What is “Diminished Value”? If your car is involved in an accident and subsequently repaired, it will suffer “Diminished Value.” This means that the market value of your car, even thought it has been repaired, has been reduced from the original value before the accident.

There may be 2 reasons for reduction in market value

1. The car may not be repaired to its original condition. This can result from substandard repairs and/or use of “aftermarket” auto parts.

2. Even if the car has been repaired to its original condition, the market value will still, in most cases, be less than before the accident, because it will be PERCEIVED as being less.

Consider: would YOU pay the same price for a car that had been wrecked, if you could get a car in the same condition that had not been wrecked? Even if it had been properly repaired using manufacturer’s parts?

If an insured motorist is involved in an accident in which he/she is “at fault” then the other driver – i.e. “3rd party claimant” – is owed the diminished value of his vehicle in addition to the cost of any repairs. The insured motorist’s company must pay the 3rd party for that diminished value.

But insurance companies are always looking for ways to cut the amount they must pay out in claims. Here’s a particularly egregious example:

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Progressive Admits Claims “Specialist’s” Representation of CT Law is Wrong

If you are or have been a party claiming diminished value against a Progressive insured in Connecticut, you might have been put off by a misleading statement by a Progressive claims representative. One such claimant’s attorney was told blatantly that the Connecticut Insurance Department refuses to allow insurers to offer diminished value coverage, and, therefore, no diminished value claims can be paid. CT Diminished Value Correspondence

Say, what?

Here is “Claims Specialist” Heather Hinckley’s July 9, 2007 response to a third party claimant’s demand for the inherent diminished value suffered as a result of a Progressive insured’s negligence:

At this time, the State of Connecticut, Department of Insurance does not allow Progressive Insurance or any other company to sell Diminished Value coverage for a vehicle. As the State doesn’t allow sales of the Diminished Value coverage, we are not able to afford Diminished value coverage. For these reasons, but not limited thereto, Progressive Insurance must respectfully deny your claim for damages. I am sorry that I could not advise you more favorably regarding this matter, but trust that you will understand our position.

Counsel for the claimant took the issue up with the Connecticut Insurance Department, which responded on September 26, 2007 stating that:

Heather Hinckley of Progressive Insurance has responded that the Connecticut Insurance Department does not allow diminished value coverage to be sold and therefore claims for diminished value cannot be made in Connecticut. In response to Ms. Hinckley’s assertion this is not correct. The Connecticut Insurance Department does not prevent claims made for diminished value and an insurer can request to include provisions of diminished value in their policy.

The CID also included a letter from a Progressive Claims Manager responding to the complaint that said:

I am writing in reply to your inquiry dated Aug. 21, 2007. I reviewed the complaint as well as the claim file and am able to provide you with the following information.

The letter sent by Heather Hinckley dated July 9, 2007, is incorrect.

Well that’s nice. Glad we got that all cleared up.

Of course, several questions remain. Has the Connecticut Insurance Department taken any action to ensure this misstatement of Connecticut law/regulation does not occur again? Has Progressive taken any action to make certain that its employees do not make this misstatement of Connecticut law/regulation again? But the one that has me really wondering is whether Heather Hinckley is still a “claims specialist” or whether she’s been knocked down to “claims representative”, “file clerk”, or “doughnut person”? After all, inquiring minds want to know.

It also bothers me that someone labeled a “claims specialist” by an insurance company can’t tell the difference between what is owed to an insured (first party) and what is owed to someone making a claim against an insured (third party). Ms. Hinckley’s comment about Progressive not offering “diminished value coverage” has nothing to do with a third party claim. The only portion of the policy any third party cares about is the section that tells the insured, “We’ll pay for anything for which you become liable up to the policy limits” (excepting, of course, intentional torts). How much of a specialist is a claims specialist who can’t tell the difference between a first party and third party claim? That’s covered in Insurance 101.

Probably, the most pertinent question is how many other people accepted the Hinckley line about diminished value not being permitted to be paid and simply went away? Well, Connecticut, your Insurance Department has spoken. Demand your diminished value. It’s really not illegal after all.

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