This article discusses two particular tactics used by Infinity Auto Insurance to keep some of the money rightfully due claimants when negotiating the property damage portion of a claim. One tactic is particularly hard to ferret out during negotiations since its cloaked by a salvage database not available to the public.
In essence, our vehicle was totaled by an Infinity customer. Since Infinity refused to salvage the vehicle, a salvage value deduction was applied to the fair market value (FMV) for our totaled vehicle in the amount of $467 because Infinity claimed we could profit by selling the wreck or its parts ourselves.
Let me repeat that - Infinity forces us to dispose of the vehicle while at the same time short changing us for $467. Infinity justifies this practice of keeping money due a claimant by presenting a quote based on similar salvaged vehicles that were sold at Coport's Online Auctions. The implication is that the claimant should be able to dispose of their vehicle for a like amount.
Is this fair? No, not if you understand the process. Please read on.
Infinity and its family of auto insurance companies specialize in insuring high risk clients. Making a profit with risk prone clients might seem problematic until you learn that Infinity has been successful in controlling settlement costs.
Lower settlements and increased corporate profits are of course an industry trend, but I suspect that Infinity is particularly adept at minimizing settlements viz a viz corporate practices that put any claimant at a distinct disadvantage. Their drive to corporate profit comes at a cost with any systemic inequities being borne by the claimant.
For some, the accident, the injuries, and the loss of property are easier to bear than the futile struggle to get a fair shake from Infinity.
There is a revealing report from the New York State Insurance Department dated 2006 that ranks automobile insurance complaints based on customers that called the state to complain about their auto insurance company (not another company but the company they insure with). Infinity had the dubious honor of being ranked in the bottom ten three years running before capping that achievement with the second worst complaint ratio in 2005.
Infinity will not salvage a vehicle when the claimant is not their own customer as per corporate policy. Thus, when their client totals your vehicle, you and not Infinity must dispose of the wreck. This holds down their cost while placing the burden of disposal on you. Reprehensible to say the least.
It's time to get rid of my old junk car but I want to sell it rather than give it away. I could tow the wreck to Copart facility where for a fee they will temporarily stow the car and create an online auction entry for the vehicle. If the vehicle does not sell it can be relisted or towed back home. Copart has automated the entire process from the initial forklift grab through the online auction and on to final sale and transfer. Many wrecks are bought sight unseen except for the auction photo.
There is a membership fee for repeat sellers and Insurance companies that dispose of salvaged vehicles through Copart. Private one time sellers on the other hand are referred to Copart Direct. Rates are reasonable as in 2007 it was $50 for an auction listing with one free relisting and a flat fee of $100 if the vehicle sold. If the auction ends without a sale, the vehicle can be relisted again for $50.
A private seller must find some way to get his junk car to a Copart facility. A tow operator will charge $75 or more to tow the wreck to Copart and possibly another $75 for the tow home if the wreck does not sell.
If the wreck sells, its $75 for the tow, $50 for the listing, and $100 for the sale fee - $225 total. If the wreck does not sell, its $150 for two tows and at least $50 for the first listing - $200 total.
If my totaled vehicle is worth $465 at auction, then I loose $225 for fees and towing. Worse, the vehicle might not sell and I am out a minimum of $200 for trying. The real value of that wreck is not $465 but $240 "if" sold at auction. So why is Infinity keeping $465?
Copart offers access to its large database of nationwide auctions, inventory, and sales to registered sellers (including insurance companies) via Copart Access. This database is not available to the public, period.
More to the point, registered sellers have access to ProQuote, a Copart Access quoting system that matches your vehicle to five vehicles sold at Copart auctions using year, make, model, and region as criteria. The average sale price is used to assign a salvage value to your as yet unsold salvage vehicle.
Since access to the Copart Access data system is restricted to registered Copart sellers (including insurance companies), we are left with some serious questions.
These issues beg the real question: are the Copart Access quotes skewed in favor of the insurance company either by program design or by the manipulations of a claims adjuster? Without public access, we simply do not know how fair or unfair this process is. My feeling is that the results are skewed to favor the paying customers of the ProQuote system, i.e., the auto insurance companies.
An Infinity claims adjuster determines the salvage value of my wreck by using the Copart Access ProQuote system. You are sent a printout of that quote that shows five auction items that include a photo, the stock number, date of sale, year, make, model, mileage, loss type, drivability, does it have keys, sale price and so on.
On that basis of that ProQuote, Infinity deducts the quoted amount from the FMV of your vehicle. This practice represents an immediate savings for Infinity but a probable loss to the claimant who is ill equipped to dispose of the salvage vehicle.
How many of us know how to sell a salvage vehicle for profit or work for a salvage related business? Bottom line, can you sell that wreck for profit given that Infinity refuses to salvage it. Infinity says you can.
Here are some possibilities.
All in all, unless you have the experience or inclination, you will do what I did and give the car away to anyone who will take it. I called MyJunkCar.com.
1. Infinity should salvage claimants vehicles as do other insurance carriers in the state of California.
2. Infinity should pay Fair Market Value for the vehicle without deducting an estimated salvage value.
3. If Infinity cannot abide by both the above recommendations, they should leave the state of California.
1. On the basis of my experience, I feel Infinity will delay the maximum amount of time on any and all issues. Infinity would not give me a claim number when I reported the accident to them. They did not give a claim number or contact me until we got a lawyer involved. It took five months to conclude a less than satisfactory property settlement with me disposing of the vehicle.
2. I would advise you to retain a lawyer as soon as possible. Also, do not take a wait and see approach to your injuries - see a doctor immediately.
3. You will be disappointed with any settlement from Infinity. Their favorite line is that they are overworked with cases (they are) and that they are constantly audited to make sure they are not giving too much away.
4. On another note, be sure to review the fair market valuation that Infinity sends you. My valuation report assumed my vehicle was not a six-cylinder engine, did not have an automatic transmission, and did not have a camper shell. Nothing underhanded here - It's up to you to verify and correct the valuation report. The end result is a little more money in your pocket.
Our wrecked vehicle sat in our carport for five months before I received the final check for the property settlement from Infinity. In the end, rather than concede that I could not resell my wreck for profit, they instead issued a partial check for supposed rental fees.
By putting me in the position of having to salvage my own vehicle, Infinity reaped two benefits. First they saved the overhead costs of salvage while at the same time deducting the estimated salvage value from the amount they owed us. This double win for Infinity is supported by a proprietary salvage quoting system that favors insurance companies in its application.
Does this mean that Infinity Auto Insurance is ripping off or scamming the public? Hard to say when fiscal decisions drive policies that have harsh consequences for claimants but positive benefits for the company. I'd rather say that Infinity has unwittingly turned a blind eye to the victims while chasing the bottom line. Consequently, California would be better off without this carrier.