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Looking up complaints against an insurance company before you apply for a policy can tell you a lot, and it might even affect your decision.
The National Association of Insurance Commissioners collects complaint data on insurers from the states and shares that information on its website. You can find out how a company’s complaints compare with other insurers that are about the same size, and what the complaints are about.
Complaints on the NAIC’s site include:
- Auto insurance, for personal (private passenger) or commercial use
- Homeowners insurance
- Life insurance, either individual or group policies
- Health insurance, either individual plans or group insurance through an employer
Here’s how to find complaints about an insurer.
Step 1: Search by insurance company name
- Go to the NAIC’s Consumer Information Source.
- On the right, type in the name of an insurance company and select “life/accident/health” or “property/casualty,” which includes auto and home insurance. Using “all” can return a lot of extra results, so it’s best to be specific here.
- Select “find a company.”
Step 2: Choose the right subsidiary
The site may show you several companies with similar names. Here are some tips for figuring out the correct company name:
- For an insurer you already use, find the specific subsidiary name on one of your policy documents
- The NAIC lists a state for each subsidiary’s head office. The correct subsidiary on the list should have the same state as the address for your insurer on the policy documents or on its website.
- Some insurers publish their NAIC company numbers on their websites. That should match a number listed in your search results.
When you find the subsidiary name you want, select “closed complaints.”
Step 3: Choose a complaint report
The NAIC offers four types of complaint reports. These two are likely the most useful:
- Closed complaint counts by code: This shows you data, including the reasons complaints were filed.
- Closed complaint ratio report: This shows you the insurer’s complaint ratio, which is a number that expresses the level of complaints adjusted for market share. Larger insurers may get more complaints based on their bigger customer base.
Looking at closed complaint counts by code
Selecting “closed complaint counts by code” brings you to a screen with drop-down options.
- Select your state in the first list, or “all” if you want a national report.
- For the second menu, select “Insured.”
- Select a year. Tip: Choosing last year’s report will give you a recent, full year’s worth of data and a better idea of common complaints than using the current year.
Select “create report” and you’ll get three types of lists:
- Complaints by coverage type
- The reasons complaints were submitted
- Final decisions regarding complaints
Looking at closed complaint ratio report
Selecting “closed complaint ratio report” after you choose the subsidiary will give you an idea of how your insurer compares with other insurers of a similar size.
- Select the type of insurance for which you’d like to see a report. It might not be self-explanatory. For example, “private passenger” is personal auto insurance.
- If you’re looking up health, accident or life insurance complaint reports, select “group” if you get insurance from an employer or “individual” if you’re buying a policy on your own.
- Choose the latest full year available.
- Once you select “create report,” you’ll see a page with two tables and a graph in between them. Some things to note about this page:
- The red number in the bottom right corner of the first table is your insurer’s complaint ratio for that insurance type.
- The “median complaint ratio” from the NAIC is always 1.00, meaning half of insurers have a ratio above 1.00 and half have a ratio below.
- Numbers lower than 1.00 are better. Higher numbers mean more complaints than the median.
Your state may also have complaint data
Your state’s department of insurance may also have complaint data available by year. A recent NerdWallet study ranks state insurance departments based on how helpful they are. You can navigate to your state within that page to learn if it provides complaint information online and click through to your state insurance department website. You can also file a complaint of your own with your state insurance department or check whether insurers and agents are licensed.
Common complaints against insurers
In addition to providing insurer-specific complaint ratios and counts, the NAIC also publishes snapshots of the most common complaints for the industry. These reports are accessible from the bottom of the main consumer information source page. The three reports are:
- Reasons for complaint
- Complaints by type of insurance
- Disposition, or what happened with the complaints
Health and auto insurers receive more complaints than sellers of other types of insurance, according to the NAIC, each typically receiving 30% to 40% of all complaints each year.
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Across insurance types, the top complaints involve:
- Delays in handling claims
- Denied claims
- Unsatisfactory claim settlement offers
Other common complaints are for problems such as:
- Insurers canceling policies or not renewing them
- Premiums or billing
- Questions that are answered inadequately, delayed or never answered at all
- Requests for refunds