Multi-State Agreement with State Farm Will Result in $40 Million to Consumers
PIERRE, S.D. – Attorney General Larry Long said today that South Dakota and 48 other states plus the District of Columbia have reached an innovative agreement with State Farm Mutual Insurance Company which will result in $40 million in compensation to thousands of car, SUV, and truck owners nationwide.
Long said that after titling research is complete, an estimated 30,000 consumers nationwide may be eligible for payments ranging from about $400 up to over $10,000, depending primarily on the current average value of their vehicle, and the number of consumers who participate in the compensation program. The states believe most payments are likely to range from $800 to $1850.
Long said the agreement was reached soon after State Farm approached the states and indicated that in a small percentage of cases, it was unable to confirm that it had properly titled vehicles it had taken ownership of from policyholders due to damage or theft.
In most states, depending on factors such as vehicle age and extent of damage, insurance companies taking ownership in such situations must obtain "branded titles," indicating the vehicles are "salvage," "damaged," or similarly-named titles. State Farm’s records showed that it had properly titled approximately 2.4 million vehicles in recent years that may have required a "branded title," but that it could not confirm whether a much smaller number may not have been properly titled. Payment will go to the current owners of vehicles that may require branded titles.
"We are pleased to see that State Farm has brought this to the attention of the attorneys general and I am glad to sign on to this agreement to make money available to affected South Dakota consumers," said Long. "We hope this agreement will encourage other companies to step forward when necessary, take responsibility, improve practices, and make things right for consumers."
In addition to the $40 million for consumers, State Farm also will pay the expense for the major project of identifying the vehicles, tracing the current owners, contacting owners, taking claims from owners, and making compensation payments. In the "Assurance of Voluntary Compliance," or agreement with the states, State Farm also makes assurances about how it presently conducts its practices, as well as in the future.
Long said that consumers who complete a claim form and are approved will receive a compensation payment from State Farm later this year or early 2006. Under the agreement, State Farm will work with state departments of motor vehicles in the coming months to determine in each state the specific vehicles which require a branded title. The owners of those vehicles will receive a letter from the consumer’s home state Attorney General with a claim form to complete and return to an independent Claims Administrator company already approved by the States to administer the notification and compensation program. After all claims are in, the amount each consumer will receive will be finalized and checks mailed.
The final amounts received by consumers will depend on the current value of their vehicle and how many consumers elect to participate in the payment program. Payments will be made to the owners of currently-registered vehicles and will be based on the current average retail value of the vehicle.
It is expected that current owners of eligible vehicles will be contacted by Fall 2005, after the identification process is completed. State Farm also is making a payment of a total of $1 million to all the state participants for consumer education, future consumer litigation, public protection, local consumer aid funds, and attorney fees and costs.
Consumers with questions are encouraged to contact the State Farm toll-free hotline at 1-866-858-1142.