San Francisco, CA (PRBuzz.com) November 19, 2012 -- A recent study offers statistical evidence consumers now think auto insurers are doing a better, fairer job. The J.D. Power and Associates 2012 U.S. Auto Claims Satisfaction Study has found people filing insurance claims are more satisfied with the settlements they receive. The most important factor behind increased consumer satisfaction was a greater perception that settlements were fair.
For the fifth straight year, the top-ranked firm for overall satisfaction was Auto-Owners Insurance; it drew a score of 887 out of a possible on 1,000 points. Next came Amica Mutual and Erie Insurance, tied with 876 each. There was another tie for fourth place, between the AAA-affiliated Automobile Club of Southern California and COUNTRY, with 874 points apiece.
Among all respondents, there was a six-point average gain in overall satisfaction score, rising to 852 points, and a nine-point improvement in the average score for the settlement factor, up to 846. In fact, this year's index showed gains in five of its six components.
The study noted a major improvement by insurers this year in offering a range of options by which claimants can keep abreast of progress on their claim. This year, 64% of those surveyed said they had been offered options for tracking the claim, up from 61% in last year's survey.
Failure to communicate and keep claimants informed can lead them to doubt the fairness of the settlement offer, and may protract or complicate negotiations, hurting overall satisfaction rates. In fact, the most significant factor for claimants in determining their overall satisfaction with a settlement was their perceptions of the offer's fairness.
Respondents whose vehicles had been totaled had a 16% increase in their settlements. The average settlement for totaled vehicles climbed by almost $690 this year, prodded upward by rising values for used cars and trucks during large parts of this year.
The study also noted that satisfaction with settlements has increased overall, even though claimants on average spent more in the process. Average out-of-pocket costs for a claimant, including deductibles and other expenses, such as outlays for repairs or rental vehicles, rose to $403, a $26 increase over last year.
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Nelson Kent Hanson