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How Getting My Car Stolen Changed My Job

grand theft autoJODI MATHY
HNI Senior Claims Consultant

It was a rainy April night, and I heard a crash outside. I quickly jumped up to see what was going on.

I saw a vehicle driving down my neighbor’s driveway. I suspected that the neighbor “rubbed” the chain link fence separating our houses, and I returned to bed.

The next morning while packing lunches for school, there was a knock at the back door. It was my neighbor. There he stood with a vehicle license plate in hand. It didn’t take long for me to realize that was my license plate! A quick scan of the driveway and it was confirmed — my car was stolen!

Brazen Theft

At first, my husband and I were shocked and amazed. The stolen vehicle was parked closest to the garage, with our other vehicle directly behind it in a single-car-width driveway. Did it just vanish?

No. What I had heard the night before were car thieves driving our 2009 Toyota Rav4 through the chain-link fence separating the two yards and fleeing down the neighbor’s driveway. The whole event seemed brazen!

My next thought was: Big deal — as a post loss specialist, I do this for a living. This claim will be no sweat! I made my initial claim report to my insurer, who took my recorded statement and emailed me an affidavit to sign regarding the theft. I filed a report with the police and shared this information with the adjuster. The adjuster called a rental company, and within a couple hours, we were in a rental car and feeling better about the previous night’s events.

Reunited With Our Car (Sort of)

The next day we received a call from the police that our vehicle had be found, sans wheels, in a neighborhood closer to downtown. (We live in Milwaukee.) The police wanted to know how we wanted the car removed. We were given a few options, and we thought having it towed to an impound lot was a good idea.

Big mistake. I should have asked the adjuster what to do if the car were recovered. I called the insurer, and a representative said they could have it towed right to their scrap yard instead for inspection. But it was too late, and our waiting game had begun.

One Message After Another

Two days later after a visit to the impound lot to “free” our vehicle, it finally was moved and ready for inspection. I waited about four days and contacted the adjuster. I also sent an email looking for a status of the inspection. I made another contact attempt to reach the adjuster two days later.

After about a week’s time with no response, and I called my agent to say the delay on word about the inspection was getting ridiculous. Within the hour, my adjuster was on the phone to say they were waiting for the inspection report to determine if the SUV was totaled or repairable.

Surprising Settlement

They were leaning toward totaling the vehicle. For a vehicle to be considered "totaled," the repair costs need to meet or exceed 75% of the value of the vehicle. I did some research to discover the value of my vehicle. (Hello, Kelley Blue Book!) I wanted to be prepared when the adjuster called to discuss settlement.

Another week passed. We now were three weeks in a rental vehicle with no end in sight. Finally the call came! The adjuster advised that they would be totaling the vehicle, and the offer he made for the value was higher than my own research indicated! I showed up at the local claims office, signed a release, and walked out with a nice, fat check to do some car shopping.

Along the way there were some bumps in our claim process. We experienced a loss, and we needed reassurance and assistance. Even with my professional claims experience at HNI, I couldn’t get the cooperation that I felt I deserved from my adjuster. Here are five things I learned from the experience, and how I'm applying these lessons at my job, in a handy, Buzzfeed-esque list:

1.) Working in the claims department does not guarantee a smooth claims experience in my personal life. I didn't think it would be such a hassle getting cooperation from my adjuster. Wrong. This showed me that despite lots of experience, there's still lots to learn about my profession (a good tip for everyone, don't you think?).

2.) Lean on your agent. It wasn't until I talked to my agent and expressed my frustration that I felt like the process picked up steam. I learned that going it alone can lead to frustration. It's OK to ask for more help when you feel stuck; it's a sign of wisdom, not weakness. I'm now more willing to ask my colleagues for their expertise.

3.) Sometimes even an insurance company can surprise you. I got more money — cha-ching! — for my car than I was expecting. At work, it's made me think, How can I give someone a nice surprise? If it can't be a financial windfall, could it be exceptional service or sharing an important resource?

4.) Losses are the worst, especially losses when, through no fault of your own, bad luck strikes you. I'm talking about right place, wrong time, etc. sort of losses. You feel like you're being "punished" twice — the first ding is the actual loss, and the second ding is the claims process (that you wouldn't need to experience if it weren't for the first ding). After getting my car stolen, I think I've developed more empathy for my HNI clients. They deserve comfort and someone who's really listening.

5.) Understand the different possible outcomes. Asking the adjuster what to do if the car were recovered would have saved me some headaches. I learned it's important to help clients see all possible outcomes and to make sure they understand available plans of action.

In the end, I learned a lot from the experience that I can apply to my role as post lost specialist (not that I would ever recommend getting a car stolen!). My family was made whole. But between us, I hope my next big life lesson doesn't involve the police!

 

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