Sunday, November 15, 2009


About a month ago I was sitting at my desk at my home office in Boston when the phone rang. It was my insurance broker.

"Mr. Seglin," my broker said, "we just got a call that your parked car has been hit."

Not the kind of call that one enjoys getting, but this one could have been much worse.

It turned out that some fellow had lost control of his steering and rammed full speed into the back of my vehicle.

My insurance broker had been called by an officer of the Boston Police Department. She wanted to make sure that I got the note that the driver had left tucked in the driver's-side door of my car.

My broker e-mailed me an incident report, and I walked over to assess the damage and fill in the form.

Most of the right rear side had been crumpled, as had the back bumper, and the taillight was broken. But it was nothing that couldn't be repaired.

And indeed, as my broker had said, the young driver who had hit my car had left a note with his contact information and his insurance-company information tucked in the door. As I was filling in the report, an older gentleman came over and handed me a Post-it note with the police-cruiser number on it.

I was happy that the driver had left me a note, of course, because it meant that I could get the car repaired without having to pay the deductible on my insurance.

The appraiser for the insurance company came out the next morning to assess the damage. He observed the same damage I had noted, but also remarked that the front bumper seemed to be damaged as well. I hadn't noticed the front-bumper damage originally, but I did point it out when I spoke to the body shop about the repairs.

A few weeks passed, and all seemed to be going well with the repairs.

Then I got a call from the insurance adjustor, questioning whether the damage to the front bumper had happened in the original accident, noting that neither I nor the appraiser had reported it initially.
"Did the front-bumper damage happen as a result of this accident?," the adjustor asked.

It would have been easy to simply say that it did. I hadn't spotted it before, and it was consistent with the car having been pushed forward into another car by the impact from the rear. But the truth was that I didn't know. I hadn't noticed it in my own inspection of the car after the accident, and it was possible that this fairly minor damage had occurred sometime previously.

"I don't know," I told the adjustor. "But I only noticed it after your appraiser pointed it out to me."

After a few days of hemming and hawing from the insurance company, the appraiser went back out to the body shop to reassess the front-bumper damage. He gave the body-shop people no clue whether or not he had concluded that the damage was the result of the accident.

But a few days later the appraiser called.

"Good news," he said. "We're covering the damage to the front of your car."

Rather than respond smugly, I thanked him. It was, after all, a rare occasion in life in which everybody did the right thing.

The appraiser did the right thing in pointing out some damage that I had overlooked, though it would have saved his company money to keep quiet about it. I did the right thing, if I say it myself, in acknowledging that I had no idea if this damage was the result of this accident, though it would have been to my advantage to insist that it was. The adjustor did the right thing in having his appraiser reassess the damage to resolve the conflicting information, rather than simply using my uncertainty as an excuse not to pay.

I can only assume that the appraiser's failure to list that damage on his report was a simple oversight, but in the end nobody was hurt by it.

And, lest we forget, everybody else in this story - the driver who left me his information, the office who went the extra mile to make sure that the information got to me and even the bystander who jotted down the police-car number - did the right thing.

That's very gratifying, especially in a situation that often brings out the worst in people.

c.2009 The New York Times Syndicate (Distributed by The New York Times Syndicate)


Anonymous said...

Jeffrey, it appears on a quick reading of your description of this insurance matter that everyone, from yourself, to the perpetrator, to the insurance company and the legal authorities, all did what they were supposed to. At first, it appeared to me that the insurance adjuster was being a hardnose, but in the end, may we agree that even the adjuster was proven as doing the right thing. Also, may we all as readers of this blog use this occasion to give some deserved praise to the lowly "insurance companies" who have been the object of scorn and much criticism during the discussions about the health insurance debate, from President Obama, his administration, various members of Congress, but especially Nancy Pelosi of the House and Harry Reid of the Senate, who, taken together along with nearly the entire MSM, have gone out of their way to criminalize the insurance industry as little better than thieves and scoundrels. I admit that my life's profession involved life and health insurance underwriting and for those not familiar with the inner workings of insurance companies, all such companies, no matter the type of insurance involved, are fiercely regulated and audited on-site annually by state insurance officers in any state in which they do business and the insurance company premiums charged, which are the topic of so much scorn by the critics, are arrived at by licensed insurance company actuaries taking into account all expenses, salaries, and the predicted costs of paying future claims and the profits of insurance companies are much less than most companies in the U.S. earn. It also should be stressed that in order to make their profit, it behooves the insurance company underwriters to eliminate from possible coverage or to charge higher premiums to those whose health history would prevent their being covered for the premiums otherwise calculated by the company actuaries.

Charlie Seng
Lancaster, SC

Anonymous said...

It was certainly interesting for me to read this article. Thanx for it. I like such themes and everything connected to them. I definitely want to read more soon.

Anonymous said...

you are fortunate just a week ago my son was awakened by a phone call from a friend who asked her to pick her up ...his car had died...her brother hadn't shown up to get her home. So he got out of bed was 12:30 AM... drove to the restaurant she was at...went inside to find her and came back out to find that someone had done several thousand dollars worth of damage to his brand new note, no witness, no doing the right thing!! wish there had been a policeman there and a witness etc...

When parents break the rules, should other parents report them?

Each school-day afternoon during the school year, the pick-up line at a particular public grade school can wind out of the school parkin...