My story, unfortunately, is an all too common story in the wake of the destruction brought to New York and New Jersey by Sandy. I live in Brooklyn, not right on the shore, but not too far from it. It's maybe a 10- or 20-minute walk for me to get to the beach. When Sandy was coming up the coast I thought that would put me far enough inland that I wouldn't have to worry about storm surge flooding. I was wrong.
I live in an apartment building. My building has an underground parking garage and that's where I park my car. It flooded during the storm. The water came up past the locks and to right under the windows. The seawater totaled my car. Even once most of the water was gone, there was still some in the trunk and I could see the salt covering the various parts under my hood.
From other people who lost their cars, I knew that insurance companies were using the oil change stickers to help determine mileage. With electronic odometers, and a car unable to be started, that was one of the few ways to help prove the mileage and value the car. I figured that's what would happen with me. While I expected that my insurance company would try and lowball me, I didn't expect they would lowball me as much as they did. In truth, it was nothing more than them trying to pull a fast one on a victim of one of the costliest storms in American history.
They towed my car about a week after the storm. It wasn't until five days later that they called back with their first settlement offer. It was for half of what the car was worth according to the blue book value that I had looked up given its age, condition and mileage. Needless to say, I was infuriated.
Their stated reason? They claimed that I had over 130,000 miles on the car. In actuality, my car had under 30,000 miles. The reason they put on so many miles is because they were too lazy to do their jobs. They claimed that they couldn't read the oil change sticker and therefore they were applying a regional "average" of 15,000 miles per years from the last record they had of my mileage. They claimed that was from back in 2004. In reality, it was only a year or two ago that they had last asked for the mileage and it was reported to them.
What bothered me even more than their claim that they couldn't read the oil change sticker, or their lies about what mileage they had on file, is the fact that they wouldn't be bothered to send someone out there to look at the sticker again. This despite the fact that there are many, many claims coming in and the person would undoubtedly have to go back again anyway. To them, that might not have been important. To me, it was a difference of several thousand dollars. But, of course, they were too lazy to do their jobs.
Luckily, I kept good records and I still had my inspection receipt from last year. It showed my mileage what it was as of December 2011. I emailed the adjuster a copy of it. A few days later, after she hadn't called back, that was followed up with a message that I expected to hear the company's new settlement offer. That night, she called back. The settlement offer was satisfactory and I got my check in the mail about a week and a half ago.
For my insurance company, however, it was already too late for them to keep my business. I started to look around at other companies because I was frustrated with how they had treated me. Seeing the quotes from other companies made it clear that not only were they more expensive, but by a significant margin.
The quotes were about 50%-60% of the price that they charged. This meant that by switching I would pay a rate for my brand new 2012 RAV4 that was cheaper than what I paid my 2000 Subaru Legacy. It was clear that they had taken me for one hell of a ride with their high rates, poor service and attempt to shortchange me.