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Old 12-28-2006, 10:22 PM   #1
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My Accident, dealing with State Farm Insurance

My Airstream Accident
Dealing with State Farm Insurance

On November 11, 2006, I had an accident on I-5 just south of Shasta and rolled my new Airstream. It is an ‘06 28’ International CCD. I have been waiting 42 days and I do not have an insurance settlement. I am at a complete stalemate with my insurance company. I want to share the details of my experience with State Farm Insurance and Thor Credit Corporation, so you Airstream (and other RV) Owners can evaluate your own insurance and lenders policies and ask a few questions to prepare yourself for an event like this in your own life.

The Accident: We were driving south on a 4-lane section of the road. My girlfriend was driving. We passed a semi at the beginning of a long downhill and the draft coming off the semi started us fishtailing. We tried to slow down but we were accelerating on the downhill and using the conventional brakes, including the linked trailer brakes, did not stop us, but only make the oscillations worse. In the panic of the moment, and sitting in the passenger seat, I forgot about the emergency trailer brake, which is intended to stop fishtailing in a situation like this. Our swerving got worse and worse until the trailer began to skid. It came around past us on the driver’s side, and when it got to a point that was 90 degrees across the direction of travel, it came off the ball and rolled on its side. The trailer continued to come around, still connected by the chains and pulled us around another 180 degrees. As we came to a stop at the shoulder, the trailer somehow righted itself and stopped on its wheels. My girlfriend and I looked at each other, we were unhurt, the airbags had not deployed, and we looked up the road for oncoming traffic and saw 3 semis parked on the freeway creating a blockade that directed all the (light) traffic into the center lane, well away from us.

The Damage: After the CHP had arrived and put out flairs, I went to survey the damage. The officer said he had never seen an RV sustain a roll and come back up on its wheels without coming apart and spilling the contents all along the highway. Almost all of our possessions were still inside – a few items came out through the broken windows. The rear driver’s corner of the truck was smashed in by the jackknifing electric hitch, and on the trailer, the entire drivers side was flattened, with all 3 front windows broken out. Inside was a disaster, with everything on the floor, the shower torn off the wall and several of the driver’s side cabinets broken. The ribs were bent in to the point that I could see deformation on the interior panels at the front and rear.

The Structural System: I am an architect and I have reasonable experience with structure, engineering and repair. I know all about the unique structural system that Airstream employs in the design of their trailers, called “monoque” or “air-frame” design. It is a system that ties the aluminum ribs and skin together with rivets, in a way that makes the finished shell stronger and lighter than any other kind of construction. The difficulty with this system is repair. You can’t straighten anything – ribs or skin - it all must be completely replaced with new components. Knowing all this, it tokk me about ten minutes to realize that the trailer was a total loss.

I had the trailer towed to a wrecking yard in Weed and called the claims number for State Farm. We stayed in a B and B in Shasta City that night and went to the trailer the next day to remove all of our personal belongings. With the broken windows and snow flurries, we decided to remove the upholstered cushions, curtains and shades as well. After four hours, we pulled out of the yard and said good bye to our trailer.

The Claims Process: Three days later, State Farm sent their first (of three) “claims adjusters” to assess the damage. I was concerned that the adjuster might not have specific experience with Airstreams, and I voiced this concern to my “claims agent” and I got the corporate brush-off that “of course – this is a fully experienced adjuster”. Well, this adjuster was obviously not familiar with the unique characteristics of Airstreams, because he was unable to declare the trailer to be a total loss at the first inspection. I am certain that he did not understand about the unique difficulty of repairing Airstreams.

State Farm then contacted me and asked who I would want to do the “repair”. I gave them the name of my dealer, Toscano RV, as the only one I could trust to do a better evaluation, and they paid $1500 to have it trucked 800 miles from Weed to Los Banos. Another ten days passed. The service manager at my dealership met with the second State Farm Adjuster to review the damage. He said it would take him hours to prepare an estimate (with no reimbursement from the insurance company) and that the damage was so bad, with wrinkles on the opposite side from the impact indicating a twisted frame, he would find it difficult to warranty his work. He finally called State Farm and told them it was a total loss. Another week had passed.

My claims agent from the “total loss unit” then told me that she wanted a third inspection, this time by an appraiser. I asked her why the appraiser had not been part of the initial or second evaluations. She said that appraisal can only happen after the unit is declared to be a total loss. Another week passed. Finally I received a curt letter with an offer that was $7500 less that the balance I owed, a full $18000 less than what the purchase price had been five months earlier. If I want to make a counter offer, I will need a second appraiser to inspect the trailer and come up with a higher amount.

Establishing a market value: State Farm is using personnel who most likely have little or no specific experience with Airstreams and they are looking at the damaged, stripped trailer, with all of the finished upholstered items removed, trying to ascertain its market value. One source for finding the market value of a used RV is the NADA guide, available on line. You plug in the year, make and model of your RV, add the special equipment and they come up with two sets of numbers, “average” retail and “low” retail. The description of “average” does not correlate to a new trailer. My trailer was in above average condition at the time of the accident, but no “above average” numbers are available. Somehow the State Farm appraiser came up with a value that is $1500 below “average”. I have not been able to get a copy of the appraisal so I do not know if I am being penalized for having removed the upholstery.

The “Catch-22” of Financing: My lender is Thor Credit – a subsidiary of Thor Industries that owns Airstream. They are completely unsympathetic about my loss. They are ignoring that I put $10,000 down on one of their trailers in May, demanding that I pay off the current $7,500 balance on the loan, and that I put and additional $10,000 down to finance the replacement trailer.

Replacement Policy: My policy stated that it offered “replacement” coverage. I was naïve to think that my trailer would be replaced. As the negotiations stand at the current moment, I am going to sustain a loss of my initial $10,000 down payment, I am going to have to pay $7,500 to pay off my initial loan, and Thor wants me to put another $10,000 down on a new loan. This is a $27,500 out of pocket cost for 6 months of use. This is decidedly not “replacement”.

Summary of Questions to Ask Your Insurance Agent:
• How can I insure that the adjusters who evaluate my loss have specific Airstream experience?
• What incentives does your company have to settle my claims promptly?
• If I need an advocate to follow up, ask questions, and keep my claims process moving, are you willing to be that advocate, or can you refer me to someone in your organization who can do this?
• If I have multiple policies with you, for various types of insurance, what, if any, accumulated specific benefits can I expect as a result of holding these additional policies when I process a claim?
• Is there additional coverage I can purchase to insure that all my costs will be covered in case of a loss.
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Old 12-28-2006, 10:35 PM   #2
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Sorry for your loss. I wouldn't recommend state farm to my worst enemy
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Old 12-28-2006, 10:41 PM   #3
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Ugg, what a nightmare. Time to hire a lawyer.
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Old 12-28-2006, 10:42 PM   #4
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UNBELIEVEABLE! TOTALLY UNBELIEVEABLE. I can't begin to understand your frustration. The best to you. I am sure you will be receiving much advise from fellow forum members. I wonder if Catansandi's similar experience would be of help if not by similarity to yours.
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Old 12-28-2006, 11:15 PM   #5
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hi david...

thanks for posting your experience with this process...it's all painful.

when i shopped and purchased insurance for a new 2005,
understanding 'replacement coverage' was a key issue.

do you have your policy handy such that you can share the state farm definition of replacement coverage?

did you pay an extra fee for the replacement rider? or was 'replacement' a more generic term the agent used to describe 'full coverage'...

the understanding i have of the replacement policy from progressive is...

a similar/identical unit is purchased as replacement, loss is limited to my deductable...

and the replacement rider is only good for the first few years of ownership.

7 years ago i had a new car stolen.
full replacement covered everything including sales tax for the replacement with an exact duplicate car.
i was out my deductable only.

so the dollar cost/loss you describe seems way out of line for a new unit...
IF you have a full replacement rider.

clearly you need to make a counter offer
but i would not do this
without a complete interpretation of the 'replacement value' issue...

what exactly is the policy wording on this issue?

if you didn't actually buy a 'full replacement' rider, it gets more tricky...

and goes back to the definition of 'full coverage'...

but, if you were mislead by the agent
and can offer evidence to support the belief,
you thought you'd purchased replacement coverage,
that could help your position and any negotiations...

very likely you need legal assistance and should arrange for a detailed repair estimate.

the counter offer will carry more weight if it comes from an attorney representing your interests.

your selling dealer or the a/s factory could supply this.
yes you may have to pay the dealer to get it,
but if the dealers thinking is 'i'm doing this estimate for free'...
remind them of the NEW airstream purchase that will follow....

i assume you took a boat load of photos inside and out of the trailer...

i can understand removing stuff from the unit,
but in retrospect taking anything more than personal effects out was/is a mistake.
how i've seen this handled is the owner removes their personal property and food stuffs,
then the broken windows are sealed with plastic to keep out the elements...
gas, electric, water are turned off or drained to prevent further risk...
and everything else is left 'as is' until the agent can inspect it.

please keep us up to date on the process.
your misfortune is usefull learning for everyone here.

cheers
2air'
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Old 12-28-2006, 11:33 PM   #6
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Good Luck

Hi, be firm, but nice. Ask your insurance company to either repair your trailer or replace it. Any thing can be repaired, just not cost effective. I was told by a father and son team of insurance adjusters [many years ago] that you don't have to accept their first offer. Useing their advise, I was able to get a fair settlement from my insurance company when my vehicle was totaled. Actually, I told them my bottom line and why; And they actually paid more than I asked for.
If all else fails, hire a lawyer. But do your home work first. Mistake: from your words, you should not remove anything except personal items from the trailer. Put them back before any more discussions with Insurance company. Removeing parts from the trailer devalues it.

David & June, you are alright and not hurt, that's the main thing. Sheet metal can be replaced. Sorry for your loss.


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Old 12-29-2006, 04:49 AM   #7
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I'm with Bob on this one. Tell them you're not interested in a cash settlement; that you want your trailer replaced with an identical '06 28' CCD trailer. Unless your policy says it's at THEIR option, I believe the option is yours. I'd also be in favor of seeking legal counsel at this point. You have only a retainer to lose and quite a bit to gain.

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Old 12-29-2006, 05:16 AM   #8
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Dealing with insurance.

Quote:
Originally Posted by bill benton
Sorry for your loss. I wouldn't recommend state farm to my worst enemy

Could not have said it better!!!!!!!!! I truly feel sorry not just about loss but the unmeasurable aggravation which follows. Whenever buying new product you MUST buy "GAP Insurance" at least for the length of the loan. It is too cheap to skip it. Couple of days ago, I just purchased a new GMC Sierra 2500 HD, Gap Insurance costs me $460.00 for six years. I would not have think of not doing it. It protects my total investment, including taxes and any options installed, which some insurance companies do not replace in case of accident. Total loss is then evaluated according to exact condition and year, all other expenses inclusive. Tough lesson to learn, but I hope that my note will help others in the future. Thanks, "Boatdoc"
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Old 12-29-2006, 05:21 AM   #9
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Time to get a lawyer involved and FWIW I have been warned by many independent adjusters to avoid any insurance company with Farm in the name. A 6 month old trailer has not depreciated $18,000 IMHO.

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Old 12-29-2006, 05:30 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 85MH325
I'm with Bob on this one. Tell them you're not interested in a cash settlement; that you want your trailer replaced with an identical '06 28' CCD trailer. Unless your policy says it's at THEIR option, I believe the option is yours. I'd also be in favor of seeking legal counsel at this point. You have only a retainer to lose and quite a bit to gain.

Roger
I agree, but do remember that if you do take them to court they will most likely stop talking to you as they will take the postion that the court will settle the matter.

Good Luck
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Old 12-29-2006, 05:57 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by David Ludwig
My Airstream Accident


The “Catch-22” of Financing: My lender is Thor Credit – a subsidiary of Thor Industries that owns Airstream. They are completely unsympathetic about my loss. They are ignoring that I put $10,000 down on one of their trailers in May, demanding that I pay off the current $7,500 balance on the loan, and that I put and additional $10,000 down to finance the replacement trailer.
I don't understand this statement.

Why would you think Thor is unsympathetic you made a loan and they want to be paid. How are they ignoring that you put down $10,000? The $10,000 is in the damaged trailer. Have you kept up your payments on the loan since the accident, are they calling the note because you stopped paying on the loan? You haven't lost $10,000 dollars to finance a new trailer that would be your choice and the value of the $10,000 would be in the new trailer.

It seems that to me that Thor is asking that you pay out your current loan and place $10,000 down on a new unit for them to finance the unit. Same as being upside down in a car. Not unsympathetic just business.

I am sorry for you loss and hope it all works out.

Jim
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Old 12-29-2006, 06:56 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim Clark
I don't understand this statement.

Why would you think Thor is unsympathetic you made a loan and they want to be paid. How are they ignoring that you put down $10,000? The $10,000 is in the damaged trailer. Have you kept up your payments on the loan since the accident, are they calling the note because you stopped paying on the loan? You haven't lost $10,000 dollars to finance a new trailer that would be your choice and the value of the $10,000 would be in the new trailer.

It seems that to me that Thor is asking that you pay out your current loan and place $10,000 down on a new unit for them to finance the unit. Same as being upside down in a car. Not unsympathetic just business.

I am sorry for you loss and hope it all works out.

Jim
David,

First and foremost, I am sorry that you experienced the loss of your new Airstream this way and that you now have this issue with State Farm. Second, thank you for sharing your experience and reminding us all to recheck our currently policies and see if there is indeed any extra riders or coverage which may actually be needed in circumstances like this.

Like some others have said, I wouldn't use State Farm under any circumstances as I have heard and seen too many of these stories from friends and co-workers about them over the years. Now I am adding your experience to this list. But in today's age of corporate greed it doesn't suprise me one bit that insurance companies are willing to turn their back on their insured and are more willing to roll the dice with a court challange than doing what should have been done in the first place - paying properly on a policy. My guess is they are hoping that a certain percentage of people will just "accept" what their decision is and will go away. Fight the good fight, Dave, don't accept sub-standard settlements just as they would not have allowed you to pay lower premuims for your policy!


Jim, I totaly agree with your point about Thor Industries not being a culprit here. Thor despite being the parent company of the manufacturer (AS) is merely the financer of the trailer, and is not the insurer. The circumstance of loss falls squarely on the shoulders of State Farm in this case. Maybe Dave can share with us if he accepted or declined the "GAP Insurance" (if offered) from Thor which would have covered the difference of what Dave owes and what State farm is willing to pay. I beleive most insurers also offer GAP coverage as a supplemental to policies, but it's not usually "built-in" - you have to pay extra for it.

I hope the best outcome for you here, Dave. Please keep us posted. And as Dave has suggested here, let's all take a look at our currect policy(s) coverages and see what, if any, additional coverage may be needed in such a circrumstance as this as anyone of us could find ourselves in.
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Old 12-29-2006, 07:25 AM   #13
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If you have the replacment rider, call a lawyer. They will pay. You may also call the insurance regulatory board in the state where the policy was issued and file a formal complaint. Insurance companies don't like trouble with them.
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Old 12-29-2006, 07:26 AM   #14
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I am deeply sorry for your lost Airstream, but am very happy that ya'll did not sustain and personal injury.

Your story serves to further confirm my belief that most insurance is a scam. Some insurance companies fully embrace a policy of cheating and defrauding their policy holders.

The main purpose of insurance companies is to collect your premiums with a smile, and to legally scam you when you have a claim.

I had a recent experience with an insurance claim. My fully insured UPS shipment ($600+) was damaged in transit beyond repair. I contacted the UPS insurance carrier was was promptly told that my claim was "denied" with no reason given. I spoke to my attorney about this and he advised me to resubmit my claim. I did this and was paid the full insured value. I found out from the attorney that this is the official policy of this insurance company. They initially deny ALL claims and have found that about 20% of the people just go away. Isn't that an honest way to do business.

My advice is to keep after them; be the squeeky wheel. Don't just go away.
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Old 12-29-2006, 07:27 AM   #15
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I use State Farm and have had it for many years. When I listed my 78 Airstream on the policy, it took no less than 5 policy writings to get the actual year and model correct. They kept listing it as a motorhome, then a 72, and then said they had no listing for an Airstream Trailer at all, it was not the agent but the underwriters who finally after 5 attempts came up with a correct listing.
I guess we should realize they are in the dark system wide on our RVs.
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Old 12-29-2006, 07:28 AM   #16
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Your story is very sad and a frustrating one one for you. Sadly insurance companies are in the business for profits and not service. Saying this we did have the opposite experience with our company, American Family who went out of their way to establish the value of our vintage motor home in settling the case of our ruined engine.
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Old 12-29-2006, 08:02 AM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ALANSD
I use State Farm and have had it for many years. When I listed my 78 Airstream on the policy, it took no less than 5 policy writings to get the actual year and model correct. They kept listing it as a motorhome, then a 72, and then said they had no listing for an Airstream Trailer at all, it was not the agent but the underwriters who finally after 5 attempts came up with a correct listing.
I guess we should realize they are in the dark system wide on our RVs.
I have had 3 claims worth a total in excess of 120K in the last 18 months with Allstate. I had a radio tower fell by Hurricane Cindy, a 34’ sailboat totaled by Hurricane Katrina and House damaged by Katrina. In all cases I ended up being made whole or better. In the case of the sailboat I was given a check for the total value, the boat was then given back to me, and Allstate reinsured the boat. I every case the first offers of value were incorrect and I had to work to get the correct value. I did not find the adjusters knowledgeable in cost estimating or even very good at coming up with comparables. I ended up using 3 adjusters on my home repairs alone, I dealt with 6 adjusters total if you count the total loss adjuster on the boat. I did not find them hard to deal with just not knowledgeable. I spent 25 years as a construction estimator and at one time held a real estate license; I know how to determine the value of an item and how to document it. You will have to be your own advocate; you have to send the adjusters copies of documents showing the value of your unit, let them know you are actively engaged.If I lost 18K in 6 months on a trailer I would not think about buying the same one again. Treat the old damaged trailer and the replacement as separate transactions they have no relationship except in your emotions. I believe if you take your time and work through this you will be made whole, do not get in a hurry and politely let the insurance company know you want a replacement unit.

Very glad you and your girlfriend were not physically harmed, which really is the most important thing.

Jim
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Old 12-29-2006, 08:21 AM   #18
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Although I am not defending them, we have found State Farm to be very fair and responsive to us. We have totalled two cars over the years, and they took care of both of them right. It may help that we have always been with them, and ALL of our insurance is with them, which gives us a bit more leverage when it comes to getting a payout. However, nothing in our fleet is worth as much as that new AS, so we never had to try and get that big a payout. I say keep fighting it.

Insurance companies seem to make it their business to give their customers at least a bit of a hard time when it comes to the payout. It's all just part of 'the game'. Keep at it until they make you happy.

Sorry to hear about the accident, but it sounds like you were incredibly lucky it didn't take the truck with it or involve any other cars. Perhaps State Farm should be reminded how lucky they are that they are only paying for a trailer, and not liability damages and medical expenses! I hope you can get it all settled right soon!
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Old 12-29-2006, 08:26 AM   #19
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23 Years with State Farm

I have to agree with what Jim says above - YOU must work to get the insurance companies to understand what they are insuring and its true market value.

Two cases I had with State Farm
- In 1989 I purchased new a 1989 Toyota 4x4 extra cab V6 truck - 16 months later I had a DUI driver pull in front of me while I was going down the highway. Truck was totaled - $16,800 price - $5000 down, 16 months of payments - State Farm valued the truck at $9800 - very suspiciously close to the loan payoff. Made offers for a settlement, pleded through the arbitration process - took it to court. I won a settlement of $29,000 (injuries and loss of wages), at court I got to meet the regional mediator for State Farm, never saw hem before, we talked outside the courtroom, he asked me "why did you go to court with this?" and I told him of my original offer that I wanted my down payment back to go buy a new truck, and I would consider the 16 months payments as "usage" of my totaled truck. He shook his head and sounded a little saddened by the process but said that this is the way they fight all battles and thought it hurt the insurance companies in the long run - GO FIGURE.
- I too had dealings with State Farm post Katrina - they were very fair in alot of their dealings - to be honest I did not lose out and they put my house back in order - BUT NOT WITHOUT A STRUGGLE - this requires you to be cool and levelheaded. They insisted that my roof was only 5600 Sq feet, and it took 6800 Sq feet of roofing to do the job (68+ squares of shingles). Over and Over - three measurements on their part, I had 7 appraisals done by contractors - all were between 65 and 72 squares, NONE were anywhere in the State Farm range of 5600. It finally took a face to face between my roofer and my insurance agent AND the State Farm appraiser AT MY HOUSE with a tape measure AND THEY STILL CAME UP WITH THEIR CALCULATED ROOF SIZE. My roofer went crazy - they were calculating a flat roof model and the wrong pitch on some parts - they had no clue - but finally gave in to 90% of the difference and we moved on.

The end to all this will be determined by your diligence, armed with the knowledge that they are completely wrong in their judgment of the value of your Airstream. You can prevail but it will take both alot of your time and patience. Good Luck
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Old 12-29-2006, 09:29 AM   #20
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I agree with the others to settle on your terms takes time.
When I had a total loss (auto) they were way low on the initial offer.
I bought another car and kept making payments on the loss auto.
On the third visit by the claims adjuster I showed him the replacment and said if it takes 10 years they will pay a fair price for my loss. I got my check two weeks later.
Hang in there and it will work out.

Garry
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