My saga begins last May, when my daughter graduated from college. Big day for all, but none bigger for me. I had never been able to buy a car for her, and shed gone through high school and college by riding the bus and catching rides with friends. I determined that I would get her a car for her graduation gift.
Not having a great deal of money available to me, I searched for months to find the right combination of safety, performance and looks. I finally found it in a 1984 Chevrolet Celebrity. It was everything I wanted for her. Cosmetically perfect, engine in good shape, air conditioner, radio all worked fine. Perfect for her to take to Austin, TX for graduate school.
I had brought her home for the weekend on October 2, 1998 with the intention of adding her to my insurance and getting the car set up for her to take back. Sunday, October 4, 1998 is when ALL THE TROUBLE STARTED. IT IS NOT OVER WITH YET.
Before you read this, understand that what Im saying is MY side of the story. Obviously, there are two sides to every story. I am not afraid to name names nor am I afraid to tell my story, for it is the truth.
OCTOBER 4, 1998
At approximately 1:00 p.m. I was driving the Chevy back home from the grocery store. I stopped for the traffic light. (In Texas you can turn right on red after coming to a stop). After making sure there was no oncoming traffic from ANYWHERE, I turned right (southbound) onto the outermost lane of the intersecting street and had driven clear of the intersection when a 1997 Dodge Stratus driven by Sherria Fort struck my car on the left side, causing damage to both doors and bending the center support such that neither door closes properly. Fort had been stopped at the light in the northbound turning lane. She had turned (according to her, anyway) with the light into the south bound lanes with the intention of driving into the parking lot of the NationsBank Damage to Forts car is limited to the front bumper. The impact spun me around, and I came to a stop sideways. Ms. Fort continued into the parking lot of the bank. I righted my car and drove around the bank to the parking lot where I joined Fort. I asked her if she was OK and said yes. She asked if I was hurt, and I said no. I asked her if shed been making a U-turn and she said, "no, I was going to the ATM machine." (Later, while we waited for the police she did, in fact, use the ATM machine.)
This is somewhat confusing, so I drew a picture of the intersection.
She gave me her insurance card and I wrote down all the information. I knocked on the door of the bank building and a gentleman (I think he was the cleaning man, as the bank was closed) called the police. We waited around for about half an hour (the police do not put non-injury accidents at a high priority; however, I think it funny to note that not one, but two police cruisers drove right past us. One of them even turned into the 7-11 store across the street). Finally, Ms. Fort suggested that we just exchange all the information and leave. Ms. Fort told me shed call her insurance company to file the claim. At about 2:00 p.m. we both left. (Exchanging information without calling the police is recommended by the Texas drivers handbook in non-injury situations. What they dont count on is perjority after the fact. More on that later.)
After I got home, I had the awful task of informing my daughter that the car Id just bought her had been hit. Now, she couldnt have it until it was repaired. This created some tears, but she took it pretty well, all things considered. After that I decided Id just go ahead and call the insurance company myself, and at approximately 2:30 p.m. I called the after hours number.
I gave the entire story to an operator named Sean. He said hed get the information to the claim center and that someone would contact me within 48 hours. I stressed to Sean that I was leaving on a business trip on 10/7/98 and that I needed to get the ball rolling before I left.
October 5, 1998 Someone from the claim center (the caller I.D detected the name), but did not leave any message.
October 6, 1998 11:00 a.m. I called the claim center. Spoke with Janet Spivey. No claim had been made by Fort. She could not begin the claims process without the policy number. That was the one piece of information I had neglected to write down.
October 6, 1998 11:30 a.m. I called Fort at her work to get her policy number. She said she didnt have it with her and that shed have to call the insurance company when she got home. I gave her Janet Spiveys name and number and stressed to her that she needed to call soon as I had bought the car to give to my daughter and that I had to get it repaired first. Again, she promised she would.
October 6, 1998 11:40 a.m. I called Janet Spivey back. Her voice mail picked up the call. Her message said to leave a detailed message and phone number and promised a call back within two hours. I gave the details of my conversation with Fort and left my work phone number for her to call back. Also gave her Forts work and home phone numbers.
October 6, 1998 2:25 p.m. Called Janet Spivey. Left message on voice mail. Asked again that she call me. This time I gave my work number, my cell phone number and my home number.
October 6, 1998 6:15 p.m. Called Fort at home. She promised to call the insurance company at 8:00 a.m. the next morning. She used as her excuse that she worked two jobs and didnt have time during the day. I became suspicious of her veracity at this point, but gave her the benefit of the doubt.
October 7, 1998 Left for Mobile AL on business. Checked the voice mail at my office, my cell phone and home. No messages from Farmers Insurance Group or from Fort.
October 9, 1998 12:30 p.m. After not hearing from anyone, I called Janet Spivey again Left message for her to call me. Gave the number in Mobile where she could reach me day or night.
October 9, 1998 1:30 p.m. Spivey called back. Fort had not called or filed a claim. I reiterated my previous conversations with Spivey and told her that I had spoken with Fort on Tuesday evening and that Fort had promised to call Spivey on Wednesday morning at 8:00 a.m. Spivey said shed contact Fort and get the ball rolling. I asked her to call me back when she got the information.
October 9, 1998 3:00 p.m. (approximately) Spivey called back. She had been able to get the policy number and was ready to take my claim information by phone. I gave her the details of the accident and she gave me a claim number (41214571). She said it would be Monday October 12, 1998 before a claims adjuster would be able to contact me. Since it was late Friday afternoon, I understood this. I asked her if I should start getting estimates, and she said that they had "C.O.D. shops" I could work with and avoid the hassle. I told her I didnt care who did the work as long as the car was repaired properly.
October 12, 1998 Sometime during the morning hours Travis Engel called and left a message to call when I returned from my trip. He left a number 817-831-6201.
October 12, 1998 3:00 p.m. I calledEngel and left message with receptionist
October 12, 1998 3:30 p.m. Travis Engel called. Took my statement (RECORDED MY STATEMENT). Said it seemed pretty straightforward. Said hed call fort and get back to me.
October 12, 1998 4:00 p.m. Engel called back. Said that based upon Forts statement that he "had to side with [his] client" and would not pay my claim. I quite naturally objected to this and asked for his supervisors review. He said hed take pictures of the accident site and my car, but said hed have to have someone at home before he could take pictures of the car. I asked him to call first, as my wife would be there to watch. He agreed to do so.
October 13, 1998 10:15 a.m. Engel called. Said hed taken pictures of the accident site and my car. NOTE: NOT ONLY DID HE NOT CALL, I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT HE TOOK PICTURES OF OR EVEN IF HE DID. Stuck to previous decision. Said his client had the right of way. I debated the right of any person to cross two lanes into a third lane while exiting a street. Didnt sway him. Asked for a call from his supervisor.
October 13, 1998 11:30 a.m. Received a call from Joel Autry, Branch Claims Supervisor. Said he wouldnt change the decision. Did admit that it appeared Fort was at least partially liable, but because there was no police report he wouldnt change the decision. Meanwhile, Farmers Insurance Group began the repair process on Forts car!!!
I requested a transcript of my statement and of Forts statement as I would need them for my attorney. Autry agreed to give a transcript of my recorded statement but refused to give me a transcript of Forts statement. He said it would take "a few days" to get it to me and that if I found an eyewitness to have them call him.
October 13, 1998 Placed an advertisement in the local newspaper for witnesses. Also distributed flyers in the area for witnesses.
October 18, 1998 Struck paydirt with a witness. That afternoon, Engel called to tell me that they had a technical problem with my statement and that they couldnt make a transcript because it didnt exist. I told him I had a witness, and he dismissed that but offered to take my statement again. I told him I wasnt going to waste my time again and that wed just have to wait for the discovery process in court.
October 21, 1998 -- I received a rejection notice from Farmers Insurance Group DATED October 13, 1998! (The letter was postmarked October 20!) It became abundantly clear to me what was going on. They had perfunctorily rejected the claim, with the full knowledge that I had located a witness! Not only that, they tried to make it sound like the accident was MY fault! Funny, if they really thought it was my fault, dont you think that theyd have tried to collect from my insurance company?
This thing is far from over. You see, right is right. I dont buy the BS of the claims adjuster who said he was taking his clients side. I even called him on that statement: Hes protecting Farmers Insurance Group. He could care less about "his client." We all realize that his sole function in life is to pay out as little as possible. We also know that they look for any excuse available to deny payments.
I began for a time to doubt myself in this thing. Then I contacted the DPS (Texas Department of Public Safety). I spoke to a drivers license examiner who had been a DPS patrol officer for years. After hearing my story, he told me that there would have been absolutely no doubt in his mind where the fault for the accident lay. He said that, based upon what Id told him, clearly I was entitled to have my car repaired.
I then got the opinion of a police officer in Fort Worth. He indicated he would have cited Fort, as she was clearly exiting the street, and did not have the right of way to cross into the lane my car was in.
Well, there you have it. I dont have a lot of money, and theyre counting on my giving up. Theyre wrong. Ive got an attorney who happens to be a good friend. She is giving me lots of free advice. If it comes time to sue, well do that, too.
The silliness of it all is that it would be so inexpensive to just repair my car than to take my time and theirs in the battle.
My campaign of letter writing is just beginning. Ive also created a miniature billboard for the inside of the car. I plan to park it in strategic locations on a daily basis. I really want to let the people know that if they do business with Farmers Insurance Group, they face the real possibility of being sued. Sherria Fort sure will be if my car isnt repaired. Ill keep updating this as things unfold.
Meanwhile, my daughter still doesnt have a car.
If you wish to contact me I can be reached at