I am privileged once again to report upon the State of New York Department of Financial Services’ recently-published 2018 Automobile Insurance Complaint Ranking.
The 2018 “Annual Ranking,” based upon data for the calendar year 2017, ranks all 159 automobile insurance companies actively doing business in New York state. As in the past, this report ranks the individual companies themselves, rather than just the corporate groups of which those companies may be members. This method of listing is intended to give consumers a more accurate picture of their insurer’s performance. Also, as in the past, insurers are ranked based upon a complaint ratio, which is determined by the number of private passenger automobile insurance complaints upheld against them and closed by the Department of Financial Services, as a percentage of their average total private passenger automobile premium volume in New York State over a two-year period.
In 2017, the Department received a total of 3,367 private passenger auto insurance complaints (down from 3,872 in 2014), of which 394 (down from 444 in 2014) were upheld. Neither commercial auto complaints nor complaints made directly to the insurer are included in determining the complaint ratios. Complaints either not upheld by the Department or withdrawn by the consumer are also not included in the calculations of the ratios. An upheld complaint occurs when the Department agrees with a consumer that an auto insurer made an inappropriate decision. Typical complaints are those involving such issues as delays in the payment of no-fault claims, and nonrenewals of policies. Complaints about the value of monetary settlements and policy terminations are also common.
The 2017 average complaint ratio for all companies was 0.0305 per $1 million in premiums (down from 0.03473 in 2014). This average ratio was derived by dividing the number of complaints upheld against all companies in 2017 (394) by the average premium for 2017 for all companies ($12,938,319 million, or $12.93 billion) (up from $11,016,405 or $11.01 billion in 2014). The average number of upheld complaints per company was 2.5 (down from 2.6 in 2014).
The first chart lists the “Top 84,” i.e., the 84 companies with the fewest upheld complaints against them, or, the best performers of 2017—each of which achieved a complaint ratio of 0.00. Although these companies all have the same complaint ratio, they are ranked differently because of the differences in their average annual premiums.
The second chart reveals the opposite side of the spectrum; it lists the “Bottom 25,” the 25 auto insurers with the worst performance record for the calendar year 2017. In that chart, the company with the highest (worst) ratio is listed first; the company with the lowest ratio is listed last.
The third, and last, chart, denominated “The ‘Big Ten’,” separately lists the performance of the 10 largest auto insurers in New York, as measured by their premiums written.
It should be noted that the Department urges readers or users of its ranking to consider that “large insurance companies doing a lot of business typically generate more complaints than smaller companies, so while ratios may allow you to compare small companies with large companies by looking at complaints as a percentage of premiums written, only one or two additional upheld complaints per year can have a significant impact on a smaller insurer.” The Department also notes that “Because the ranking includes all of the auto insurers in New York, some must be at the bottom of each year’s list even if every company is performing well.” Finally, the Department advises consumers that “While this ranking might provide information to consider when choosing an insurance company, it should not be your only consideration,” and suggests that the consumer visit the “Automobile Owners Resource Center” of its website for more information on shopping for auto insurance.
With those caveats in mind, I present here the pertinent charts:
Copies of the Department of Financial Services’ annual rankings may be obtained free of charge by calling the Department’s toll-free telephone number: (800) 342-3736. In addition, the annual rankings are accessible on the Department’s website. Complaints against insurance companies may be filed on-line at https://www.dfs.ny.gov.
Jonathan A. Dachs is a partner at Shayne, Dachs, Sauer & Dachs in Mineola. He is the author of New York Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Law & Practice (LexisNexis/Matthew Bender 2016, 2017, 2018).