Monday, September 12, 2011


I’m going to kill me some insurance agents, and maybe a whole mess of state insurance regulators if what I’m being told is true. I’m going to make their deaths as slow and painful as possible. And I’ll get away with it. That’s the great thing about being a writer. You can get even without worrying about getting caught because you can have one of the characters in your books do your dirty work for you.

So, you might ask what has caused me to go all lethal on the good hands men. Several weeks ago we lost power for 7 hrs. overnight. When we went to bed, there was plenty of room in the sump well. When we woke up the next morning, our finished basement had flooded. In the 13 years we’ve lived in this house, we’ve never had a problem, even the time the power was out for 3 days after Hurricane Floyd back in ‘99.

After arranging with a clean-up service to dry out and clean everything, we filed a claim with our insurance company. They opened a claim, gave us a claim number, and sent out an adjuster. You’d think that if an insurance company goes to all that trouble, that you’re covered, right? Guess again. The adjuster spent nearly an hour taking pictures and documenting the damage. Then he went back to his car and brought up our insurance policy on his computer. He came back into the house with the sobering news that our policy doesn’t cover us for damage that occurs due to sump pump failure.

I argued with him that the sump pump didn’t fail. It’s working perfectly. The problem was caused by a power failure. He said it didn’t matter; we had to have specific sump pump coverage.

Only as it turns out, you can’t buy this sort of coverage, not in New Jersey. About a year ago my husband met with our insurance agent to make sure we were covered for EVERY possible contingency that could strike our home. The agent never once mentioned that we needed specific sump pump coverage. So my husband called the agent to complain and learned that in New Jersey no insurance company can offer such coverage to homeowners.

Except that Hurricane Irene hit the following weekend, and I’m hearing endless commercials on the radio from insurance companies, telling people to file their claims as soon as possible. What’s the point if none of us is covered? Are those commercials only directed to residents of New York and Connecticut? Did New Jersey’s legislators and its insurance commission give their residents the shaft, or was our insurance agent handing us a crock of caca to cover his derrière? I still haven’t uncovered the truth.

Meanwhile, we have a $3,000 clean-up bill. I think that’s grounds for justifiable homicide. My only problem is that I’ve already turned in Book 3 of the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries series. I’m halfway through my next book and don’t see a way to kill any insurance agents or state regulators in that one. So killing them is going to have to wait awhile. But that gives me lots of time to plan appropriate deaths for all of them. Drowning in a sump hole is high on the list at the moment.

And meanwhile, my tale should go a long way in explaining why insurance premiums are so high. Why on earth would the insurance company expend the resources to open a claim and send out an adjuster if our policy didn’t cover the damage? How much did all of that cost those good hands guys?

In Henry VI, Part 2 Henry said, “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.” Shakespeare obviously never came out on the losing end of a fight with his insurance company. 

Lois Winston is off to Bouchercon at the end of the week. If you’re going to be there, stop by the Midnight Ink booth from 11am - noon on Saturday for a signed ARC of DEATH BY KILLER MOP DOLL, the second book in the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries series. Lois will also be on a panel at 4pm with fellow Midnight Ink author Sebastian Stuart, with an autographing of ASSAULT WITH A DEADLY GLUE GUN to follow. On Sunday, she’ll be back at the Midnight Ink booth at 10am for a Meet the Author session. And if you can’t make it to Bouchercon, visit Lois at her website and Anastasia at her blog.


Robin Allen said...

Where there are signed papers and fine print, there's always a "gotcha." I think you have the right idea to exact your revenge in a book. It'll become a best seller and maybe earn enough royalties to cover the damage. (For immediate relief, you could do it in a short story. :-)

Lois Winston said...

Robin, I'd hope a bestseller would result in about 100 times the cost of the repair/damages! :-D

Sebastian Stuart said...

Lois, first of all I'm sorry you had to go through this. If it's any solace an acquaintance in the Catskills had her whole house swept away -- and her insurance doesn't cover it.

Stories like yours make me craaaaazy -- especially since you guys were so conscientious.

How about a double indemnity twist? Insurance agent kills wife for her life insurance dough -- then it turns out manner of death wasn't covered.

Jess Lourey said...

Lois, that SUCKS! Good thing that therapy is right at your fingertips.

Jennifer Harlow said...

I've killed old boyfriends, my brothers, mean girls from high school, and a boss or two in my writing. They never know it's them. Wonderful therapy, no?
Sorry for your troubles :(

Keith Raffel said...

Lois, do you think the Bard meant to include non-practicing attorneys?

Lois Winston said...

Sebastian, I keep telling myself that lots of people have it far worse than I do. It helps. A little. I can't imagine losing an entire home to a flood. As for your double indemnity twist, that would have to be a pretty dumb insurance agent not to know that the death wasn't covered. Not sure readers would be able to suspend disbelieve that much.

Jess and Jennifer, we do have the best job in the world, don't we? It's like the therapist is paying us.

Keith, if you're not practicing, I think you get a pass.

Keith Raffel said...


Kathleen Ernst said...

Drowning in a sump well - it's a gotta-do. And so cathartic.

Lois Winston said...

Oh yeah, Kathleen. I've definitely got to drown someone in a sump hole at some point. I'm even tempted to rework my WIP in order to do it sooner.

Jill McCullough said...

That's horrible. Can you appeal your insurance agent's determination? If that doesn't work, call a lawyer. Some may have survived. I hear they're a tenacious bunch (kind of like literary agents). ;-) Have fun at Bouchercon! Jill

Lois Winston said...

Jill, from what I understand, NJ residents can't get coverage for this sort of thing, no matter what insurance company they have. So bringing in a lawyer wouldn't do much good. The utility company has a claim form on their website. So that's our next move.

Jessie Chandler said...

Lois, man that seriously bites! My partner Betty is from NJ, and I lived out there for a year till we both bailed and moved back to MN. I did find it curious that often things were framed in that gray area of shady shenanigans, from mechanics to lawyers, construction workers and plumbers. Oh and insurance brokers as well! Good luck with this!

Lois Winston said...

Jessie, this is NJ. We don't know how to do anything other shady!

Pat Dale said...

Sounds like the makings of a whole new series to me. I used surrogate killers in one of my published books and it was great fun. My protagonist got rid of the unfaithful jerk she was married to, as well as his girl friend. Worked for me. LOL
Seriously, I hear you on insurance geeks. Been there, experienced that, felt like you do now. Best wishes for a full recovery, homewise speaking.
Pat Dale

Deborah Sharp said...

'' . . . Drowning in a sump hole'' Now that sounds like a novel way to do someone in. I'd steal it, but we don't have basements in Fla.
Seriously, Lois ... hang in there, and I hope you have a great time at B'con with my other M'Ink peeps. Forget all your soggy woes and insurance double-crosses. Jerks!

Joanna Aislinn said...

Wow, Lois, so much for the support of 'good hands.' Can't believe how many loopholes I've heard about so far when it came to the hurricane. Hang tough. The right answer will come.

jeff7salter said...

Make sure they suffer sufficiently before they drown in the sump pump flood. LOL.
I've been given the same kind assurances from my agent -- an Indy with no particular allegience to any one company -- but whenever I look at the policy itself, all it does is list things NOT covered.