What Consumers Should Expect When Purchasing Insurance Through An Agent
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Purchasing insurance sounds like a simple task. Contact the company, find out what your desired coverage costs, pay for it and you’re done. Not so fast. Consumers should realize that choosing an honest agent – one who’s forthcoming and knowledgeable – is a very important part of the process.
Agents: The good, the bad and the ugly
We spoke with Charles Surrano, an Arizona attorney and member of the Advocate Law Group network who has been working in the insurance industry for 30 years. According to Surrano, choosing the right agent can make all the difference. “When it comes to agents, one can expect the good, the bad and the ugly. There are agents who are very professional and very honest who will be forthright with the insured, will explain the policy terms, will quite clearly go through the policy and answer questions the insured might have about the policy and its coverages and benefits. Just as importantly, they will review the limitations under the policy, make sure that the insured has a firm understanding of exactly what it is they’re purchasing and when the policy will pay – and when it might not.”
Unfortunately, there are many agents that don’t always act appropriately. Surrano continued, “On the opposite end of the spectrum, you have the agents who will simply gloss over policies, engage in what you might call the rapid fire sell approach such as, ‘You need this because…,’ and will deflect questions and focus on simply closing the deal. That often leaves policyholders with a substandard understanding of what their rights are and what their coverages would be under the policy.
Those types of agents often create problems for insureds later when they make a claim under their policy because they were either misrepresented on what the policy purported to cover or their understanding in general is simply deficient because of the inadequate way in which the agent explained the terms.”
Shop around for a reputable agent
Shopping around for a reputable agent will give you greater peace of mind. “In shopping for insurance, it’s just as important to make sure you go to an agent that has a good reputation, if you can ascertain that either from talking with people who have purchased insurance or general discourse in the community about what agents or agencies provide better services than others because in the long-run, the agent is the person who puts a face on the insurance company.
Dealing with an honest agent and one who’s forthcoming and knowledgeable will make you feel more comfortable about the insurance product that you’re purchasing – and you’re going to have fewer problems with the insurance company because of it.” Surrano said.
Consumers should hold an insurer, and its agents, to a certain standard. Surrano thinks that good faith and fair dealing are not only standards applicable to insurers, but also encompass how their agents service customers. “Every insurance policy, in addition to the written words, contains an unwritten promise from the insurer to the insured that the insured will be treated fairly and honestly by the insurer,” he explained. “What that duty encompasses, this implied duty, is the obligation of the insurer to investigate claims made by the insured promptly, fairly and honestly.
In the course of administering any claim filed by an insured, the insurer must treat the insured’s interests at a level equal to its own; in other words, not to place the insurance company’s financial interests ahead of the insured’s in terms of evaluating whether or not to pay the claim. They’re supposed to be open, honest and reasonable in their evaluations. Any deliberate effort by the insurance company to deny an insured those implied entitlements to fair treatment, to honest treatment, to equal treatment, can result in a breach of the duty of good faith and fair dealing.”