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Volunteer Fire Department Collections

Published Friday, February 10, 2023 by Alan Holdren

Had to leave dinner! Risk your life! Insurance companies sometimes choose to not pay for your time or use of your equipment. Some local volunteer fire departments are facing this dilemma. I will agree that there are several viewpoints to this story and hopefully I can hit at least a few of them.

Fire Departments: Hey we showed up, risk our life, burnt up some diesel, took our boys away from the families for at least an hour or so and to top it off certain insurance providers treat us like they don’t care we are here.

Fire Victims: I did not even know we were responsible in anyway for this, I thought my taxes paid for this. Sorry, I can turn it in. Insurance agent? He acts as if I do not know what I am talking about.

Local Insurance Agent: Stuck with Corporate policies that may or may not be what the local fire departments (that most supports heavily and appreciate them more than we know) are stuck with a supplied policy or pat answer. They end up looking like the bad guy in many cases, which is not usually true.

Insurance Company: Denying a claim if the T’s are not crossed and I’s dotted is what they do. Many have simple policies and pay them based upon recommendations of their local agents and if within the language of the policy. One of the largest of these, probably the biggest auto carrier has a straightforward policy.

To summarize the different areas, fire departments need to look at a few areas to make sure the back end efforts are in place and are consistent with the requirements of those with the checkbooks (Insurance Companies). Make sure the bills are correct and comply with state statutes, make sure a Chief’s double check is in place, and mostly make sure quality information is obtained at the scene. The biggest issue we have found is where the address is located, because many times insurance companies will not pay if it is within a city limits of a municipality. Garbage info into the system will provide garbage collection results on the backend of the collection process. This is not a fun but necessary process when you need to bring an agency such at Atlas into play collecting these accounts.

Please be cautious that you do not get outside the aggressive level and meet all state requirements when pursuing payment on these, because in Indiana is a Class C Misdemeanor if you screw it up. No bill is worth hanging out with the “Big Johnny” in the Pokey for a few weeks.

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Dr. Steve Farmer M.D., Lead Physician, IU Health