Car owners are bombarded continually by radio and TV commercials, mail circulars, Internet advertisements, and other means, from companies that claim to offer cheap car insurance.
It may be cheaper, but cheaper isn’t necessarily better. Why? Because when a person has a claim, there’s no agent to help with the process.
“We try to sell ourselves as ‘added value,’” local State Farm Insurance agent Becky Walsh said. “We tell people that we are here for them.”
A Hillsboro couple recently found out about the difficulties of submitting claims without an agent’s assistance when they were involved in a car accident. An uninsured driver collided with their car on an icy street on March 1. The woman suffered minor knee injuries in the crash.
They had a national brand of car insurance with no local agents. Going through the process of filing claims and getting a settlement proved to be a drawn-out, time-consuming affair. They are self-employed and had to cancel several business appointments to deal with the situation.
The company had one “go-to” person, but the couple had to deal with three different offices — one for car damages, one for physical injuries, and another one for compensation for loss of income and other miscellaneous expenses.
They got a reasonably quick settlement on their car, which was totaled, but other claims took longer.
The couple was required to submit many forms. Some medical bills were sent to the company by fax machine. The bills were faxed to the wrong place and had to be resent. Some information needed to go to Texas and some to San Diego.
They spent a lot of time communicating back and forth with the company. Some of it was done online. Every time they logged in, they had to enter a large 20-digit claim number.
“It was very tiring, and everything is not yet settled,” the woman said.
The couple is considering buying insurance for their replacement vehicle from a local agency after all their claims are settled.
Marion County has a large number of insurance agents that sell car insurance. They are known to go out of their way to help clients.
Walsh gave such an example. She said one time a couple from out of state had a car problem while in the area. They were insured with State Farm Insurance and contacted her. She helped them by taking them to Wichita to rent a vehicle.
Jerry Cady of Jerry Cady Agency agreed that it definitely pays to have an insurance agent who can intercede on a client’s behalf. He said there have been instances where he visited clients whose injuries from a car accident landed them in the hospital. He went to them to get the information to submit the claim and make sure the bills were paid.
Jayson Hanschu of American Family Insurance noted that, as a local hometown agent, he is a part of the communities he serves.
“I want to see this county, these communities, my friends and neighbors succeed,” he said.
He regards himself as a caring voice that is available 24/7.
“As their (my clients’) agent, I have a stake in assuring their recovery from the unexpected,” he said. “It’s not just a job, it’s my career, my life. To me, that is why a local agent you know and trust is of utmost importance.”