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A Two-Sided Coin Grab

Letters published October 4, 2001

Now the bad guys are the ambulance chasers:

As a fraud investigator for one of the larger auto insurance companies (not Allstate), I found Erick Trickeys piece [Good Hands People? September 6] quite interesting. It is true to some degree that Allstate does have a reputation for playing hardball with bodily injury claims. However, I have investigated alleged injury claims in which the damage to the injured partys vehicle was $18 and the damage to the vehicle that struck the injured partys vehicle was zero. Both the driver and passenger retained an attorney for their injuries and got treatment from a chiropractor. Total medical bills: roughly $2,500 apiece. The driver and the passenger stated they had visited a chiropractor 25 times each, but neither one could describe what their doctor looked like. After I completed my investigation --making no settlement offer -- the attorney dropped his clients, and the claimants never contacted us again.Before you write this off as an isolated occurrence, talk to someone who works for an insurance company. This type of behavior happens all the time. I have been to meetings where attorneys and chiropractors teach how to "pad" or overbill medical billings through unnecessary tests and questionable treatment. The classes are well known to attorneys and the insurance industry, yet there is no law or statute that forbids what is essentially fraud.

I have also met with chiropractors who claim to have "treated" patients, yet have no bills or records to produce when an audit is done. I once had a chiropractor bill for "manipulations" done to a child while it was still in utero.

Vehicles on the roads are safer today than they have ever been, yet the number of injury claims has skyrocketed. Is it because there are more educated people who are really injured? Perhaps. Is it because the "business" of pursuing injury claims has become a lucrative venture? I think so. My own belief is that sometimes insurance companies do take an unnecessarily hard line on injury claims, but the position is unfortunately dictated by the overwhelming number of "suspicious" injury claims.

Karl Kunze
Temecula, CA

It's alive and kicking, along with the java:

Arabica has been getting a bum rap in the local press ["Much Ado About Mocha," September 13]. Yes, mistakes have been made on the management level for quite a while. Yes, without a major competitor, complacency has been a problem. Still, Arabica remains a viable and quality coffee institution.

I have worked at the Lakewood location for four years, and yes, business is not what it once was. However, within a block of our store we have two competing shops, and within a mile to our east and west we have four more. There is a finite market of people willing to imbibe our product on a regular basis. Opening more places leads to fracturing of the customer base, and no matter how good the product, business is going to drop off. Last year, our store moved to a smaller location, and some took this as a sign of failure. Personally, I see it as a major coup that our shop can survive and change in this highly competitive market.

The brilliance of Starbucks is in its marketing. Be it television, movies, or even in the print media, Starbucks has successfully ingrained itself in the American consciousness. People do not like to think or make up their own minds. They have been told that Starbucks is the best, and they loyally follow suit. Good for them. Arabica, on the other hand, is completely local. Our beans are roasted in town. Our pastry is made here. Most Arabicas are individually owned and operated, leading to the variety and personal character of each store. Some are better than others. Some fail and close. This is another advantage that Starbucks and Caribou have: corporate ownership. Underperforming stores can be floated off better-performing stores. Arabica does not have that luxury.

Still, the fact that Arabica has more than 20 stores in the area is an accomplishment that should not be overlooked. Local shops all across the country have fallen to the mighty Starbucks. Arabica continues to kick. A few high-profile Arabicas have closed, and the media have swept in to report the "death of Arabica." Will they report all the new Arabicas slated to open in the coming months?

Keith Kornajcik

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