Okay, I need to issue this disclaimer right at the beginning - If there are any of you who read this blog that want to continue to believe that I am always a happy and easy-going person, stop right now. Don't read anymore of this post or you will soon learn how incredibly ticked off I can be.
So it has been five weeks and two days since our house burned to the ground. Yes, that means it has been thirty-seven days. You would think that in that time, we would have been able to make some progress in clearing the lot, receiving reimbursement for items we have purchased, etc. Especially since we had a copy of our lease, submitted receipts, the appraisal of our home and the estimate to clear the lot to the adjustor within a week of meeting with him. But NO, except for the original $5,000 advance, we have not received a single cent without a fight.
Just so you are aware of how this process works, the insurance company hires an adjustor to provide them with reports regarding a claim. The adjustor will look at things like estimates to repair or replace, local conditions and make sure you are being truthful. The adjustor then sends a report or reports to the claims office. The same process occurs when you submit receipts to your agent for reimbursement. Every reimbursement approval is actually handled by the claims office.
It took a week before we learned from the adjustor that our appraisal was not going to be sufficient and that they would now need a floor plan with dimensions detailing floor coverings, wall coverings, fixtures, etc. That became an exercise in creativity as Rick used the exterior dimensions from the appraisal to draft a basic floor plan for the adjustor. Yet again it was a hurry up to wait process.
In the meantime we were trying to get our car back. The driver's side of my Sienna mini-van had been melted by the fire. We had the car towed to the dealership and an estimate prepared by the dealership for repairs as directed by our agent. Our agent let us know that the estimate had been forwarded to the Salt Lake office the day after they received it. Two and a half weeks later, we had still not heard anything. Rick contacted the dealership and was informed that they had not received approval yet to go ahead with the repairs. This started a process of going up the food chain in order to find where the claim had stalled (the Salt Lake office). It took a call to the supervisor in the claims office to be told that the estimate they had received was not acceptable and they wanted to send their own adjustor to determine if the repairs were necessary.
Guess what!! Our car was melted. Everything plastic on the driver's side needed to be replaced and the driver's side needed to be repainted. The dealership receives approval to go ahead with the repairs with the insurance company paying for everything less our $500 deductable. Fast forward three days - now we are being told that we will need to pay for the repairs and then submit the receipt to the insurance company for reimbursement. I don't know how many of you have a spare $4,000 hanging around, but we don't - especially since we have spent a small fortune trying to get ourselves into a house and are now making a house payment and paying rent. Somehow, by Thursday, after a few more phone calls, when Rick went to pick up the van - credit card in hand yet again - there had miraculously appeared at the repair shop, a check for the repairs less our $500 deductible. The lesson from this story is that with the proper motivation, checks can get processed in a timely fashion.
Now back to the house - Two weeks ago I received a call from the adjustor letting me know that he had submitted his first report to the claims office. The report included his estimate on the cost to rebuild our home at current market rate ($301,000) and cost for the clearing of the property ($15,000). The maximum payout on the policy for replacement of the home is $298,000, so based on the adjustor's numbers, we will take approximately $18,000 of a loss. This is okay, since this is the coverage we opted for. This check will be made payable to us and to our mortgage company. We will need to endorse the check and then forward to the mortgage company and let them cut us a check for the balance. This money will then be used to pay the contractor that is clearing the lot. A very cumbersome process that will add at least 30 days to our seeing any actual funds.
The adjustor also informed me that he had also submitted our receipts and a request to reimburse us for the additional living expenses (rent) we are paying. This check will have deducted from it the $5,000 we have already received as the advance. He felt that this check should reach us within a week to ten days.
On to today - we still have received neither check. Rick spent the morning on the phone with our insurance agent trying to find out why all we have received is promises. There really was no answer. It is my understanding that Rick, our agent and the adjustor have all been trying to contact the claims office, leaving numerous messages, but receiving no return calls. Imagine my surprise when today at work, I received a call from the claims office. If he was calling to speak to the little lady, to whom he could be condescending, he was very surprised. As my boss put it, he didn't know what tiger he had grabbed by the tail.
The conversation started with him explaining how he could only issue us a check for $150,000 (depreciated value) on our home until such time as we can receive a statement from a contractor on what it would cost to rebuild the home. The fact that there are no construction plans for the home we once had and the fact that we will not be rebuilding the same home, so there are no such plans forthcoming, have no bearing on this request. A contractor is to use the same floor plan and the same program previously used by the adjustor to determine replacement cost. Now instead of a single check to send the mortgage company, we will have two. Neither of these checks will include the cost of clearing the lot. That will now need to be handled as a separate claim after the work has been completed.
The company will not send us the full amount for our lease either, but only three months. Since we have already paid two months rent, we will only receive one month until we have to try and receive another check for living expenses. According to the claims office, it is anticipated that to rebuild the home will be at least three months. That means that at the rate they are processing our claims, our lease (six months) will have expired before we are finished rebuilding.
Needless to say, I was really ticked off by this point. I asked what assurances he would give me that if we jumped through the latest hoops, we would receive our money or what he would do next to stall the claim. He told me that he was not trying to drag it out, but when I asked him why it took so long to repair the van, he claimed that he had not received the claim prior to when he contacted Rick. When I told him I knew differently, he said he wasn't calling to discuss the car, but to discuss the claim on the home.
He then proceeded to give me the line that he was only trying to look out for our interests and insuring that we received the maximum amount possible. Did he think I was born yesterday? I told him if that was the case, then he should just send us our $550,000 and let us get on with our lives. He has already received plenty of documentation that we will more than max out our coverage. I informed him that I felt the only reason they were making us do inventories with replacement value to send us depreciated value until we replace and submit receipts was to discourage us from making a claim.
Let me say that again - the way this part works is Rick and I have to complete an inventory of everything we had in our home. This inventory includes a description of the item, the year we aquired the item and an approximate replacement value. This is then submitted to the claims office who will issue a check for the depreciated value of the items. If we wish to receive the full replacement value, we then need to purchase the item and then submit the receipt to be issued the difference.
Since there is no question that we were not at fault for the fire - criminal charges have been issued and prosecution in district court has commenced; this process feels like we are being victimized all over again. Taking this into consideration, if they did want to look out for us as a client this would not be the process. The response I received was that we needed to submit the inventories and he would process them as fast as possible, issuing the depreciated value check. Then we could purchase the item if we would like and submit for the difference.
Now here is a little sidenote about the check that was to have been issued two weeks ago to reimburse us for our expenses. The claims office stated that it was sent July 23rd, yet we still have not received it nor had the adjustor to whom it was sent. When I talked again to the adjustor, he went to search for the check. He called me back to let me know that he had the check, claiming it had been sent to the company's wrong mailbox. How convenient!!
So here is the reality of my situation. I might be handling this all with more logic and less emotion if I wasn't so stretched. Not only is our house gone and we are living in a home 1/3 the size of our previous house leaving us with no privacy, I am dealing coping with two children who are suffering from physical symptoms brought on by the stress of the trauma. And work has not been a picnic either since I have been doing the job of three people for the last month with no real resolution in sight or hope of a replacement for the vacated position.
I do know that we have been truly blessed through this experience, but there are days when I doubt my ability to endure or my resiliency. Those are the times that I look back at all the good experiences. That was part of the reason for writing this blog - a written account to remind me of the good during the bad. These are also the times when I hope that there is a special place reserved in the afterlife for certain insurance claims processors. (Sorry if I offended anyone.)