Details of the Incident and steps I followed
The accident occurred on 7 December 2003
on northbound lanes of Interstate 75 in Pasco County, Florida at 3:35PM.
An officer of the Florida Highway Patrol (we will call FHP Michael) and
three civilians stopped at the scene of the accident. One of the civilians
was in fact an off-duty Sarasota police officer.
The FHP officer filed his report as follows:
Vehicle 1 (other driver we will call TJ) and Vehicle 2 (me) were traveling north on I-75. Vehicle 1 was traveling in the inside lane (left) and vehicle 2 was traveling in the outside lane (right.) Vehicle 1 was traveling at a high rate speed and passing vehicle 2. Vehicle 1 driver failed to maintain a single lane and the right side of vehicle 1 made contact with the left side of vehicle 2's trailer. The impact caused vehicle 2 to loose control and also caused vehicle 2's trailer to overturn. Vehicle 1 and vehicle 2 both went into the median. Vehicle 1 came to final rest facing northeast in the median. Vehicle 2 came to final rest facing southeast in the median and vehicle 2's trailer came to final rest facing southwest in the median. Vehicle 1 driver admitted to traveling too fast because his father was sick and he was trying to get to the hospital to see him. Driver 1 also had a smell of alcoholic beverage on his breath and admitted to drinking. Driver 1 was given a field sobriety exercises (over two hours after the accident) and passed.
Sarasota officer Chris. (not the reporting office but a "civilian" who stopped at the scene and gave me his info) estimates that Driver 1 (TJ) earlier passed him at a speed of well over 100mph. Chris also said Driver 1 was weaving in and out of lanes without signals to pass cars. Chris was not in his patrol car and not in his jurisdiction. I myself did some later research and found that TJ's father was not in a hospital north of the accident or as far as I can tell in any hospital at that time. But the story did sound good to the officer who did not verify it. The field sobriety test was given after over two hours had passed. The FHP officer Michael told me afterwards that TJ barely passed the test. The test consisted of walking a straight line (which took a couple of tries) and touching his nose. No breathalyzer was given. After the report and test were given TJ was allowed to continue on the road. Even FHP officer Michael agreed with my comment that he could speed on the highway to somewhere but managed to take time to have at least a couple of drinks.
After the accident the van I was
driving was damaged but driveable after some repairs at the site. The trailer
I was towing had disconnected from the van and was laying on its side after
completely flipping over. The FHP officer Michael called a towing company
(Atlas Towing Service) himself and said i had no choice in who was called.
Atlas told me they could not give any prices to me until AFTER the work
was performed. Atlas brought in a boom truck and tow truck to put the trailer
rightside up. They then loaded the trailer on a flatbed truck and I was
told they MUST remove the trailer to their location. I was not given any
choice in the matter. Before they left FHP officer Michael peeked into
the trailer and gave me an Inventory and Vehicle Storage Receipt which
listed items inside such a my car (Ford 4-door), dvd player, tv, tools
battery charger, laptop, computer, clothes and other items. As I was not
a local resident I was directed to a nearby motel to stay for the night.
The next day I went to Atlas towing's facility to pickup my trailer. I was told the total bill came to: $1182.40 and they only accepted cash. No credit cards at all. I was also informed that if i left it past that afternoon storage would accumulate at $20 per day. Believe it not they charged $40 in storage fees even though it had been there less than 24 hours! I went to a nearby bank to withdraw from my savings account the cash. I also stopped at a Home Depot and purchased tarps and rope to cover the trailer to prevent further damage to the contents inside. I had someone at Atlas remount two trailer tires and fill with air which of course required $40 in cash. Although the trailer did not appear in good condition it seemed driveable if the wind did not blow apart the walls and roof. Atlas would not let me do any real inspection on their property although they of course could as a chargable service. i drove the trailer back towards my parents home in Cape Coral, never driving over 35 mph. The trip took all day and into the evening although the same trip up had taken about three hours. Like many Florida cities my parents' city does not allow trailers (except boat trailers) in yards. I brought the trailer to a storage facility nearby that had reasonable prices. After I disconnected the trailer i finally had a chance to inspect the trailer. I found the frame itself had separated in two locations from it actually twisting during the accident. Had I known this before I would not have driven it. It has remained at this storage facility ever since.
Calls were made immediately to the
insurance companies involved. Within several days I was on the phone with
Nationwide Insurance. I was told "We will see you are back to the position
you were before the accident with no losses." It is an ironic prophecy
that Nationwide have no intention of this and in fact have no concern at
all with your condition or loss. The lies coming from Nationwide employees
are numerous and the prophecy is that first statement as a total lie is
exactly what will be experienced with the Nationwide Insurance Company.
Besides lies another issue I dealt with was sending mail Return Receipt
to the Nationwide office in Sarasota Florida. I did not receive my return
receipts! The only way i
finally received a couple of them was to go to my local post office and
speak with the Postmaster himself. Do not just speak with someone at the
desk! I showed him my paid receipts for the certified mail. He phoned the
postmaster in Sarasota and asked for a copy of the return receipt be sent
to me. After a week it was found that no return receipt existed for my
mail. Somehow they were not delivered as certified mail by "accident."
This "accident" occurred five times! I again complained to my local postmaster
(he was extremely cooperative) and he sent a new mailing (I had to make
new copies and package again) this time inside of an overnight mail envelope
and sent to the Postmaster in Sarasota. It was the Sarasota postmaster's
responsibility then to see a return receipt was made. I then did finally
received my first return receipt from the Sarasota office of Nationwide
I had to make a verbal claim on the phone to Nationwide. Now they always inform you that the call will be recorded. I have since learned that you have the right to refuse the recording of the call. It is only done to protect them. If you say anything that could make the claim invalid (like saying the accident might have been your fault) they then have your voice on tape admitting to it. Some states do not require you even tell them anything on the phone. Many of the questions that are asked are to place blame someplace where they may not have to provide coverage. Other people on here have reported this also applies in homeowner claims. Watch your answers carefully. Even placing blame on the other driver may keep them (or another insurance company) from paying a claim.
One thing I learned (with some research) was a Florida state statue #627.4137 that states "Each insurer which does or may provide liability insurance coverage to pay all or a portion of any claim of which might be made shall provide within 30 days of written request, copy of policy. As this effected my claim i made this request to the Gainesville office of Nationwide on 12 December 2003. Yes at this office I did receive my return receipt. 30 days later I still did not receive the policy as per my request. They (Kim C.) claimed they could not print it at that time and did not see any time in the foreseeable future that might change. This then led to my bizarre chase through the Florida state government consumer help departments. It will become obvious that these departments' main purpose is to support the big insurance companies and not the consumers.
I found the Florida Department of Financial Services run by Tom Gallagher, CFO of the state of Florida. I phoned the department and gave my story of my claim including my request as per state statute to Gail K. in West Palm. The answer I received was "They (Nationwide) probably don't want to give it to you." I asked Gail then didn't Nationwide break the law? She responded maybe but if Nationwide does not want to give it to you there is nothing we can do. I asked then Who can do something and she said no one. Gail refused to even follow up this issue with Nationwide. Do not think that any state statutes or other laws on the books will protect you. If the state that created them will not enforce them, it is as if they do not exist. I did ask Gail from the FL Dept. of Financial Services to follow up with Kim C. as they would no longer return my calls. Gail then created a Service Request #1-21825661. Several days later I did in fact receive a call from Kim C. at Nationwide. She said they were not sure at that time what coverage could be provided and would offer no other information. I again called the Fl. Department of Financial Services and was told by Gail that she was closing the case and her department would not be involved in it in any way. [See later for more involvement with this government office]
Nationwide did send an adjuster named Tom S. to inspect the trailer and contents. He barely looked at anything but did offer a lot of comments. Tom said ne (Nationwide) will only pay what they deem the value. As an example I had a battery/alternator load tester. The gauge is broken and the needle on the gauge bent around. Tom said he figured about 25¢ maybe 50¢ for a replacement plastic gauge cover! The gauge itself is broke which makes the whole tester useless and they only pay for a plastic cover! The plastic gauge is not even replaceable it is molded into the body of the unit. The trailer Tom told me he estimates at about $1500. This is a 24' enclosed car trailer, 10K GVW rating with custom cabinets in front, workbench, 110 volt 50 amp electric service, full 12 volt lighting, full 110 volt lighting, electric winch, large size side door, roof vents & more. This was very well maintained and even had new brakes, trailer jack & other items within the past two months. A used open car trailer would be nearly impossible to find at that price. No I was not looking for a new replacement which would be at over $15,000. I researched and estimated a fair amount at $5650. For those that know trailers I would have a hard time finding a replacement even at that price and would have less features but I was trying to be fair. Something Nationwide is not. Tom said they do not give replacement cost at all but what Nationwide feels is the value. Chris & Leslie from Ohio have a claim with Nationwide on a homeowner's policy. They have the same experience with Nationwide's value. One item is a big screen tv they purchased only three months earlier at $1200. Nationwide's adjuster "values" it at $200 and told them Nationwide were being generous. I will be posting their entire claim at this site at a later time.
During the time above I was contacted by Tara A. from Nationwide. Tara said she is handling the damage claim on my van separate from the trailer. I was sent to a Ford Dealer who created an estimate of the repairs needed. Tara then called me and said they would total the van (the same one that was my only transportation since the accident) but pay me the estimate for the repairs of $1581.99. After I told her the exact model van and options in the van she agreed Nationwide should pay for the damage and not require the van be totaled. She said a check would arrive in a few days. On December 18th I received a phone call from Tara. She said the check had already been mailed, but that I should not try to deposit it! Nationwide has issued a stop payment on the check. She would offer me no other details of why. A few days later I received a letter from John C. at the Sarasota Nationwide office. The letter was sent return receipt, certified mail. This is the same office that I had to go through loops to obtain a return receipt back from. The Nationwide letter stated it was a denial of coverage. It stated Nationwide had completed a coverage investigation and determined there is no coverage for this loss. It further stated that the policy was canceled on December 1, 2003. Even though I know for a fact payment for this policy was made in cash after December 1! It also should be noted that at the bottom of every letter from Nationwide Insurance is a "Notice - Section 817.234, Florida Statues, provides in part: "Any person who knowingly and with intent to injure, defraud or deceive any insurer files files a statement of claim or an application containing any false, incomplete or misleading information is guilty of a felony of the third degree." " Evidently this and all Florida statues work in one direction. Nationwide and other insurance companies can lie, mislead and commit fraud to you the consumer without fear but be very aware that they will be sure to see you in jail. In a letter dated 22 December 2003 I received a letter from the Nationwide Tallahassee office and Carolyn D. that they cannot authorize repairs because they are handling the claim under a "reservation of rights." Now a reservation of rights is essentially a legal maneuver so they do not have to provide anything to you. They only need o give general description of why and not specifics.
I again contacted the Department of Financial Services and again spoke with Gail K. She affirmed that as far as her department goes the case is closed and they have no involvement. I attempted to explain to her that Nationwide is stating the policy was not in effect and the FHP officer even saw the receipt for cash payment of the insurance policy from the agent's office. She basically said too bad and hung up the phone on me.
[This still is not the last bad word on this agency, Read further.]
I kept making calls and leaving voice messages which were never returned. Per a recommendation I started saying I am obtaining an attorney to handle the claim. Whether that helped or not I finally got someone on the phone. They finally admitted the policy was in effect during the accident. They refused to send me a letter stating such. They would only say they are following up on it and would let me know. (In other words, don't call me, I'll call you)
I located (some are hard to find) another Florida state consumer agency. This was the Florida Department of Insurance, Consumer Assistance/Civil Remedy Section in Tallahassee. This one claimed to be part of Governor Bush's office. Rather than providing phone support they have a form (Form DI4-363). [Since I originally filed this form it has become part of the same Department of Financial Services run by Tom Gallagher] It also should be noted they offer no assistance with filling out the form and there are several specifics that must be filled out to THEIR satisfaction or they will return it. In fact the first time I sent the form in they rejected it. Now as Nationwide still refused to send the policy information I requested and it pertained to a state statute I decided to apply it to the form. The form in fact asks to list the statue number and even to write out by hand the statute language. You even need the Insurance Company FEIN #. I am not making this up! The form looks like you need to be an attorney to complete and required I do some research to fill it out but this is in fact for consumers. Well they finally accepted my form (the second time) and sent back with a DOI File # so obviously it was filled out to their satisfaction. They never contacted me again and my phone calls to the agency only got me that it is in effect in limbo. Never have received any action per my request from this agency. This again for a company violating a Florida state statute and the form is specifically for that purpose. Does make you wonder who they are working for doesn't it?
Now a couple of months had passed and I did not hear back further from Nationwide. Finally I received a letter dated April 5, 2004 from John C. at the Nationwide Sarasota office. You can see the actual letter here. Now the letter states that they did "not receive any additional documentation as requested." I have not heard from them and could not even get one of them on the phone in two months! And of course Nationwide refuses to send me any documentation. It stated that if they do not hear from me after 15 days they will send a settlement "offer". The letter went on to say "If you wish to discuss this settlement, please feel free to contact me." What do you think was the first thing I did? I picked up the phone and tried calling him. But I could not get him on the phone. How phony is that? I tried every day until I received their actual settlement offer.
Less than a week later (what happened to the 15 days!) dated April 9th 2004, I received their "offer." You can see the letter here. Funny but the letter makes it sound like you have no choice. It just says to sign and Physical Damage Release and make sure it is properly executed. When they receive it properly executed the settlement funds will be sent. It again said If i have any questions to telephone him. Of course I continued to try and do so but never could get him on the phone. I sent him My complete list of items, pictures and descriptions with estimated values. I sent it certified mail, return receipt and that is where my return receipt problem really came into play (as I wrote above) and had to resort to playing tricks with the local postmaster. Now the values did increase slightly since what the adjuster told me but ever so slightly. It also did not include several items the adjuster inspected. It also sounds like now they are totaling the van instead of just paying for damage as Nationwide had previously agreed. I have made some repairs to the van since the accident (hey was under the impression they were paying for them) and it has been reliable transportation since then.
Within days of receiving that letter I received a letter from the Florida Department of Financial Services and Gail. Remember she told me her office was closing the case and would have no involvement whatsoever. Well I guess it depends whether you are a consumer or a big insurance company. Gail sent me a letter that basically told me to accept and return the Nationwide settlement. When I read Gail's letter I immediately got the feeling Nationwide Insurance had sent the letter but the stationary was from the Department of FInancial Services run by Tom Gallagher. When I called Gail she told me (similar to before) that the case was closed and regardless I should just accept whatever Nationwide offers and her office will have no involvement in the case. It is completely obvious while the Department of Financial Services calls itself a service for consumers and citizens it is in effect working for the insurance companies. They only try to give the impression they are working for you. That agency provided no assistance to me but yet did their best to support Nationwide Insurance. I will also tell you I suspect that this agency passes everything you tell them to the insurance company. They will not tell you even one word of what they were told to you. Be very careful what you tell government agencies like this one as it could harm your case or claim. It also should be noted that in June 2004 I received a (bulk style) letter & survey from this department signed by Tom Gallagher. This asked for comments on my experience to "further enhance and improve the services" and since that survey thhis department has shown no improvement. Another way they do things strictly for appearance.
On April 15, 2004 I sent a letter to Craig C. at Nationwide as I could not get any of the other people I was dealing with to respond. I requested a response and included my claim information. I did not generate any response from him either.
Now let me state I am not looking to make money from this accident. I am looking to being somewhat reimbursed for my losses and I understand it could never be 100%. I am not looking to replace used or not new items with new items, simply what I had at the time of the accident. After all isn't what the first person I spoke with from Nationwide Insurance said to me was they would put me back to where I was before the accident? Yes it was. My only injury was a cracked tooth from the accident. Nationwide claims they did not receive the paperwork or I sent it to the wrong department and so will not pay for it. I am not looking for looking for money for stress or anything beyond the physical losses. Just dealing with Nationwide employees, deal with these so called consumer assistance agencies or having to bring up this claim makes my blood pressure go up. It makes me feel like I have been assaulted and essentially I have. After the accident I have found it difficult to make long drives and tend to get scared when being passed by people speeding. In case you are wondering my driving record is clean. I was forced to use my van for transportation which gets about 10 mpg. My car that was in the trailer and totaled in the accident got close to 30mpg. I was in the process of moving and the trailer was what I was planning on using as my "moving truck." Instead I had to make a number of trips just with my van and once with a borrowed open trailer and still I have many things in storage still needing to be moved. I have items that were damaged that I have not been able to be to afford to replace. And I have some items that were damaged that had intrinsic value that can not be repurchased. My only claim is in the replaceable that was lost in the accident.
You can read my entire claim to Nationwide here
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