Liberty Mutual: horrendously awful auto claim handling

By | October 30, 2012

On Friday night, October 19, our minivan was flooded during a severe rain storm when our street’s storm drains clogged with leaves and the street flooded. At its worst, the water was about 2½ feet deep near the storm drains, which is unfortunately where our van was parked.

We discovered the damage Saturday night, and we brought the van to our body shop Monday morning, October 22. They told us that there would certainly be enough damage to warrant an insurance claim, so I immediately called Liberty Mutual to file a claim.

It is now eight days after that initial call to Liberty Mutual, and our body shop still has not started repairing our van, a delay which is entirely attributable to Liberty Mutual’s bumbling incompetence.

First, the adjuster with whom I spoke on the phone on the 22nd informed me that it would be impossible for an appraiser to come to the body shop to look at the van until Friday, October 26. I told him that was entirely unacceptable, both in general because a four-day delay in repairing our van was simply not OK, and in particular because water damage continues to worsen until it is rectified, so the longer the repairs waited, the worse the damage would be. He was implacable, insisting that there was simply no way he could get an appraiser to the shop before Friday.

“However,” he informed me, “if you bring your van to one of the shops we work with, they can start work on it immediately.” Do I even need to explain how reprehensible it is to provide worse service to customers who choose not to use the insurance company’s “recommended” shops? And incidentally, the reason why I don’t use them is because I’ve used them in the past and their work has been inferior and more expensive than the shop I use now, A-Z Auto Center, with which I’m entirely happy.

The delay in appraising the damage is particularly odious because although we do have replacement vehicle coverage in our policy, it only covers up to $30 per day, and the special Liberty Mutual rate for a minivan from Enterprise was going to cost about $47 per day, which means that the delay in repairing our vehicle would cost us money out-of-pocket. I pointed this out to the adjuster on the phone, but it didn’t help.

In the end, we ended up borrowing my parents’ SUV so that we wouldn’t have to pay $17 per day for Liberty Mutual’s four-day delay, so Liberty Mutual ended up paying nothing for our replacement vehicle, i.e., their delay was financially beneficial to them.

Monday afternoon I fired off an angry letter to Liberty Mutual telling them just what I thought of making a customer wait four days for an appraisal. I got a call back on Tuesday from the adjuster handling the claim (not the same as the adjuster I spoke with on Monday). She apologized profusely for the delay in the appraisal and said that “should not have happened.” When I pressed her for details of what I could have done differently on Monday to obtain an earlier appraisal, she came up empty. When I asked what assurances she could offer that this would not happen again on future claims, she came up empty. And worst of all, although she insisted that it should have been possible for me to arrange an earlier appraisal, she did nothing to move it up — it remained scheduled for Friday. In short, all I got in response to my complaint was a lot of hot air.

Fast forward to Friday. The appraiser showed up at the body shop and examined the vehicle. However, instead of completing the appraisal on the spot and giving it to A-Z so they could begin the repair work, which is what has happened literally every other time I’ve had vehicle damage appraised, the appraiser left without completing the appraisal. Monday afternoon, more than three days after the appraiser visited the shop, the company called me on the phone to ask for my email address to they could send me a copy.

I then sent this email to the adjuster handling my claim:

Can you please explain to me why, if the appraiser went to A-Z Friday morning, the damage estimate was not completed until Monday afternoon, thus adding at least three and a half days to the time required to repair my minivan?

In my experience, when I’ve had appraisals for insured damage done in the past, the appraiser has been able to complete the appraisal in a few minutes. I am unable to imagine why the appraisal could not have been completed and given to you and A-Z on Friday morning.

After the initial, unreasonable delay in the appraiser visiting the shop at all, and after your verbal assurance that you would do everything possible to ensure that the remainder of the claim would be handled better, I would have thought that once the appraiser finally went to the shop, the appraisal would have been completed quickly.

Please explain to me what the heck is going on here.

She called me back this morning and claimed that in fact the appraisal had been completed and given to the shop on Friday, but “for some reason” they waited until Monday afternoon to send me a copy.

Then I called A-Z, and they said that, contrary to what the adjuster had just told me, they still had not been given a copy of the appraisal. So I emailed it to them.

I just sent the adjuster this email:

I just spoke to A-Z and they told me that they were not given a copy of the appraisal on Friday, and in fact as of this morning they still don’t have a copy of the appraisal. I just sent them the copy that the appraiser sent me yesterday.

It would appear that your claim on the phone this morning that the appraisal was completed on Friday is incorrect.

To be clear: Work repairing my van should have been started last Monday, October 22, but because of repeated delays by Liberty Mutual and its agents, it still hasn’t started, eight days later.

You have offered many kinds words about how much you regret the delays, but you have given no concrete indication that I can expect anything different in the handling of future claims, nor have you offered any sort of compensation for the delay. For example, as a gesture of goodwill, you could have offered to pay the full cost of a minivan rental for the duration of the repair, which would have been only about $17 per day more than our policy already covers. Or you could have offered to pay our parents the $30 per day in rental coverage our policy already offers, to compensate them for the fact that they are letting us use their van. You’ve done neither of these things, or anything else substantial.

You can be sure that I will be soliciting quotes from other insurance companies to replace my Liberty Mutual homeowners, auto and umbrella policies as soon as I can find the time to do so. Your handling of this claim has been a disaster; I have no intention of trusting Liberty Mutual in the future.


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3 thoughts on “Liberty Mutual: horrendously awful auto claim handling

  1. David L.M. Marcum

    My car was rear-ended on Thursday, July 25. At-fault driver admitted fault, and his insurance company immediately called to see if i was okay. I reported the claim immediately to LM, and said that since the other driver’s insurance coverage was “second rate” in my opinion, I preferred to go through my own insurance and then LM could get its money from the other driver’s insurance. The person on the phone said that would not be a problem.

    I dropped my car off at a Volvo-approved body shop for repairs on Monday, July 29, and was driven to Enterprise to pick up a rental. My policy provides $60/day rental fee, up to $1,800. I asked my adjuster, given the extent of the damage, what would happen if repairs took longer than the coverage period. She said, “Don’t worry. If the delay is on our end, we’ll take care of it.”

    LM did not send out an appraiser for a week to look at my car. rejecting the body shop’s explanation of the parts that were needed, Liberty Mutual finally approved the repairs to my car as specified by the shop on September 6. The body shop has been working diligently to repair the car as quickly as possible.

    Meanwhile, I got a call from Enterprise yesterday saying that I have exceeded my policy limit on the rental, and that I personally owe a significant amount of money for my rental — they were calling to give me a heads up, they said. I replied, “Oh, don’t worry. LM told me they’d take care of everything, so I’ll give them a call and have them call you.” The rental person basically chuckled. (Obviously she knew better from experience.) I called LM, and as now proved to be a pattern, my adjuster was not available. Her manager was not available. Nobody was available to help me.

    Within 10 inutes, I get another call from Enterprise. This call was from a guy who said that LM’s liaison with the agency had called them to say that LM would not extend my benefits coverage.

    I called LM back to remind them of the adjuster’s promise, and to point out that neither the body shop nor I delayed repairs to my car — LM’s failure to approve repairs for over a month had caused me to exceed the policy limit. I still was not allowed to speak with my adjuster or her manager. Instead I got a solicitous person who apologized profusely and claimed to see my point, etc., etc., etc. and said that he had left multiple notes for my adjuster and her manager, and that it would ultimately be the manager who had to approve the extension. He assured me I would receive a call by the end of business.

    At the end of the day, not having received a call, I called back. The same run-around. I pointed out that I had been assured of a call-back by close of business. I also pointed out that while no one is apparently available to contact ME, they can manage to contact Enterprise within 10 minutes of my initial call to LM to deny an extension. I was literally told, “You should have called durin business hours. Everyone you need has gone home for the day.” I explained that this was my THIRD call of the day, and that if I did not receive a call-back before lunch the following day, my next two calls would be to an attorney and to the California Insurance Commissioner.

    Five minutes later, I received a call from my adjuster’s manager. The short version of what she said was that LM has a legal contract with me that only obligates them to pay my coverage limits. I responded that since LM will recoup its money from the at-fault driver’s insurance carrier, and since otherwise, I will have to use an attorney to personally sue that driver and his insurance for the difference, it seems to me that as MY insurer, it would make more sense for LM to provide the extended coverage to me, recoup the total money, and otherwise take care of ME, it’s insured.

    After much arguing, during which she accused ME and the repair shop of causing the delays, she finally said she would make no assurances of any kind, but would contact the other insurance carrier to “see what can be worked out.”

    Just now (4:26 PM), I got a call from LM. They have arranged to extend my coverage. Bottom line: Lawyer up, and make sure they know you have. Be clear in your expectations, document every conversation you have with them (because they are), and hold them to every commitment, verbal or otherwise.

    Good luck!

    1. jik Post author

      Bottom line: switch to a better insurance company. After nine years with Liberty Mutual, as of two days ago I have happily switched to Amica.

  2. Logan

    I’ve been dealing with the same exact issue with Liberty Mutual for the past 2 weeks. Its been 15 days and my car is still sitting at the body shop with NO REPAIRS because there is apparently NO appraisers in the area until next week. So 3 weeks before any repairs are done. This is complete crap.


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