Liberty Mutual Complaints

Liberty Mutual Insurance — Is Responsibility really their policy?  Do they really “do the right thing”?  You decide.  What follows is an account of an auto accident my wife had a while back involving a garbage truck and my wife’s Camry.  The garbage truck won and so did Liberty Mutual. (Technically Liberty Northwest which is one of the tentacles of Liberty Mutual Holding Co. Inc).
Before I tell you our story, let me explain why I put up this web site:
1)  I kept seeing ads talking about how “responsible” Liberty Mutual is and how committed they are to “doing the right thing”.  That claim is so totally the opposite of my experience that I couldn't let it stand unchallenged.  Had their motto been something like “Responsibility? — What’s the question?”  I might have shrugged it off, taken my lumps and let it go.  But there’s something about claiming this moral high ground while behaving so dishonestly that just pissed me off.  (Incidentally, Liberty Mutual differentiating themselves from their competition by claiming that they’re not irresponsible and they don’t consistently do the wrong thing doesn’t actually speak that well for them or the insurance industry.  I mean, just how low is that bar?)
2)  I also wanted to let people know that not carrying collision to save money on a low value car (in this case $4000) and paying out of pocket if you trash your car yourself leaves you vulnerable in a way you wouldn’t expect.  If your car is totaled by let’s say, a garbage truck, and they suffer no damage, your insurance company will be precluded, by law, from weighing in on who’s to blame because they have no exposure.  The other insurance company will be left alone to decide who was responsible.  If they choose to ignore the facts and find in their own behalf, your only recourse will be to sue them.
This temptation was too much to over come for Liberty Northwest and, as my wife is the nonconfrontationanl type, we ate $3,570.
To justify denying the claim, the adjuster sent a polite boilerplate letter saying that the garbage truck driver used his turn signals, therefore it wasn’t his fault.  If I had any questions, feel free to contact him.
What follows is an edited copy of the letter I sent to Liberty Northwest to explain why they were wrong in denying the claim.  I sent it to five levels:  the adjuster who made the initial decision, then to his boss, and then their boss and finally a VP at Liberty Northwest.  I also sent a copy to Edmond Kelly the CEO of Liberty Mutual Group by way of a complaint filter called the Presidential Service Team.  No, I didn’t expect him to actually read the letter.  I simply wanted to make sure I’d given Liberty Mutual every opportunity to be responsible and do the right thing.  I asked them to respond to nine specific points about the accident and justify their thinking.  They responded to none.  From the adjuster through four layers of management above him, no one gave a specific response to any of the nine points.
This letter has been shortened to include only the essential discussion of liability.  It’s also been edited to remove names which makes it a bit awkward, but it’s basically the same letter they received.

This complaint alleges that the adjuster, on behalf of Liberty Northwest Insurance Corp., failed to do a proper investigation and deliberately misrepresented the facts when filing a report with regard to claim # Y837185.  Further, it alleges that his superiors, elevated his offense to a level approaching fraud by, as a group, failing to take corrective action when given information that exposed the errors in his judgment.
The accident that led to this complaint occurred as follows:
While driving to work one morning, my wife’s car was run into by a garbage service truck as the driver attempted to make an illegal right turn into an alley.  My wife had been following the truck for a block or two heading west down E. 18th Ave. which is a three lane road — one lane east and one west with a dedicated center left turn lane dividing them.  Shortly after they passed the intersection of Patterson and 18th, the truck driver made an abrupt move to the left putting his truck completely in the left turn lane.  A witness in an oncoming car said  he turned so quickly, and he came so far over, that she was startled and thought he might come into the eastbound lane and hit her.  She swerved her car to the right in defense.
As his truck slowed and established itself in the center lane, my wife assumed the driver was either going to stop or make a left turn.  A sign on the rear of the truck warned that it made frequent stops, but there was no such sign warning of wide right turns.  Since he had now moved out of her way, and the lane had opened up in front of her, she proceeded to go by.  As she reached about half way past his truck, he turned back to the right to make the alley.  She hit her brakes and swerved to the right to avoid him, but he kept coming, pursued her to the curb and hit her.  The point of contact was his right front tire extending from the wheel well hitting her left front tire and fender.
The witness in the eastbound car, upon hearing the accident, turned around, went back to the scene, went up to the driver and told him to his face “You were going way to fast."
My wife did not see the truck driver use his signal, although it was reported from witnesses behind her with a broader view that he did use them; whether they were turned on the required 100 ft. before the turn is not clear.
It is also alleged, by the truck driver that he was not completely in the center turn lane but was trailing some portion of his truck in the normal traffic lane.  The oncoming car witness and my wife are both clear and in agreement in their recollection that the truck was entirely in the center lane before turning back to the right.
Putting differing recollections aside for now, I have compiled a list of relevant facts and their significance.
1)  The garbage truck hit my wife’s car, not the other way around.
In order to avoid liability when you are involved in an accident where you run into another vehicle, you must prove two things.
(a)  That you had the right of way to the contested space, and
(b)  That you could not have been reasonably expected to avoid the accident.
The truck driver fails both these tests.
2)  When the driver made his turn he either:
(a)  Did not check his mirrors at all, or
(b)  He checked them, but failed to see my wife’s car.
The fact that her car was there to be hit proves that it was there to be seen.
3)  Turn signals are required by law to be used when making a turn.  There is no legal requirement that they be seen.  They are a warning device only and not a substitute for using caution when turning.
4)  Using a turn signal does not grant right of way.  Right of way is established by a vehicle’s relative position to other vehicles and timing.  In this case, when the truck driver left the normal traffic flow and entered the center turn lane, he relinquished the right of way to the normal lane and needed to make absolutely sure the lane was clear before he tried to reenter it.
5)  Using turn signals does not, in any way, mitigate responsibility for an otherwise illegal turn.
6)  The special left turn lane has only two legitimate uses, by law in Oregon, neither of which is making a right turn.
(a)  You can use it to make a left turn, or
(b)  You can use it to come from an alley, or driveway turning left, and then stage in the center lane and merge right.
Turning trucks are allowed some latitude, but these are special maneuvers, not acknowledged in the code, and exceptional caution is expected
7)  When making a right hand-turn a driver must  “...proceed as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway:
(a)  In making the approach for a right turn; and
(b)  In making the right turn.”
8)  The purpose of this law is absolutely clear from the Oregon CDL Manual.  It states in part:  “If you are driving a truck or bus that cannot make the right turn without swinging into another lane, turn wide as you complete the turn.  Keep the rear of your vehicle close to the curb.  This will stop other drivers from passing you on the right.”  “Don’t turn wide to the left as you start the turn.  A following driver may think you are turning left and try to pass you on the right.  You may crash into the other vehicle as you complete your turn.”
9)  A Eugene city traffic engineer, has expressed to me that it is reasonable to expect that a garbage truck can make the turn at the intersection of 18th Ave. and Patterson alley by straddling the line dividing the center left turn lane and the normal west bound traffic lane.  This would leave just over 4 ft. of the truck in the normal lane with its turn signal flashing directly in front of the following driver for 100 ft. prior to the turn.  The normal lane is 11 ft. wide, excluding a 4 ft. bike lane, which leaves slightly under 7 ft. of lane left to squeeze a 6 ft. car through.  It’s just not reasonable to believe that any normal person would try that.  It’s nearly certain that the truck driver was much farther from the curb than he was legally allowed to be.
The adjuster was in a rare position in arriving at his decision on this claim.  As we did not carry collision on my wife’s car, and the truck suffered no damage, my insurance company had no exposure so they closed their books on this claim without any investigation at all.  They did not even bother to take statements from witnesses.  This left The Liberty Northwest adjuster to make the decision of liability by himself.  I believe he simply thought he could get away with ignoring the facts and decided in his own self-interest that my wife was responsible.  It is doubtful he would have even considered this decision had he known he would have to sell it to an opposing adjuster.
Twice, early in the process, I made an offer to a Liberty Northwest VP and his subordinate to settle this claim by splitting it 50/50.  They both asked me what I thought would be fair, so being a generally trusting person, I suggested the split.  That offer, while made with a conciliatory tone,  was not intended to be genuinely fair or reflect the true liability in the case.  It was rather a practical decision on my part to expedite closure of the claim at an acceptable loss.  I believe the true liability rests entirely with the truck driver and Liberty Northwest, and that they reasonably owe the $3,569.96 that it cost to fix my wife’s car.

Well, that’s my story.  If you have any comments, complaints, reviews, or other stories about Liberty Mutual, positive or negative, please feel free to contact me.
Jeff Hill
Disclaimer is not associated in any way with Liberty Mutual Group Inc. or any of it’s subsidiaries. This web site exists solely for the purpose of exposing some of Liberty Mutual's less responsible business practices that have been overlooked in their advertising.  Liberty Mutual Complaints is provided in the public interest and has no commercial purpose whatsoever.
Being essentially a hobby, it may take me some time to develop this site into something other than a personal rant.  Perhaps a forum would work.  In the meantime, if you would like to help, feel free to link to my site using this code.  It helps to boost the page rank.
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© 2010 Jeff Hill