Insurance claims are already no one’s cup of tea. When an insurance claim turns into a nightmare, it is something that is never truly forgotten.
Jaclyn Bentley had an insurance claim nightmare, and Big Brother – in the form of cellphone tower data – was the one who sent her across the River Styx.
Bentley had to prove she wasn’t responsible for the fire in order to collect on her insurance policy, and the allegations stemmed from her insurer analyzing cellphone tower data to disprove her claim.
Bentley claims that her house burned down while she and her husband were camping miles away from her Iowa home in May of 2014.
An investigator for State Farm Fire and Casualty Co. then stated that there was proof, obtained from cell phone tower data, that her phone was only 5 to 12 miles from the couple’s campsite shortly after the fire was reported. The investigator then speculated that she was returning to the scene after starting the fire.
It only got worse from there. Bentley’s claim was denied, and she was arrested for arson and insurance fraud.
She was acquitted after much legal wrangling after challenging the insurer’s analysis of the tower data. Her house is still unpaid for, and she has a lawsuit against State Farm pending regarding her claim.
According to the Associated Press, Bentley’s experience left her shaken and disillusioned.
“I’ve gone through … hell,” says Bentley. “It’s ridiculous what happened. You’re innocent until proven guilty. I’ve never felt like I was treated like I was innocent. As far as the insurance company was concerned, I was guilty.”
A spokesperson for State Farm said the company handles “each claim on its merits” and conducts “a diligent investigation to determine what we owe” under a policy. The spokesperson added that while investigations may include reviewing phone records, obtaining those records is uncommon.
Phone records, including those transmitted by cell phone towers, can be obtained only through a court order or with the consent of the customer.