Uncle Sam Steps In

State and federal governments save the day with insurance assistance for entrepreneurs.

You're having a dispute with your insurance company regarding a claim.The insurance company refuses to pay you a dime, you think you're entitled, and you've reached an impasse. Whom do you call for help--a lawyer or your state insurance commissioner?

Asking your state insurance commission for help is free to you and any other resident across the United States, and the commission has the power to mediate on your behalf. That's usually enough pressure to get your agent to cooperate. It can also fine your insurance company for wrongdoing or, as a last resort, take away its license to sell insurance in your state.

But the commission has no power to mandate how much you should be paid for your claim--it can only make a yes-or-no decision about whether your policy covers the situation for which you've made a claim. If your dispute is over the monetary amount of your claim, a lawyer might be more helpful than the commission.

"It really depends on the problem," says David Langenbacher, deputy commissioner for Consumer Services and Market Conduct with the California State Insurance Department. "We're successful in resolving many things, and if we can't, you still have the option of seeking the advice of an attorney."

Claire Tristram is a business and technology writer in San Jose, California.

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This article was originally published in the July 1999 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Uncle Sam Steps In.

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