Farmers Taking Action Against Windshield Claim Fraud

Farmers Insurance Exchange, which operates in 41 states, has filed suit against a West Coast auto glass company that it says defrauded it through phony windshield claims. According to the insurer this is part of an ongoing investigative effort to uncover such activity.

The lawsuit against Legacy Auto Glass International, Spokane, Wash., and its president, David Nibarger, was filed recently in the Superior Court of the State of California for Alameda County. (See glassbytes™ January 13 for more complete information on this suit. According to a report from a local television station in Spokane Legacy closed its call center just before Thanksgiving and laid off the rest of its employees in December; glassbytes™ was unable to find any way of contacting Legacy Auto Glass or David Nibarger.)
"By secretly manipulating the system, this type of scheme leads to millions of dollars in false claims. This is not simply a billing error; our Special Investigative Unit has developed concrete evidence that this was a deliberate effort to defraud Farmers and its policyholders," said Doug Ashbridge, director of special investigations for the company. "Farmers wants to not only recover the money taken and prevent further phony claims, but the goal is also to make others think twice before submitting false claims."

Ashbridge went on to state, "We have these same issues in at least a few cases, that is people charging for work that's not done or changing incorrectly. We find that this activity is sporadic but we find aspects of this fraud in a wide variety of places." Farmers has teams designed to detect precisely this type of fraudulent activity, according to the insurance executive who adds that similar investigations are proceeding nationwide.

Legacy's Legacy
According to industry sources, Legacy had operated a call center staffed by more than 100 people, but it had only one store in Spokane and mobile repair and replacement services in 17 markets.

From late in 2003 into early 2004 a huge increase in the number of complaints from consumers about the shoddy work done by Legacy was observed. One industry person who received calls from consumers who had had work done by Legacy stated, "They must have really done a lot of shoddy work because of the type of complaints (leaks, etc.) and the number of them."

Ashbridge acknowledged in an interview with glassbytes™ that the original concern that alerted the company was the glass problems that clients reported. "Our agents expressed concern about the pattern they saw in the pricing from this company," he explained. "Then it was just a matter of following the paper and money trail to its logical end."

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