The Hartford Insurance Company Woes

October 20, 2010 at 04:40 PM ·

My name is Emily Grossman, and I once had a violin bow made by Sylvain Bigot. On Friday, August 13th, 2010, during a routine bow rehairing, the fumes from an open bottle of denatured alcohol met with an open flame and burst into fire. My bow suffered severe burns and was damaged beyond repair. "Mr. X", the man responsible for the accident, assured me that his insurance company, the Hartford, would cover the cost of the bow, and thus I was relieved.

August 26th, I closed things out with Mr. X, who gave me some figures and informed me that it may be a couple of weeks before I received my check reimbursing me for the value of the bow. Meanwhile, I had been forced to travel the country in search of a new bow to suit my needs. (I am a professional musician, and could not go without a bow.) I found one, and placed it on my credit card under the impression that I would be able to pay it off with my reimbursement.

Six weeks went by as I checked the mailbox for my check. At the end of September, I began making phone calls in order to ascertain the whereabouts of my check. After a week of queries, I finally spoke with an agent from the Hartford who knew absolutely nothing about my incident (he referred to my bow as "that stick thing you pull across the violin?"). He gave me some possible numbers for my claim and phone numbers that might give me results. I left a message.

My message was never returned. After contacting Mr. X again, he informed me that he had been unable to reach anyone on the claim, so he went to the supervisor of the claim, who informed him that the claim representative had been delayed by a question about the age of the bow, but rather than resolving the issue, had gotten married and gone on vacation. The paperwork had been sitting untouched for a month. Meanwhile, I received my credit card statement and was forced to pay it off with my own funds. This caused unwarranted financial stress to my business and my personal life. I called again, checking to see if the claim had been settled, wanting to know if they had the proper mailing address for my reimbursement. I was redirected to a new representative, who treated the claim as though it had never been handled, asking me basic questions that should already have been on file. They told me they would call me in the morning and let me know the status of my claim.

Two days went by before I heard back, and at this point, I was informed that the bow's replacement value was $5857, that they had taken into consideration the depreciation over the five years since it was made, and that they were only responsible for $4392.75, $500 of which would be payed by Mr X as a deductible.  Three times I explained that instruments do not depreciate. We got nowhere; I was unable to reasonably discuss anything, so I ended the conversation.

The Hartford Insurance Company employs agents that operate under the false assumption that fine instruments depreciate over time, which eventually deems them completely valueless. Using the logic that was tossed at me, my bow would have been completely worthless, had it been more than twenty years old.

I am incredulous that the American String Teacher's Association recommends the Hartford for coverage, and am contacting them about this ordeal. These accounts I share with you in hopes that you may avoid future incidences such as this. I would never suggest that anyone should insure their instrument with a company that treats their clients with the ignorance and general mismanagement that I have received from the Hartford to date.

Replies (46)

October 20, 2010 at 06:16 PM ·

I use Clarion to insure my instruments. They are covered at 100% of the value stated when I renew. If a value has increased, I can modify the schedule if I can justify it. ( an appraisal will suffice). They are very reasonable, and cover my instruments if I am gigging, or just jamming, even if I loan one to someone.  In this case, your issue is with the person who damaged your bow. If his insurance company does not reimburse you for the true value of the bow, he is responsible for the difference.

October 20, 2010 at 07:46 PM ·

Charles,

I went to the online quote request for Clarion and filled out the first page of personal information (address, age, email etc) which is necessary for a quote but when I tried to go to the second one a page came up saying that they do not provide insurance outside the US.  This DESPITE permitting me to enter Ontario Canada and a canadian ZIP code on the previous page.  I'm furious - they now have all that personal information without any service.

So warning to any non-US V.com members - this company is not for you!

Elise

October 20, 2010 at 07:49 PM ·

A.  Mr. X needs to do some research into this company.  I assume this happened at a business?  They obviously have no understanding of stringed instruments, and he needs better insurance.  He's damned lucky he's dealing with a $6000 bow here and not an $80,000 instrument.

B.  The first agent is a moron.  He's playing the common insurance game of "if we ignore her, she'll go away."

C.  The second agent is a moron.  It doesn't take much specialized knowledge to know that stringed instruments often increase in value.  The use of "Strad" and "Amati" in countless crossword puzzles is proof of this.  He probably finds it unbelievable that "one of those sticks you drag across the hair"  could cost more than $20.

What does the hapless Mr. X have to say about this situation?  It really is his responsibility; there's no grey area here.  The bow didn't break while undergoing a risky repair, he set it on fire!  It didn't go up in smoke in a building fire, either.  He set your bow on fire!  Accidentally or not, it doesn't matter.  What his insurance company doesn't cover, he should.

Sic 'em.

October 20, 2010 at 08:10 PM ·

You shouldn't have to deal with HIS insurance company. HE is liable for your loss, and it's no concern of yours whether or not he has insurance - they are there to cover his liability. He is responsible for the bow's full value, and if his insurers won't cover that, it's his loss.

To set a more common scenario - my daughter (21) has her own car. It costs a small fortune to insure because of her age. I could say it's mine and insure it that way. However, if she has an accident and is liable for many thousands of pounds of damages, I would expect the insurers to say - "Sorry. You didn't tell us the correct details. Your insurance is invalid" And quite right too. However, that would be OUR loss - we'd still be liable for the damages.

Mr. X is responsible for your loss. He has to pay it and then try and recover the amount from HIS insurance company. If he wasn't insured, would you just accept that you wouldn't get anything?

 

October 20, 2010 at 09:51 PM ·

Just to set matters straight, it is fully understood that Mr X is liable.  The point of this topic is that Hartford Insurance, which may have at one point been a good source for businesses dealing with fine instruments, seems to have made recent adjustments to their policies.  This, combined with their incompetent staff, makes them an inappropriate choice for anyone who wants the financial security that insurance is supposed to provide.  My issue is with how the insurance company has treated the situation, not with Mr. X.

October 20, 2010 at 11:09 PM ·

Let's expand this a bit.

I agree with Emily's point about Hartford. I do, however, think we can all protect ourselves a bit by asking our insurance company, in writing, what their policy is, and request a written response.

File the response with the policy.

If they do not respond, consider another insurance company.

This should also be applied to other things we value and have insured. 

October 20, 2010 at 11:18 PM ·

Hartford was the city of a great violin collector...Mr.Havemayer... All Hartford citizens know about this very famous man who was the first in America to own the Kochanski del Gesù... Maybe that  Insurance Hartford company should aknowledge that Mr. Havemeyer paid 10,000$ for the Kochanski,circa 1885... and that Rosand just sold it for 10 Millions... I believe that Mr. Havemayer was in the insurance business and one of the richest man in America at the time...

October 20, 2010 at 11:56 PM ·

What type of insurance/coverage does Mr.X have with The Hartford?

Just curious, b/c I have an inland marine policy w/ The Hartford - are there other types of policies to cover musical instruments?

October 21, 2010 at 12:45 AM ·

And, Marc, how do the fabulously rich insurance magnates become fabulously rich?  Has to do with taking in more in premiums than paying out in claims, I think.

October 21, 2010 at 04:36 AM ·

Insurance companies are pleased to take your premiums, but when TSHTF  it suddenly becomes a negotiation. Either the agents are idiots, or they believe the insured client is and idiot, and can be fobbed off with lame excuses.

However, as was mentioned, you, Emily, are not the insured party. It is not your problem. Your problem is Mr X. You need to assemble a file with the necessary information, including the appraised value of the bow, the loss of income from not having its use, the amount you spent in obtaining  a replacement, and any interest you will have paid on the purchase. Then find a pitbull lawyer and sue the bastard. Include the Hartford Co in your suit. That will get their attention. It will become a lot cheaper for all involved to deal with you than to spend a lot of time and money in the courts.

Negative publicity also costs companies money. You might be able to purchase an internet domain for something like Hartfordsucks.com, and see who else would like to comment. Buy a share of Hartford stock and go to the annual stockholders' meeting. You can speak to the board, the audience and the financial reporters there, if you care to go to that sort of extreme, and if you have some time on your hands.

All of life is a game. It all hangs on how motivated you might be to play, and how deeply you want to dive into it, and what else you might rather be doing.

Usually this sort of thing only goes up a couple levels in the company, and reasonable settlements are reached, in which, if they are equitable, everyone comes out feeling somewhat burned.

October 21, 2010 at 08:47 AM ·

Well, you have described the exact situation I am trying to avoid, since "Mr. X" is my friend.  I'm just not really that into burning my friends at the stake. 

October 21, 2010 at 04:26 PM ·

Emily,

As Mr. X is your friend, can you count on you being his friend also? Possibly have a chat with him, and ask him to intercede, and interact with the company. He is the one with merit to them; if they do not satisfy him, he will likely not continue with them, and they will lose revenue. To them, you are marginal and with little standing.

I am not saying that you should do anything specific, or not do anything specific. Just keep him in the process, where he belongs. Do not try and to things that are probably more appropriately done by him.

October 21, 2010 at 06:15 PM · I've had business dealings with them on claims, and same types of experiences. Sometimes in dealing with an insurance co., a suit, even in small claims court, has to be filed against the insured party, then the insurance company has an obligation to provide a legal defense, which costs them money out of pocket, sometimes more than the value of the claim....just sayin'... Suit like that doesn't have to harm a friendship- business is business, etc.

October 21, 2010 at 06:21 PM ·

Friends  don't destroy friends' property and then fail to make good.

Actually, sometimes they do.

So you might just have to suck it up and write off the loss. And get your new bow rehaired somewhere else.

Will this situation damage the friendship anyway, if it is not fairly resolved? Or can everyone rise above crass economic considerations. After all, it's only money. No lives were lost, no archetiers were injured in the making of this movie.

October 21, 2010 at 06:28 PM ·

Was your bow insured? Possibly you could salvage the friendship by letting your insurer communicate with his insurer, not forcing you or Mr. X to be on point for this.

October 21, 2010 at 06:40 PM ·

Right Lisa...

October 21, 2010 at 06:46 PM ·

Tom's got it right.  Going to court will make the insurance company sit up and take notice, and doesn't have to mean anything real against the supposed friend (whose behavior on this issue so far has NOT sounded friend-like to me at all).

The insurance company will be on the hook for any court judgment, unless there is a specific coverage limitation.  In that case, if you want your 'friend' to be off the hook for any remaining balance, just don't pursue it.

October 21, 2010 at 07:22 PM ·

Update: 

Monday, the company said it would honor the full value if he could produce a document from the maker/dealer declaring it a "collectible."  Mr. X contacted a person who sells Bigot's bows here in the US, who promptly produced the required statement. 

The Insurance company called to try to get me to find a "middle ground" with them and settle for the cost of my replacement bow.  I told them that was in no way acceptable, that I bought what I could afford at the time, that the whole trip came out of my own pocket, that if I had tried maintaining my business of teaching and performing the last two months with no bow, I would have no job.  I told them not to contact me any more, hung up and called Mr. X and told them what they had done.  He'd been unaware that they were trying to do this.  He talked with the company one more time, called me back, and said they had finally agreed to pay the full replacement value of the bow.  They are supposed to finish out the claim today.

October 21, 2010 at 08:06 PM ·

If you still have a problem, you might mention the discussion here and provide a link - one thing they do not want to happen is that other customers discover their shoddy sevice.  And while the cat might be out of the bag on that one, they could surely save some face by putting the matter right.

 

October 21, 2010 at 09:52 PM ·

Sorry about the bow ( I am also waiting to receive  my Bigot  Bow  in December...), but it´s nice to hear that they will finally pay for the whole value.  Does anyone have any experience  with "Lark Inssurances from the U.K? This story made me wonder about my policy...

November 1, 2010 at 08:35 AM ·

 

The VP of small business claims called me specifically to apologise for the way my claim had been handled. A musician himself, he'd reviewed the mismanagement of my claim by ignorant case workers and "couldn't bear the thought of going home" without first contacting me to apologise for the whole thing. He promised to educate his employees about the non-depreciative value of fine instruments.

I told him my stomach got sick when I retreived his phone call, since I worried the issue was still unresolved: to this date I have not received my reimbursement. I then thanked him for his apology and went to check the mail.

November 1, 2010 at 11:05 AM ·

Asful tale - but a glimmer of hope with the VP's cal - he didn't say what instrument he played did he?  Perhaps violin/  Perhaps he's on here ??

[Aside: can anyone recommend a company in Canada?]

November 4, 2010 at 08:09 PM ·

Still no settlement check.  I contacted the company once more, who informed me that they sent the check to the man who burned my bow.  The check cleared a week ago, and I have not heard from him, though I tried contacting him twice.

November 4, 2010 at 09:23 PM ·

so now it's the "man who burned" the bow instead of "the friend"... I hope that's temporary and it gets sorted out.  Did you ask the insurance man if they made the check out to both of you at least?  That's standard practice, because if you don't get paid,  you can still file suit against the man who burned and the insurance company is on the hook to defend that claim.  They can't use paying him alone as a defense to your claim.  If the company made it out to both of you and he cashed it without your endorsement, the vocabulary changes again.

November 4, 2010 at 09:51 PM ·

Let me get this straight:

  • HE set your bow on fire.
  • YOU travelled the country trying to find a suitable replacement.
  • He made you negotiate with HIS insurance company.
  • They sent HIM a check for the amount YOU negotiated.
  • HE cashed the check.  A week ago.
  • HE won't return your phone calls.

Wow.  Do you have a nice fireproof, unbreakable carbon fiber or graphite bow you can beat this man with?  Either that or take out an ad in the local newspaper outlining this story.  It just doesn't end.  He should have reimbursed you immediately and then dealt with his insurer to cover it.

November 4, 2010 at 10:07 PM ·

Time for a lawyer.

November 4, 2010 at 11:06 PM ·

Emily, what is his name?  Tell him that you will post his name and the name of his business here unless he returns your call and gets you that money.  Then, make good on it.  If he tries to act like you are doing anything illegal by posting his name, you can just tell him that you would welcome the opportunity to go through the entire chain of events before witnesses in a court of law.

November 4, 2010 at 11:22 PM ·

Emily the best advice I can give you is to go and see Mr X personally. He must have a working address. There may be a reason why he is not returning your calls. A face to face meeting may sort out things amicably.

November 4, 2010 at 11:28 PM ·

Heh, I'm in Alaska and he is on the East Coast.  However, since he is a participating member of this website, he is certainly aware of this thread, which makes his behavior all the more interesting...

November 5, 2010 at 07:10 AM ·

Then name and shame could be the game.

If he is a member of v.com he will be in for a rough ride and he will know it.

November 5, 2010 at 09:23 PM ·

Does this mean that all the STrads are worthless?

November 5, 2010 at 11:41 PM ·

 This just sounds horrible! I'm angered at how anyone can treat anyone else's precious belongings so stupidly, never mind all of the emotional and financial stresses and strains caused AND the rest... 

This man should be named and shamed! That will get him running to you to give you the money in no time *steams out of the ears* 

Good luck! I hope you get this sorted soon! 

November 6, 2010 at 10:46 PM ·

I hope you get your check soon. The insurance industry is very much about the run around, hoping that by the time you get a greatly reduced amount, you are so tired of investing time and energy, that you end up being grateful for what you get. So sorry for all your troubles, the trauma of losing a bow is bad enough. Best of luck!

November 6, 2010 at 10:58 PM ·

Messing up her bow for starters

She was left financially starkers

It is then no surprise 

When you realize 

That his guts are now worn for garters.

November 10, 2010 at 10:23 AM ·

I received my check for the full value of the bow today.  

November 10, 2010 at 10:41 AM ·

Great news.  Well done on persisting - and glad to see people came to their senses eventually.

Now, what about a replacment?

November 10, 2010 at 11:12 AM ·

I'd already replaced it with an excellent Nurnberger. 

November 10, 2010 at 01:21 PM ·

Well congratulations on your new right hand buddy :) 

And now, about your next insurance company...

November 10, 2010 at 03:29 PM ·

@Emily,

Great choice.  I remember you were also considering a Hill.  I did not want to influence your decision at the time, so I didn't say anything, but I was hoping you would choose the Nurnberger.  Old German bows are really the best bang for the buck right now for professional grade bows.  Last year, I bought a Ludwig Bausch and it is really a fabulous stick.  It has lots of volume with a bit of edge, handles martele and sautille very well, and at the same time is delicate.  It's hard to describe, but it is a perfect combination of all the elements one would want in a bow.  Maybe one day (when I am good) I might want something else, but for now, it does everything I need.

 

November 11, 2010 at 10:47 AM ·

I wholeheartedly agree with you, Smiley.  Going into a bow trial, I always made a point to get to know each and every bow without first being informed of its pedigree: I was focused purely on functionality.  In the price range that I shopped, the Nurnberger bow I came across out-performed not only all the other bows, but the French bow I'd previously owned that had been appraised at a much higher value.  It only makes sense, when you think about the reason for the price tag on a good German bow: the sheer quantity of German-manufactured bows from that time period deems them rather commonplace, when compared to fine French bows of the same period.  But I could care less about the rarity of my bow, so long as it plays well.  The Nurnberger family trained under the same tutelage as the French, and their craftmanship has proven quite outstanding.  This is why I consider them to be such a steal.  Be warned, though: word's out, and gettting your hands on one for a bargain is becoming increasingly difficult.

November 12, 2010 at 08:59 PM ·

Didn't Oistrakh play on a Nurnberger?

I'd have thought that was a pretty good recommendation

November 12, 2010 at 10:30 PM ·

I'm sorry about your whole bow issue.

Even though it's resolved, and I'm glad it is, I'll put my two cents in.

If you didn't hear back from the guy who destroyed your bow, and he recieved a check from the insurance company, not giving you the check IS insurance fraud.  You wouldn't need a lawyer, the insurance company would take care of that + they would cancel his policy and blacklist him.

What a lousy businessman, to not have paid for your bow outright, and taken on the burdeon of dealing with the insurance company by himself.

Being a traveler, I think it would be in your best interest to hold your own policy.  Like someone mentioned above, Clarion is a pretty good one.  Years ago I was practicing and put my violin down on the top of a bookshelf, hung my bow off the music stand.  A truck came by and hit a pothole.  My apartment faced the street and was street level.  The vibrations came into the house and literally blew my violin off the bookcase.  I suppose part of it was an expulsion of air from within the violin because the violin literally leapt off the bookcase.  I couldn't believe what happened before my own eyes.  Clarion took care of everything (it was repaired by my own choice of luthier).

The Nurnberger was a good choice.  And Smiley, I've been after a nice Bausch for quite awhile now, they are really great bows.

 

 

November 12, 2010 at 11:09 PM ·

Michael the Insurance company only has an obligation to pay the person that is insured with them and who pays the premiums. Once the company has fulfilled their legal obligation to that person, their responsibility ends. What the bow maker does with the money is none of their concern, and is strictly a matter between the bow maker and his client. So as long as the bow maker pays his premiums he will be a valued customer, and the bow maker can take his business anywhere he wants to.  Luckily the bow maker had a comprehensive policy because the onus would have been on Emily to have a policy. If the bow maker did not pay Emily she would have legal recourse against him only.  

January 18, 2011 at 03:06 PM ·

You are assuming Mr. X is in Alaska!

January 19, 2011 at 04:33 AM ·

Emily already noted that that Mr. X was on the east coast, I believe.

Emily; Sorry to come late to the party... Based on your story, I assume you don't have insurance, because if you did, I believe you could have made a loss claim through your own company and they would have moved to subrogate the claim with Mr. X's company. I'd advise you to check with a carrier for clarification, as I am not employed within the insurance industry, though I am involved in claims/losses as a restorer and appraiser.. and what I described is my understanding of at least one way the whole claim system works.  If you don't have coverage, and can afford it, might be a good idea to get some.

Cheers,

Jeffrey

January 19, 2011 at 07:21 AM ·

That's a horrible story, Pierre!  I keep hearing all these horrible stories, and I realise now just how fortunate I was to be reimbursed at all.  So many things can go wrong when dealing with instruments and shady dealers and insurance companies.

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