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What’s our attorneys’ pick for the best auto insurance company in 2015?

Our recommendation  for the car insurance company that, from the lawyer’s perspective, treats accident victims and consumers best

Auto Owners insurance

Last week, I announced our 2015 picks for the best and worst auto insurance companies. These recommendations are unique from other services that recommend the best and worst insurance companies, because they come from real lawyers, based upon real cases and real clients who were seriously hurt in automobile accidents.

As attorneys, we see just how insurance companies treat people after the crash, when people who bought insurance need help the most. This is very different from websites that evaluate insurance companies.

I’ll be writing future blog posts on why our attorneys chose each car insurance company on our own best and worst list. Today, I’d like to announce my pick for best auto insurance company for 2015.

First, the bad news: This year, only one insurer even made our list of best insurance companies.

The good news is that overall, this auto insurance company treats its customers quite well:

Auto-Owners Insurance Company.

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Our full guide includes more information on each insurer and tips on how to choose the insurance company that’s right for you and your family. You can order a hard copy of the guide or download it for your Smartphone.

Auto-Owners Insurance Company topped my list of best auto insurance companies for 2015 for the following reasons:

  • Auto-Owners auto insurance prices are among the least expensive. When compared with Michigan’s other largest auto insurers, Auto-Owners’ auto insurance prices were among the least expensive in all 16 of the major Michigan markets examined.
  • Auto-Owners pays the largest percentage of premiums on claims. Among Michigan’s largest auto insurers, Auto-Owners topped the list for paying out the largest percentage of its premium dollars in claims for its auto insurance customers, according to loss ratio data gathered by the Michigan Department of Insurance and Financial Services (DIFS). For instance, for every premium dollar Auto-Owners receives from Michigan drivers, it pays out approximately $.74 in auto accident claims submitted by its auto-insurance customers.
  • Auto-Owners rated “Among the best” in the J.D. Power 2014 U.S. Auto Insurance Study. This study ranks auto insurers based on “overall customer satisfaction with auto insurance companies …” Auto-Owners also received the “Among the best” rating in 2012 and 2013. Between 2009-2011, Auto-Owners was rated “Better than most.” “Among the best” is the highest J.D. Power rating. “Better than most” is the second highest. “About average” is third. And the lowest is the below-average rating of “The rest.”
  • Auto-Owners rated “Better than most” in the J.D. Power 2014 U.S. Auto Claims Satisfaction Study. This study ranks auto insurers based on “[o]verall customer satisfaction with the auto insurance claims process …” Auto-Owners also received the “Better than most” rating in 2013. Between 2009 and 2012, Auto-Owners received the J.D. Powers highest rating, “Among the best.”
  • Auto-Owners received high ratings from ConsumerReports.org. Among Michigan’s largest auto insurers, Auto-Owners earned the second-highest score in ConsumerReports.org’s 2014 “Car Insurance Ratings,” which measures ConsumerReports.org’s readers’ “overall satisfaction” with auto insurance companies. On a scale of 0 to 100, Auto-Owners scored an 86, which means consumers were between “completely satisfied” and “very satisfied.” In 2013, Auto-Owners scored an 91 on ConsumerReports.org’s 2013 auto insurer ratings, which measured ConsumerReports.org’s “subscribers’ overall satisfaction with how their claims were handled.”

Our analysis is based on real cases from Michigan Auto Law, specific instances of anti-consumer behavior by auto insurers, consumer complaints trends, prices, value for premium dollar and auto insurer ratings from J.D. Powers and Associates and consumerreports.org.

But not all is roses with Auto-Owners

Complaints from Michigan consumers have increased.

Consumer complaints against Auto-Owners increased 21% between 2007 and 2013, according to data gathered by the Michigan Department of Insurance and Financial Services (DIFS). However, between 2007 and 2013, consumer complaints against Auto-Owners steadily declined by 31%.

And while I picked Auto Owners this year, it was not without some personal reservations from my own experiences as an attorney. I take issue with what I regard as a very anti-consumer position that Auto-Owners took in a recent case that reached the Michigan Supreme Court and changed Michigan law. The case resulted in a ruling that has caused terrible hardship, and [in my opinion], also substantial injustice to Michigan auto accident victims whose serious injuries have confined them to a wheelchair for life and forced them to rely on modified vans for their transportation needs.

In essence, Auto-Owners convinced the Michigan Supreme Court to issue a ruling in Admire v. Auto-Owners Insurance Company that denies essential No Fault transportation benefits to catastrophically injured auto accident victims.

Here are some more legal details of the Admire case: Kenneth Admire was able to walk, bicycle, ride a motorcycle or drive a car before car-motorcycle crash left him confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life. When Mr. Admire requested No Fault cover the cost of a van large enough to accommodate his wheelchair – which under Michigan’s No Fault law, Auto Owners was responsible – Auto-Owners said “no.”

It’s important to emphasize that until this time, auto insurers in Michigan have been paying identical No Fault claims for catastrophically injured auto accident victims for years.

Unfortunately for terribly injured auto accident victims, Michigan’s insurers have been aggressively appealing cases and changing the state’s No Fault laws in recent years, hoping to capitalize on what they perceive as a more insurance company-friendly and anti-consumer Supreme Court (the Michigan Court is currently composed of five Republican Justices, and two Democratic Justices).

The Michigan Supreme Court sided with Auto-Owners.

The Court ruled the van cost was not covered by No Fault because “the essential character of [Mr. Admire’s] preinjury need for transportation has not changed” – despite the undisputed facts that he could no longer walk, he was confined to a wheelchair and, for transportation, he required “a van large enough for [him] to get in and out while remaining in his wheelchair.”

Setting aside my own real problems as an auto accident attorney with Auto-Owners’ legal position in the Admire case – and the auto insurer’s role in causing a ruling that will cause tremendous hardship to hundreds of people and devastate dozens of families that were dependent on No Fault – I nevertheless decided to recommend Auto-Owners for “Best Insurance Company” for 2015 for the reasons stated above.

Plus, it would be hard to have to write a “best insurance company guide” for 2015, without naming at least one auto insurance company as best for 2015.

I did come close to changing the title from “best” to “least bad,” but it just didn’t have the same ring to it.

Of course, I still have plenty of cases and lawsuits with Auto-Owners these days. Just as with any insurance company, there are some very good and professional claims adjusters and lawyers, and some nasty ones. But overall, Auto Owners is the best for 2015.

Our attorneys would like to hear from you. How to do you feel about Auto-Owners and what kind of experiences have you had with this insurer?

Stay tuned for next week, when I’ll blog about the first “worst” auto insurance company on my list, State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company.

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Blog Author Steven M. Gursten
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