Monday, December 18, 2006

Today They Asked Me: Is It Possible I Know the Person Who Stole My Car?

So my insurance claims adjuster calls me today and asks me among other questions if I possibly know the person who stole my car, and gave them the car keys.

I was pissed and said it was possible. Anything is possible. I told him the police person told me on Thursday as I was doing their investigator's job that it was apparently possible to start the car with a nail file.

Anything is possible.

What doesn't seem possible is that my car will be returned to me any time soon.

What seems totally evident is that the are treating me as a suspect and I told them so in a LONG letter that said I wasn't being treated as a valued customer and that since I am a resident of East Oakland and am a woman of color that I feel they are stereotyping me as a customer who might be trying to pull one over on them.

That feels accusatory and disempowering.

It makes me MAD.

Why do I need to become an emotional wreck to get any reassurance from these folks?

Why am I getting a 3 month runaround? Does anyone know my rights here?

I wrote to the insurance commissioner. Someone suggested my congressperson.


Letter to Western United Auto Insurance
Good morning, Mr. Cochetti, et al,

Thank you for your phone call this morning. I was a little concerned in the tone of your voice and wanted to follow up with you.

I did receive the car rental on Friday afternoon. Thank you for making the reservation.

I do feel that part of my reimbursement should be for the day's work lost (Thursday, December 14th) for doing the investigation and record recovery for the vehicle report. That day cost me vacation pay. I believe your investigator is paid for the time spent doing research. I am paid to support students in the classroom learning technology skills.

Although I am sure that questioning is part of the normal procedure for insurance claims, I am wondering if it is usual protocol to be harassed with questions about my possibly knowing who may have stolen my vehicle. I am new to the neighborhood as of April 2006 and I work outside of my neighborhood. I felt this line of questioning was unnecessary and it makes me feel like a person under suspicion rather than a customer who was a victim of an auto theft. And again I feel that I need to undergo the trauma of the autotheft and the disappointment of being considered a suspect.

As a woman of color living in East Oakland I feel as if Western United has directed its investigation toward me versus partnering with the Oakland Police Department to resolve the issue. This feels insulting, disempowering, and as if I am being stereotyped. How am I to feel like a valued customer to Western United if lines of questioning make me feel this way? Am I not supposed to feel supported by my insurance company?

For the past three months I have been hoping for resolution to my vehicle being stolen. Since it was recovered I felt that it would be a simple matter of the car being identified with the records I provided, the repairs would be made for the damage it sustained from whomever may have stolen it, and I would have my car returned to me.

The past three months have been harrowing. Thursday I felt a culmination of months of frustration as I became emotional on the phone. Only then did I feel supported in my frustration and was reassured that until this issue was resolved that I would have a vehicle to go to and from work. After making this request several times to assure that I was able to go to work (to continue paying my premium as well as making other financial obligations) I felt that my emotional state allowed Western United to truly hear my plight.

Today's line of questioning made me feel as if that moment of empathy was fleeting and I am back to being considered a case number and not a human being who was the victim of a crime that has led to feeling of anxiety, violation, and disempowerment.

I want to have the faith in my insurance provider that I am a valued customer.

How can we proceed with this to assure that I have answered your questions and that I have assurance as a customer that I am considered a valued member of Western United's consumer base?

Items from my previous correspondence:

a) Confirmation of car rental beginning 12/15/2007 lasting through return of my vehicle in my position at AAA/Western United's expense

-> Thank you Mr. Cochetti for confirming this auto rental. I have picked up the car.

b) Confirmation that the Oakland Police report has been recovered by AAA/Western United (my work hours/location) conflict with my being able to go to the police department this week.

-> I spent a work day on Thursday recovering a Vehicle Report. Hopefully this will satisfy your needs. Else the officer indicated you would need to get a subpoena to obtained unredacted records.

Again, as the victim in this crime I feel that I have not received a full report from my insurance company of the information it knows. When I ask for details of investigation I am told that the matter is still under investigation.

I found out from the report that the car was recovered a few blocks from my house! Why was your investigator unable to get a copy of this record?

c) A copy of my file regarding claim # 189852 with correspondence/paper trail sent regular mail for my records

-> I have received the previous two letters to match my records. Thank you.

d) Details regarding the gas card promotion from September 2006 that gave potential customers gas cards for getting a quote and then getting insurance through AAA. Since I received both and quote and insurance on September 16, I believe I am entitled to the gas cards offered through this promotion.

-> I have been in touch with Ms. Wallace regarding the gas card. We have been leaving messages for one another by have not been in direct contact.

e) Confirmation via email that this email has been received.

-> I have received confirmation of that. Thank you.

I would like to add to this list:

f) Reimbursement for a day's work (vacation taken) for December 14th, 2006 for the time and gas spent to drive between two precincts to obtain a copy of the vehicle report. The officer who assisted me at the Eastmont Mall seemed rather surprised that I was doing the legwork on the investigation since it's normally done by the insurance company.

g) Opportunity to rummage through the contents of the vehicle and reclaim my items (including music, river rafting and camping gear, kites, and registration documents (if they were still in the vehicle)) while this still remains under investigation

h) Receive information/counseling on how Western United handles auto theft claims. I feel that most customers do not wait 3 months for their claims to be resolved.

Again, I appreciate the time and attention your organization has offered my claim, but am dissatisfied as to how I have been treated as an individual. I look forward to resolving this matter with you and receiving any further information on details you have regarding the repair and return of my vehicle.

Sincerely yours,


Previous Email (12/10/06)

First of all, I want to thank you for responding so promptly to my email. As you can understand, this experience has been harrowing for me.

>Be advised that i cannot provide you a timeline as to when this claim will be processed as we are still >investigating the claim, however we can move the vehicle back to you immediately while we complete our >investigation.

This is great news! It sounds from your words that I would be able to get my vehicle back ASAP as soon as we get the police report! I have left messages for the Oakland Police Officer who is in charge for thefts, but have not received any response. This information is much more satisfying than a simple "under investigation" phrase. Thank you for the included detail in your correspondence!

>Since you are the registered owner of the vehicle and we have aleady appraised your vehicle damage, you may >take whatever action you deem necessary to repair your vehicle however we will not be able to discuss >settlement of this claim until we complete our investigation.

Again, this is GREAT news. Much more information than can fit on my voice mail (My voice mail has been full as of late. I have been receiving a deluge of phone calls. This is my only means of communication aside from email and I do not have any control over the voice mail limit.)

This is the first I have heard of the vehicle appraisal damage. How much damage was caused to the car? Was there anything wrong with the car aside from the damage to the driver side mirror? If I felt it was faster for me to repair it and then be reimbursed for that, would that be an option?

Again, I am confused with the term "under investigation". What is the usual cycle of investigation that happens with auto theft? Is this information that can be found on a website or within the documentation of my insurance policy in an F.A.Q. format? From what I gather from the information in this correspondence the car has been recovered from the tow yard, is in possession of Western United, and has been assessed for damage. What are the missing elements of the investigation that are outstanding? Other than the police report from Oakland Police Department, are there other elements that I should know about to obtain? (Last week was the first time I understood it as my responsibility to get the police report since I understood that the insurance investigator would be obtaining this as part of the investigation. I was also unclear on how to proceed because the Oakland Police Department considered the case closed.)

Do I have the opportunity to rummage among the contents collected from the vehicle? Aside from the items that I listed that were NOT mine, I would like to know if any of my items remained intact within the car. I am mostly concerned with my music, my kites, my camping gear, my registration documents, my river rafting gear, and a housewarming present I had for a friend (an otter puppet), a roadside emergency kit, some books (including the dictionary of theories), a wide-brimmed straw hat, a halloween hat that lit up "This IS my costume". Perhaps your organization can provide me with a list of contents that was found in the vehicle?

> Should you want your vehicle moved to you then please provide me with a address where your vehicle can be
> moved to that will not charge storage. Your vehicle must be moved to a storage free location.

It only makes sense for the vehicle to be towed if it is drivable. (At least for the time I have remaining with a rental vehicle.) In the assessment you have made, is the car drivable over long distances? The new job requires me to be mobile among several Bay Area locations within a 12-15 mile radius of one another.

I am concerned with having a vehicle after my rental time is expired. This investigation has gone above and beyond the 25 day limit of rental on the policy and I am concerned about transportation. Is there no way to add rental days since there is no deadline that you can determine as of yet? Surely you understand my dilemma for needing reliable transportation.

> The remainder of this email will address your requests as follows:
a). I already made a Hertz reservation for you on 11/28/06 at the Hertz office located at 1001 Broadway in downtown Oakland. Hertz phone number is 510 451 3807 and the confirmation number is 037202764. This information was already provided to you so please contact Hertz regarding your rental and contact me if their is any problems.

> Excellent. I have contacted them and they have confirmed that I have a reservation starting Friday when my friend will be reclaiming her loaner vehicle to me. Thank you SO much for providing this information to me.

b) As i requested in our last conversation on 12/5/06, because our investigator is having problems getting a response from Oakland Police, we are requesting that you contact the Oakland Police Dept and get a copy of the face sheet of the arrest report. Our investigator advised that since you are the victim that you have a right to this document from the Oakland Police and you should be able to get it easier then our investigator. Please provide me with the names, phone numbers and dates that you attempted to call Oakland Police since i made this request of you on 12/5/06. If you are having trouble getting cooperation from the Oakland Police then please advise me immediately and document all police personnel that you have contacted in regards to this matter. Please be advised that we are attempting to follow up with the person arrested in your vehicle and with the Oakland police officer regarding details of the recovery of your vehicle to assist in our investigation of this matter.

> Excellent. Again, this is the first I have heard any details regarding the details of the investigation. From the brief conversations I have had with the investigator he mentioned someone was arrested in the case and a brief conversation I had with Officer Jacobs of the Oakland Police Department confirmed it was an adult and that the person was found with the vehicle, but not necessarily the person who stole the car.

I don't have exact dates for when I have called the Oakland Police Department, but I have called twice since our discussion last week and several times since the car was stolen in September. I have had 1 live phone conversation with Officer Jacobs in mid-late November. Else I have been leaving messages for her. The number I have for her is 510-777-8705.

I went to the Oakland Police Department website and found a potential beat officer for my address:


Beat Officer: Officer Ed Tracey

Area Coordinator is Edith Guillen
Her telephone number is 510-238-7159
Her cell phone number is 510-773-0467

c) I will resend you all letters that have been sent to you regarding this claim however please advise why you have not aleady received these letters as we show that the letters went to your last known address.

> Excellent. This will help me keep my records in order regarding this claim. Shall I confirm with you which letters I have received regarding this claim to avoid duplication? I have the letter regarding the affidavit and another indicating the refund for the rental in September.

> d) please contact your agent as this is not a claims matter.

Just to confirm, Ms. Jackie Wallace, my sales representative is also considered my agent?
And Mr. Kip Cochetti is my claims agent, correct?

> e)consider this as confirmation of your email.
Excellent. Email is easier for me to correspond to and to check throughout the day since I am in the classroom. Phone conversations are difficult to have during the school day.

>Lastly, please provide a alternate phone number to the phone number you provided. I have
> called that phone number on many occassions and got a message that the voice mail was full and when its not > full and i am able to leave a message the voice mail cuts me off before i can leave a complete message.

As mentioned earlier, I have no control over the voice mail service provided to me through my phone service provider. I've cleared my voice mail box, but know that if I receive messages throughout the day it becomes full because I don't get to check it throughout the day. I don't have an alternate number to offer you. We'll have to make due with the 30-second increments we have. I do appreciate it when you have left messages for me. Thank you!

Again, thank you for providing so much detail regarding the car theft and the progress your organization is making with investigating it. Although not an answer to all of my questions, I feel better knowing what aspects of the investigation have been covered. It feels better as a consumer to have insight behind the term "under investigation" rather than just being offered that and having no idea where we are in the process.

I am still concerned with the portion regarding the Oakland Police Department because that seems like such an unknown in this equation. As I mentioned in previous voice mail, we should take a two-pronged approach to this and see who is successful in the end obtainin this information from them.

I would love to have my car back by Christmas! Hopefully with both of our efforts, we can make this happen!

Thank so much!


Western United Customer since September 2006
Autotheft Claim # 189852

Mailing Address:
[my mailing address]


Roger Williams said...

Speaking from experience, insurance companies always get extremely suspicious when a claim is made so soon after a customer signs up for a new policy. Having known people that have been busted hard for insurance fraud, they occasionally have point. Caveat: I have no idea what percentage of fraudulent claims are made within the first six months of signing up for a policy. Their entire gig is predicated on collecting the maximum amount of premium income while doling out as little as possible. Naturally, the efficiency of the services they deliver takes a backseat to this relentless pursuit of "loss prevention", and if a hapless consumer gets screwed? No big deal - auto insurance is mandatory. They'll get someone else soon enough.

I cannot seem to escape the conclusion that your insurance company appears to suck, plain and simple.

wrki said...