Non-standard auto insurance can lead to stalled claims for crash victims

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Consumer investigator Jason Knowles and the ABC 7 I-Team have gotten dozens of calls from people fighting "stalled insurance" claims. Some people said they're getting the run-around and they aren't even customers of the plans in question. They were the victims of crashes and now have to dip into their own pockets.

"The victim takes the brunt of the punishment," said Jerome Simmons.

"They took a very simple case and made it very difficult, threw in a lot of loopholes," Adam Musto told the I-Team.

Both men were victims of car crashes and are in heated pay-out disputes with the other driver's insurance. They were hit by drivers who have "non-standard" insurance or low cost auto insurance policies from two different carriers, which may also cover high-risk drivers.

Simmons is still driving a dented car. He said his $3,000 November claim was denied by the other driver's non-standard, American Heartland Insurance.

"I just want the car fixed," he said.

When the I-Team inquired, the company said the policy holder didn't notify them.

"They were not gonna pay the claim simply because they have not talked to their client which is ludicrous," said Simmons.

American Heartland said the police report was a "one party" report filed by Simmons which didn't include their client's vehicle make and model. The Illinois Insurance Association said that shouldn't matter, and the police report had personal information along with the insurance policy. American Heartland insists it was "unable to determine if a vehicle insured under" its policy holder "was involved in this incident."

According to the Illinois Department of Insurance's most recent 2017 report, American Heartland has the third highest complaint ratio.

Overall, the state report shows that the insurers with the highest complaint ratios are mostly non-standard insurers.

Robert Muriael, acting director of the Department of Insurance said non-standard insurers help drivers who may not qualify for coverage which they need in order to drive.

"I think the regulations on our books adequately regulates the industry generally," Muriel said.

But what if you're in a pay-out dispute with a driver with a non-standard?

"You can make a claim against your own company. Then it's up to your insurance company to recover from the non-standard insurance company," said Muriel.

"The victim has to pay their own deductible in the meantime?" asked Knowles.

"That is true but if their insurance company successfully recovers against the nonstandard they could get their deductible back," Muriel replied.

Musto and his fiance were trying to collect $300 in damage after they were hit by a vehicle with Unique Insurance.

"It's like getting into an accident with someone who doesn't have insurance," said Musto.

Unique sent a denial letter saying the other driver wasn't the policy holder and told the I-Team the driver "did not have a valid license" at the time of the crash, which the I-Team did confirm.

The insurance company also cited an Illinois Supreme Court ruling for the denial. But the Illinois Insurance Association said a standard insurers' policy would have most likely provided coverage because policies "cover the car, not the driver."

Neal Gainsberg represents clients in non-standard insurance disputes.

"Their business model is to see if there is someone that they don't have to pay. They are always looking at that. They are looking at their bottom line as opposed to what is in the best interest of their customer or consumer," he said.

"They use practices like that to deny coverage even though it's their policy holders fault, and that's not fair and that's not right," said Kevin Martin, executive director of Illinois Insurance Association.

In 2017, the Illinois Department of Insurance passed new administrative rules saying non-standard insurers had to better underwrite people before policies were sold instead of researching drivers' records after they had accidents.

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Non-standard auto insurance can lead to stalled claims if you get into a crash with one of their policy holders, the I-Team found.

Before you buy an insurance plan, research their state complaint records and get two to three quotes.

If you have an insurance complaint, you can file online with the IDOI.
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