Well triple fuck :(

I had a ray of hope for a little while about my car. Because some of you tweeted my blog posts at State Farm, I got a call at 8:30am yesterday saying how sorry they were about how poorly I was being treated, and that I was bumped up to a regional claims office and had the attention of Executive Customer Service. Later that day someone came to check on my car (yes, at a random time and I had to run home from work).

And today the same guy who couldn’t answer my questions gave me a call (aka, not some new regional claims person like I had been promised). He seemed much nicer this time around, kind of like someone told him he was dealing with someone who is happy to bitch on the internet.

And he told me they couldn’t cover the damage to my car.

The reasoning? Apparently the water got in because of some leaves that were blocking the drainage area around my trunk, and since my parking spot is slopped slightly downward, the water ran throughout the car. Since leaves take a while to build up, it was not a “sudden” accident, and so they won’t cover it.

I’m feeling shitty and beat down by the whole process. I’m not sure what I’m going to do next. I’m hoping the mold damage isn’t quite as bad as everyone thinks, and that I can save my car with minimum costs. We’ll see.



  1. ajb47 says

    For some reason, this smacks of “Uh-oh, bad press on the internet. Let’s a make a show of doing something and give some vague reason why a *comprehensive* policy won’t cover it.” Maybe you should find your policy and make sure what they said is actually in the policy, if you haven’t already.

    Also, you now have a specific question to ask your next insurance company.


  2. Artor says

    I used to go with State Farm. During a round of unemployment though, my insurance lapsed for a couple weeks. It was down for about 3 days when I got a letter from the DMV demanding proof of insurance. Since I’ve never, ever gotten one of these letters at any other time, I can only conclude that State Farm actually called the DMV to tell them I’d lapsed. Welcome to the joy of paying for an SR22 for 2 yrs through my new agency.

  3. Pteryxx says

    I dunno, depending on weather and season, leaves can build up mighty fast. Mold can grow in days, too. I’d question whether they could still argue that it’s “sudden” when you were being a responsible citizen by saving your car for necessary transportation instead of burning gas and adding wear-and-tear by using it daily. They shouldn’t be normative about daily vehicle use. Besides, this was weather-related (look how fast the water evaporated – so that much water couldn’t have built up SLOWLY) and had nothing to do with your vigilance; after all you NEED that car and drove it regularly! AFAIK cops only call a car “neglected” if it’s been sitting in the same spot untouched for a month – I had a cheap vehicle in Seattle for emergencies, and I moved it once a week by verbal agreement with the local officers.

    I really think you could push them to at least compromise on this.

  4. Pteryxx says

    Also, ask to speak with a manager within the company and not this jerk. Obviously this is a matter of interpretation of their rules.

  5. penasquito says

    Well, if you’re willing to read between the lines, here, they’re basically telling you that they’ll replace your car for you if something “sudden” happens to it. Put on your raincoat and your rubber boots and start driving until a tree “suddenly” jumps in front of you. BOOM. Moldy car towed away, check on its way. You ain’t got no problems, Jen.

  6. whatpalebluedot says

    I recommend finding a roommate/fuckbuddy who has USAA. They’ve loosened their referral requirements recently. I’ve never had water damage, but I’ve never gotten any shit and no one ever bothers me with calls to buy their insurance because they can’t beat my rates.

  7. Shaun says

    I looked for a “donate” button, but I didn’t see one. :-\ I’m sure you could get some help from the heathen horde.

  8. Tom Singer says

    Leaves working their way into the drainage area, which is under the trunk lid, happens over a period of time, with opening and closing the trunk, leaves getting crushed and jammed together. I’d guess Jen has never, or rarely, cleaned leaves out of that area. I know I wouldn’t think to do it. (Although I might, now.) This almost certainly isn’t something that has happened just since Jen parked the car a few weeks ago.

    If it were, it might be covered, at least partially. For example, if someone had busted out her window, and water got in that way, and the car hadn’t been checked on in a few weeks. That’s a situation where there’s an argument to be made about normative use. But I’d expect the amount of time for the effects of a covered event to accumulate is probably written into the policy somewhere.

  9. jaranath says

    If possible, get an estimate from a good shop that’s willing to work with you (friend of a friend, perhaps). The point is, maybe you can find out what doing it yourself would entail. If this really just amounted to nuking every surface and fabric with chemicals…

    If this does move toward donation time, do we just use that “support blag hag” button on the right?

  10. says

    Shit! That sucks, my wife and I have State Farm. I’m honestly thinking about calling them and threatening them with leaving because of your plight. If more people who had State Farm did that, maybe it’d make them rethink their position. Actually leaving may not be needed just enough people pitching a fit. Also a good old internet smear campaign wouldn’t hurt.

  11. says

    Insurance is a fucking con. ::frowny face::

    Keep us apprised of the situation. As mentioned above, I’m sure there’s lots of readers who would be willing donate to aid in repairing your car.

  12. unbound says

    I still think you should engage a lawyer. Additionally, contacting the Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner would be a good idea.

    Did you have a chance to look over your policy? If there is anything in there that would leave you to believe that your case is not being handled correctly, escalating to the local claim’s supervisor may go further if you have some of that information handy.

  13. Alecthar says

    Yes, how dare they inform the government that you were possibly doing something illegal. It’s entirely possible that they are legally obligated to report the ending of a policy to the DMV on record.

    Not that it makes State Farm a great insurance company (if such a thing exists) but they certainly didn’t do anything wrong in your case.

  14. christophburschka says

    There’s a Paypal button in the sidebar; I just sent a little bit.

    Still, I hope you can get at least something from the insurance, Jen. It sucks to pay them money only for them to talk their way out of actually covering damage.

  15. Siobhan says

    Um also, these leaves, and the drain, whose drain is this? Whose parking space is this. You don’t OWN this space, right? SOMEone is responsible for making sure that it is draining properly. That falls under maintenance by whomever is responsible for this drainage system. I’m guessing that’s not you.

    and another thing, goddammit, YES mold DOES grown FAST. That’s why insurance companies get active (at least the good ones) when there’s a flood somewhere. Mold starts in a matter of hours, and can build up bloody fast. What you had was not a long term mold infestation, it was due to the flooding, and happened over the matter of days, period. Whoever this idiot is that keeps telling you otherwise, tell him to shut the fuck up and get you someone who has actually lived for a while on this earth and knows that mold grows fucking FAST when there’s been a flood.

    So find whomever was responsible for clearing the path to the drain, and demand that THEIR insurance cover your car clean up. Pit their insurance against your insurance, also, STATE INSURANCE COMMISSIONER (as someone else suggested).

  16. jpeg says

    I’d be interested in seeing pictures of where the water was supposed to have entered the car and how they explain so much water getting into the car in a matter of weeks. Getting through all the nooks and crannies from trunk to front would take gallons of water. It just seems really doubtful to me that this could have happened naturally.

  17. cowtown says

    Not a drain related to the parking space. The drain on the trunk of the car. There are gutters underneath the trunk lid.

  18. HeavyG says

    People always assume that whenever anything happens to their house or car or whatever that “insurance will cover it”. That’s an assumption that, as often as not, comes back to bite them in the arse.

    I know it’s a pain but folks really should be familiar with what their insurances actually cover.

  19. notscarlettohara says

    I’d like to throw a little more support behind the lawyer idea, if you maybe have a friend in law school or something. I’ve had similar experiences, though with the major medical insurance coverage on my horse rather than my car. (Yes, I am aware of what century it is) You see, there have been two incidents where my horse became quite ill and had to stay in an equine hospital for a while, racking up thousands of dollars in bills each time. And, when I called my insurance company to cover it, they gave me some vague reason and refused. I then called my mom, who is a lawyer, and then she called them. All of a sudden, they realized they made a mistake, they’re very sorry, it actually is covered. Both times. Hmmm…

  20. Duke says

    There is a good chance — a very good chance — that the insurer is legally required to notify the DMV of lapses/cancellations in insurance. I know that was the case in Florida.

  21. Old Fogey says

    I don’t know how common your car is in that area (Idon’t even live on the same continent), but consider whether some calls to local car breakers might not get you replacement seats, mats etc for cheaper than your “deductible”.

    Combine that not with bleach, but anti-mould spray for showers used on the hard surfaces whilst the interior is stripped.

  22. Utakata, pink pigtailed Gnome of death says

    My irrational urges of this situation is to suggest hiring a tow truck, haul that vehicle in question to the middle of a parking lot of a State Farm office in Seatle and leaving it there with a note stating: “Congratulations, you just won a free mobile mushroom farm for turgid and useless customer service!” …followed by, “Now excuse me, while I’ll take my business elsewhere.”

  23. Anonymous Atheist says

    “Leaves working their way into the drainage area, which is under the trunk lid, happens over a period of time, with opening and closing the trunk, leaves getting crushed and jammed together.”

    I use my car frequently, but I use my trunk rarely. For months at a time, the only times it gets opened are when I’m cleaning the car – which always includes pulling leaves out that managed to literally slip through the cracks along the sides of the trunk lid during the weeks my trunk was never opened. They certainly aren’t ‘crushed and jammed together’ in some impassable wad, but she didn’t say the leaves in her trunk were either.

  24. Anonymous Atheist says

    It can be done. I posted a comment with links to an example with photos of a successful moldy car cleaning, and several pages of tips/instructions, on her original blog post about this.

  25. says

    “Owe you a car”!? Same thing happened to my poor little Z3 ragtop. Beg or borrow a wet/dry vac, suck up the water, spray some dilute vinegar on the mold and wipe it up while wearing a HEPA mask (Home Depot). Drive the car a few times to dry it out and move on with life… and park facing up hill next time.

  26. Quidam says

    Don’t use acids or alkaline cleaners on seatbelts. Most seatbelts are now polyester which is resistant to acids (but not alkalis) but the stitching may well be nylon which is not resistant to acid.

    Don’t use bleach either. Hand dish washing detergent rinsed with copious amounts of clean water and a wet vac is safer.

    Getting it thoroughly dry may be more of a challenge unless you can drive to the prairies and leave it here a week

  27. dcortesi says

    This – if you are a handy with tools person, or if you know a couple of handy with tools persons who like drinking beer (catered by you), you have a car-stripping party. You-all go in a borrowed pickup to the wrecking yard and take the seats and door liners and mats out of a similar car, and come back and swap them into yours. While you have the seats out, you have lots of room to move around inside and swab. It isn’t rocket science, or even biology for that matter, just common mechanic’s tools and some time.

  28. matt says

    I will third (or fourth) contacting the state insurance commisioner. It is very easy to file a complaint (sometimes you can even do it online), and is sometimes enough to get the insurance company to quit being a pain and help you out.

  29. says

    Reading the comments in these threads is amazing. We are living during the Occupy protests, we know that corporations nowadays are quite corrupt and prone to doing anything for profit, and we also know that insurance corporations in particular are predatory based on the US healthcare situation alone.

    And yet despite all this a good chunk of the commenters are still coming out and apologizing or trying to find excuses for the insurance company to duck out of covering it, either by overly litigious analysis of the situation or tired bullshit about “oh, you just assume the policy will cover anything, you should have read the policy”. As if the corporation is always in the right and being honest about stuff. As if, for some reason, a for-profit corporation will not do everything possible to turn a profit, a proposition that defies both logic and evidence.

    It is honestly reminiscent of mansplaining. Corporatesplaining, I guess you could call it.

  30. Samantha Vimes, Chalkboard Monitor says

    As for the person who got reported to the DMV for an insurance lapse, it would make more sense for insurers to be required to call the insured and give them a 3 day window to pay before it’s not covered. I had my health insurance retroactively cancelled because the damn company NEVER FIXED MY ADDRESS in their billing database after I moved and I couldn’t get bills. We sent payments but not quite enough to keep from being considered in arrears, and didn’t know a thing was wrong until they phoned me to say my pending test wouldn’t be covered because I wasn’t insured with them any more.
    I was so pissed I changed companies. It’s cheaper, too.

  31. says

    I (like everyone else) recommend getting an insurance lawyer. Make an appointment and have them look over your policy. If there is nothing in there to indicate that slow progression accidents aren’t covered then you should have a case.

    Since your policy covers floods, as long as there is no caveat in the policy about floods cause due to negligence etc. you should actually be ok.

  32. says

    The State Farm position is wrong as a matter of law. And State Farm knows it… and is “inviting” you to have counsel write them a nice incendiary letter on asbestos-impregnated paper. (Hey, if it’s exchanged between lawyers, nobody cares if it causes cancer, right? Everybody’s a winner then, right?)

    Here’s an example: Consider what happens when small animals, like squirrels, nest in your engine compartment, and you don’t drive for a while. At first, they’ve probably just added some detritus under the hood. Eventually, though, some of that detritus works its way inside the air cleaner; or into the windshield-wiper-fluid reservoir; etc., etc., etc. and causes something to break. Leaving the deductible aside for the moment, it’s that moment of breakage that is “sudden” — not the circumstances CAUSING the breakage. In the same way, the leaf that actually blocked the (allegedly — I don’t buy SF’s explanation, because those drainage channels are supposed to protect the vehicle’s finish and not structural integrity) narrowing drainage channel was sudden… as all eleven states (incluing Washington) whose case law I quickly checked confirmed.

    Push back.

  33. Mimmoth says

    I don’t know anything about these things so I won’t try to advise. Just saying I notice your troubles and wish you well resolving them and am standing by with my own modest donation to contribute if necessary.

    And if I lived in the area I would totally come to your car stripping party if that’s the route you end up going, beer or no beer :-)

  34. LTFT says

    Hi Setar,

    Maybe insurance companies will do anything to make a profit, but that includes trying to make their customers happy, following the details laid out in their policy, and avoiding unecessary time and legal entanglements. Honestly, reading your post I thought I was reading an old BigPharma poe you had lying around where you just replaced Pharma with insurance companies.

    Is State Farm free from legal obligation to cover this? I have no idea, I haven’t looked at the policy. But simply assuming something is covered, as another poster noted, is not a good way to go about things. Actually reading your policy and taking that to the insurance agent can never be a bad thing. And assuming you know the answer with all certainty, without seeing the car, the trunk, the leaves, knowing the weather, the drainage situation, or the policy… that’s a might hasty.

    On getting a lawyer, though- Some policies require the insurance agency to pay for adjudication, if it comes to that, and that can cost more than the repairs. On a fairly low-cost issue like this it may not be difficult to get State Farm to cut bait and pony up. Essentially this calculation is bunk because SF has people/lawyers on retainer, but they’ve probably already spent close to $100 of hourly wages on your case. If you further involve management or lawyers that’s only going to go up. If you think your policy says you’re covered, this may be a good avenue to pursue.

  35. Max says

    @Artor. I’ve been in the same boat. I’ve even been ticketed for driving without a valid permit (due to being uninsured). But the thing is, I acknowledge what I did was wrong. By driving without insurance I put others at risk of not being able to pay medical bills should an accident occur. Having been struck and hospitalized before (fortunately, that person did have insurance) I know how important that is. At heart I’m sure we’re both good persons, but that doesn’t mean we can’t make mistakes or that we shouldn’t suffer the consequences.

  36. says

    Maybe insurance companies will do anything to make a profit, but that includes trying to make their customers happy, following the details laid out in their policy, and avoiding unecessary time and legal entanglements.


  37. says

    Well that’s utter bullshit…

    Just another way Insurance companies screw over everyone they can, whenever they can.

    Sadly, mold can’t be removed easily. It penetrates through fabric, much like in a damp basement, and needs to be scrubbed off. Since your car is permeated with spore, I think you’re fucked royally. Only way to be sure is to remove all upholstery, fabric, scrub down the metal and plastic, then replace the fabrics.

    Which is financially unfeasible, because you’re a student.

    Could just do what I did, get a Jeep and, instead of a fabric bed cover, get a spray on cover. That’s how I avoid mold.

    Good luck, though. I feel your pain with the mold issue. American Family Mutual isn’t much better with the ‘We’ll cover shit’ issue. Just keep at it, they’ll break eventually.

  38. Andy says

    well I don’t know about you but I was desperate to find out about the car and I shall sleep easier tonight now that I do.

  39. Stephan says

    Call me crazy if you like, but insurance is pretty much just a scam. We have to have it, and in some situations it is useful, but most of the time it is a protection racket.

    I’ve been boned over this same way twice on my car, and once on my basement. I’m sorry it happened. I say post a chip in for money to fix your car. I’ll give you a few bucks. After all, that’s what friends are for. Even if it is just internet friends.

  40. says

    I just thought you’d like to know that your social security taxes are paying and have been paying for my $12k per year income and my medical bills ever since my mid 30s because the nice insurance company that was supposed to cover this after my accident successfully ducked out of it.

    Thank you for your contribution.

  41. ckitching says

    If the letter was laced with asbestos, it wouldn’t be incendiary, would it? Asbestos is a flame retardant material, after all.

  42. Azkyroth says

    Off-topic, but since people seem to still be reading here:

    Encountered the following dumbfuckery from a commenter on Ed’s blog:

    I cannot fucking believe that people are still talking about the Rebecca Watson elevator thing.

    Of course one should generally not make “invitations” in elevators that have a creepy overtone, not ever but especially not in the wee hours of the morning. That’s true whether one is hitting on a man or a woman, however, since women are statistically far more likely to be harmed by men than vice versa (warning – it’s unlikely on this blog, but if any “men’s movement” jackass whiner disagrees with this I will unleash my terrifying powers of scornful ridicule, which I normally hold back for the same reason that Mr. Miyagi doesn’t unleash karate on your ass unless it’s really necessary), it’s especially true about men hitting on women.

    There’s a good chance the guy in question was merely suffering from nerdly cluelessness compounded by poor ethanol tolerance, in which case he probably learned his lesson. Or he could be a real creep. I don’t have sufficient information.

    The fact that Rebecca Watson is apparently something of an attention-seeker in non-threatening situations most certainly does not excuse scaring her in an elevator at 4 AM.

    Having said that, heterosexual and bisexual people are attracted to the opposite gender. We need to be able to communicate that, and even for those of us who have advanced beyond strategies like going to a 90% male nerd atheist convention and scaring the crap out of one of the few women there in an elevator at 4 AM, it is quite challenging. Even Kim Kardashian has a hard time finding true love. That’s probably what people like Abbie Smith and Richard Dawkins meant to express.

    Anyone know of a really good, succinct refutation of these canards all in one place?

  43. LTFT says

    Hi Jafafa,

    If you’re trying to convince me that insurance companies won’t act out of the kindness of their hearts, that they often don’t do what most of us would say is probably right, and that they are exceptionally good at drafting contracts that are legally to their favour, you’ll get no argument from me.

    If anything, however, your post argues for what several people here have said- don’t assume your insurance covers what you want it to cover. You said your insurance company successfully ducked paying. Given the extent of the issue you describe I imagine you took legal steps and that those legal steps failed. That’s very unfortunate for you, but the insurance company drafted a contract you agreed to and our legal system (again, assuming the legal system was involved) said the insurance company didn’t have to pay. I’m definitely not saying that what the insurance company did to you was right, but it’s hard to say, based on that little bit, that what they did was wholly wrong.

    Again, I will quickly agree that insurance companies have too much power in this country. I’ll agree that they abuse that power by drafting contracts in their favour and supporting those contracts with more legal power than most of us can muster. But tilting the playing field in their favour is very different than cheating on that field of play (which they would be doing by refusing to pay for something they’re legally obligated to pay for). This is especially true in a situation as minor as is Jen’s, where a few more years of a satisfied Jen would (likely) more than make up for their expenses in this instance.

    Jaws @26 may be right (though an example of the precedents s/he mentions would definitely be helpful, not least of all to Jen). I hope Jaws is right. But look at what Setar said in the first post in this thread- a for-profit corporation will do anything for a profit. If this were not a legally questionable situation there is no question that the most profitable course of action for State Farm would be to quickly and happily pay for Jen’s damages. But, for some reason, they haven’t. It’s almost like things aren’t 100% cut-and-dried…

  44. says

    You know the old joke about “when you assume…”

    Well, you’re assuming a lot of things.

    The insurance company refused to do WHAT THEY’D AGREED TO DO.
    First, they started denying medical claims that were clearly related, saying they weren’t. Then, they said that the coverage was lapsed because I hadn’t made any claims for a certain period of time. (I had, they’d been denied.)

    They LIED, they CHEATED. When I tried to press things, calling repeatedly, sending letters, they claimed not to have received the letters. They repeatedly put me on hold to “get a supervisor” and each time I would be mysteriously disconnected.

    When I talked to a supposed supervisor several times, each time they had a different excuse like “those files are archived at a different location, we’ll need to call you back” and of course never called back.

    I was left with the choice of trying to find a lawyer willing to take on a massive insurance company, at my own expense, when I had no income because I was too sick to work… and of course too unwell to take on the full time job of trying to get the company to do what it owed me.

    I can assure you that nowhere in the settlement were anything close to the words “we reserve the right to lie to you repeatedly, repeatedly disconnect you, repeatedly throw up roadblocks, not let you speak to anyone, fail to return calls as promised, refuse to let you speak to a supervisor, and then use the fact that we’ve successfully prevented you from contacting us as grounds for claiming that your coverage has now ended.”

    They are fucking crooks. There was NOTHING in the settlement that said that I needed to get a lawyer to even get them to let me talk to them, NOTHING that said that after a period of time with no claims the settlement would lapse.

    Clearly company policy was 1. deny ALL claims. 2. Avoid ANY contact. 3. Lie dozens of times to avoid even speaking with the person, until they give up.

    The company policy clearly was do ANYTHING POSSIBLE to avoid paying. Lie repeatedly.

    First line of defense – complete immorality.

    A criminal organization.

    I had a traumatic brain injury, and they knew it of course, and I was hardly in a position to spend DOZENS of calls and YEARS of my life trying to get them to merely answer the fucking PHONE or a letter.

    Yes, there are lawyers. NOWHERE in the settlement did it say “at every step of the way, you’ll need to sue our lying asses to get us to do any of the things promised in this document.”

    They even tried to claim that since the original insurer had merged with a larger one, the settlement was now void.


  45. hkdharmon says

    I think you may be out of luck on this one. Casualty insurance covers casualty, which usually means something sudden and unexpected. A windstorm that drops a tree on your car would fit, but water damage from a blockage is slow. It is simply not what casualty insurance is for. A house-fire is casualty loss, termite damage is not.
    The idea is that you are expected to try and minimize damage. If it is something that happens over time, then they reasonably expect that you should have maintained the car. It sucks, but that is how it works. Otherwise you could put in a claim for your engine seizing because you never put oil in it (although I am sure you put oil in your engine).
    I hope it works out, but I think you are barking up the wrong tree, and your time and effort and frustration could be better spent working towards another solution to your problem. Good luck.

  46. wendy says

    My husband’s car had water damage and mold; two years later there is no weird smell or anything. And we live in Tennessee, which is pretty humid. You still might be out of luck, but at least one other car in the world recovered from similar damage, so there’s hope.

  47. NoxiousNan says

    Hey Jen, now that they’ve given you a definitive answer, I’d press on with a complaint to insurance commissioner. I would think leaves could accumulate over time or by sudden accident.

    I told a friend once to go to commissioners when she had totalled her car and damaged another’s and had not paid her policy. It was cancelled for non-pay. But she felt she had legitimate reasons for the cancellation. It took her the better part of a year to work through, but the insurance carrier paid out. Long story short you can get results from it. I personally think carriers take commissioners more seriously than a lawyer because if they don’t comply with the commissioner’s decision, they can be kept from writing business in that state and fined heavily.

  48. says

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  49. says

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  50. says

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