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What you need to know about insurance 'steering'

Posted at 7:18 PM, Apr 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-21 20:20:06-04

TULSA, Okla. — "All of the sudden, this box just flew. It was huge, and it scared me to death," Jana Nash said.

Jana and her husband, Carl, were driving home from a funeral when they said a big screen TV box came flying from a truck in front of them, slamming their windshield.

"It was kind of weird," Carl said. "I saw it come out, and I was slowing down when all of the sudden, bam!"

Nobody was hurt, but Jana said it left them paying their $500 deductible to get the windshield replaced.

"I'm very frustrated with my insurance company," she said.

Jana said she wanted a Toyota replacement, a high-quality replacement since they are paying their deductible. But her insurance company said that they didn't work directly with Toyota for repairs.

The insurance agent, though, did recommend other repair shops.

"I thought it was steering, that they were steering me to someone who was in their network," Jana said.

Jason Johnston, an expert with the Oklahoma Insurance Department, said steering is illegal.

"The easy answer to this is they can have it repaired wherever they want," Johnston said. "It's their decision. No one else can make it for them."

But the OID said insurance companies could offer recommendations of where to have the repair done, and they can ask you to get estimates from other shops.

Your insurance company is required to pay fair market value for the repair called the reasonable and customary cost in insurance talk.

"I understand they need to make a profit, but I think if they're going to keep me as a customer, which is looking slim right now, I think they need to work for me," Jana said.

In Jana and Carl's case, it wasn't steering in legal talk. If they chose a replacement windshield costing more than what's considered reasonable and customary, which is certainly their right, they could end up paying the difference. That's in addition to the $500 deductible they have to pay no matter where they get their shattered windshield replaced.

"I should be able to choose," Jana said. "We have four vehicles and a home with them. For 30 years, I think I've earned it."

To determine the reasonable and customary cost of a repair, the OID said insurance companies usually use a survey of repair shops in your area. That's why experts suggest you get two or three estimates if possible, so you know if your insurance company is treating you fairly.

If you think your insurance company has illegally directed you to a shop, you can file a complaint with the Oklahoma Insurance Department for them to investigate. You can call 800-552-0071, or file a complaint online.

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