USAA Auto Insurance Complaint - Claim Refusal
My then 17 year old son stuck my ("his") 2005 F-150 Crew cab 4x in a very deep puddle. He had to dive to connect a tow cable and the water was almost up to the door handles. It was in the water quite a while. The truck already had some body damage on it (right quarter dimple, some rear bumper, some front bumper) but was in good working condition when he drove it into this “puddle” that turned out to be much deeper and softer than it appeared. At the time of the incident he was estranged from me and staying with his mother, so he did not notify me and I discovered it just before sending him off to a wilderness program and boarding school.
The truck was not drivable after the dunking and he left it in a transmission shop. I put the truck in my repair shop and told them there was no hurry. Some time later, in talking to the shop, I became aware that I could file a claim for water damage with my insurer. I did so. By then the truck was in the body shop and that shop did not initiate repairs but awaited USAA's OK. That was about 6/20 and the truck is still in the body shop.
Initially USAA could possibly have refused coverage of the water damage due to my late reporting of the claim and their inability to see the truck before the major mechanical repairs were done (some remain to be done, but USAA isn’t considering them and has closed the claim). They did not. They accepted my explanations and proceeded with (oddly extended) evaluation of the claim.
Mechanical repairs exceeded 7,000, and the truck has to go back for more. Body damage is over 5m. So I have well over 12,000 in damages. The body damage was not all in one incident, so application of multiple deductibles is fair. But much of the body damage resulted from efforts to get the truck out of the water. USAA broke the damage into four claims (based on ?) and allotted no body damage to the water incident, which they are now calling “mechanical failure without collision.” Several times they have indicated to me, once in writing and several times in conversational slips, without calling me a liar, that they just do not believe the truck has water damage.
I filed the claim around 6/20, and on 8/4 (!) USAA paid $2,229 on the body damage claims. Three payments, 979.01, 817.67, and 432.76. I am expecting some 200 on the water damage but haven’t seen it and their site says only that the claim is complete. I imagine it has cost them more than the total paid to "manage" this claim! I have a 1,000 deductible and USAA is paying less than 2,500 total on this 12,000+ in damages.
The major failing is their refusal to recognize the water damage as such. At first they rejected the whole claim. Said there was "no claim" and "no flood damage." After I protested they found some 1,200 in water damage. So, 200 to me after the deductible. A token to placate me?
The repair shop told me it was all water damage, and they were sure some 4,500 of it couldn't be anything else. Some weeks into the very slow moving "investigation" USAA did call the shop, but the shop said didn’t amount to much. They just read them the "customer complaint" from my work ticket, and USAA "asked no questions."
I don't know what the complaint said, probably that the truck been drowned and the transmission was out. That’s all I knew at the time. The original estimate was 4,000 - it’s clearly the sort of damage that isn’t all evident until digging into the mechanicals. We had faxed USAA the detailed invoice, prepared without reference to insurance and not for that purpose, but mentioning “WILL HAVE PROBLEMS WITH MODULES AND RELAYS, WATER WAS UNDER THE DASH,” and “SIGNAL FLASHER FULL OF WATER.” I asked the shop who there would have first hand knowledge of the water damage, and they said "we all saw it." The owner, volunteered to talk to them. The shop is highly respected and if USAA has any local agents they know it.
I kept asking USAA to talk to the repair shop, and to go look at the truck - pull a door panel and look for a water line, as suggested by my shop, something like that - and eventually a supervisor of my initial contact said he would talk to [the owner]. They did eventually talk and [the owner] told me he explained for about 20 minutes, item by item, what was water damage and why, that there was water in the transmission, the seals were out, the bearings rusty, water in the differential, etc. etc. But [he] said that at the end of his extended explanation he felt his time had been wasted because [the supervisor] just said words to the effect of, “Well, we’ve already decided and told Mr. Haley what we’re doing, and we’re sticking to that.” No rebuttal, no questions.
I asked [the supervisor]to refer the matter upstairs for me, and he reported back that he’d done so and the answer was no change. The supervisor] and I seem to relate well, and I have no reason not to believe the matter was reviewed, but anyone would have to notice that it is procedurally strange that I never heard anything direct from anyone else.
I’ve been with USAA auto insurance for at least 23 years - seems like longer but I don’t have records back that far. And I don’t recall a single major claim. This last year I paid some 5,000 to them, up from 2,500 apparently just on account of my teen-age son being on the policy. You can’t say he isn’t fully rated. Now I have a claim of over 12,000 on account of him - and I get tons of trouble and not even get as much total payment as the policy increase. The only justification for their position on the water damage is that they do not believe there was water damage. But that is simply contrary to the evidence and the facts.