s say $6,000.
And if you say, well, how did you evaluate that at $6,000, they’ll say, well, that’s what we came up with. We feel that the reasonable and necessary medical bills should be this much, which often are not even determined by a doctor. It’s determined by some person who is a medical evaluator who has been trained in looking at bills and giving some arbitrary amount as to what examinations or physical therapy should be billed at. And then they say, well, on top of that, we’ll give you maybe $1,000 or $2,000 for pain and suffering.
If you try to negotiate with them, they’ll say, well, that’s what we have it at. And if you have anything new, let us know. And it doesn’t matter what you do to try to sway them, you’re going to get another person who answers the phone the next time you call. And they’re going to say, well, let me look in the computer.
So again, you’re never dealing with an individual who can bear a burden of making a true decision as to what somebody’s pain and suffering is worth. You’re dealing with a person who looks in a computer. And they cannot evaluate a case based on what your client truly went through and what a jury may give when confronted with somebody who’s truly sympathetic. This is all an attempt to avoid any responsibility on the behalf of the insurance company and its adjusters.
And as I said, in the old days, there’d be an adjuster who would be on the case the whole way through. And the good thing about that is you could deal with that person. That person could maybe talk to your client over the phone, take a statement from your client, get to know your client. And this would help settle the case. Also, you could have a long-term relationship with that adjuster. They’ll know who you are as an attorney, the fact that you’re reputable, that you will take a case to court if necessary.
But these computer programs and claims unit types of situations, they take all of this away. So this adjuster who may answer the phone doesn’t know you from Adam. And they don’t take that into account whether or not you will go to trial, whether you will get a better verdict in front of a jury.