I walked out from the office today with some of my colleagues to grab some lunch. I walked passed the rear of my car when I noticed a fairly decent-sized scratch and dent along the back left hand side of my bumper. It looked relatively fresh. I thought, "when did that happen? Was it at the gym this morning? At church yesterday?"
Whatever the case, I called my auto insurance company and set up a collision claim. Sure, I've got a deductible, but I was certain the repair was going to well exceed that amount. My conversation with the insurance representative was very instructive and gave me some insight into what everyone must go through with their own insurances companies.
The lady I spoke to had a kindness in her voice. Her number one concern sincerely seemed to be that I was taken care of. At the same time, she spoke with an "as a matter of fact" confidence. Under most circumstances, I would have little reason to question what I was being told. But in this case, I knew better. She spoke about the auto insurance company's "policy." In other words, their way of doing things. But what about my policy? By "my policy," I mean the one I signed. The contract. That is really the only one that matters.
After we discussed what had happened to my car, she told me that I was definitely covered. She congratulated me on the fact that I qualified for their VIP, streamlined repair service. It sounded awesome. I could bring my vehicle to a one stop shop where they would inspect my car, repair my car and get me a rental vehicle. I was being sold on convenience and quality.
Here's the rub. I want my car to be repaired by someone I know and trust. I want that person to use OEM parts. My experience with "insurance-approved locations" is that they benefit from repeat business from the auto insurance company. Satisfying the insurance company is more important than satisfying the customer.
I waited patiently for her to finish her repair location "sales pitch" and told her that I decided to use a different shop. She said, "OK, you are certainly entitled to do that, but you'll have to take your car to one of our property adjusters first to have them inspect it."
I responded, kindly, "I really don't think my policy requires that the vehicle be inspected by an auto insurance employee before work begins, but I don't have a problem with it either way. If you'd like to have it inspected by one of your people, it will be at the following address by tomorrow at 10:30 AM."
She responded also kindly, "OK, I will go ahead and set up an inspection at that location, but understand that it needs to be inspected before they begin work. The problem is, unfortunately, that we may not be able to get an adjuster out there for a few days. That means you'll be without a car for those days unless you want to pay for the car rental yourself. We only cover rental fees for the time that the car is being repaired."
I explained to the lady that, per my policy, car rental coverage is afforded me for a reasonable amount of time. To me, a "reasonable amount of time" begins at the time that I drop off my car until the time that I pick it up again. If the auto insurance company chooses to delay the repair time in order to perform an inspection of the vehicle, I am willing to wait that time...while sitting in my covered car rental. I asked the lady if my policy defined "reasonable" as "only the time used to physically repair the vehicle." She agreed that it probably didn't.
So I repeated that I would drop the vehicle off at 10:30 AM at the car repair location. I explained that I would be happy to use their reduced insurance rates on the car rental, or if they would prefer, I would rent it myself and submit it for 100% reimbursement. She put me on hold. She came back a few minutes later and gave me a car rental number to present at the desk at Enterprise in the morning when I arrived.
None of this was really a big deal. But what if my engine needed work? What if the car was totaled and "reasonable" meant also time to find and purchase a new car? What if I was injured and they offered me a quick settlement before I had a chance to be properly diagnosed? It can get really sticky sometimes.