WASHINGTON, August 23, 2015 − If you have been involved in an automobile collision and your car needs repair, beware the process involved. All is not always kosher in this industry. Here are some industry professionals spilling the beans.
The comments below were posted on Linked-In, a very popular and widely viewed online business social network, in the group forum “Insurance Claims Professionals.” A recent running conversation among some members focused on what goes on between some automobile insurance carriers and some automobile body repair facilities.
The thread began with an ICP member telling the group that he found the following disconcerting sentence in an industry-demeaning article about the repair business:
They (adjusters) are trained to downplay your (consumer’s) issues, so don’t take this personally, as it is the adjuster’s job.
Another member commented:
… Most people don’t realize the insurance company that owes them the most is their own insurance company; if they carry applicable coverage. However so many companies today immediately send their own customers to the other company for handling even when it is somewhat clear their own insured is at fault. So much depends on the company you are insured by as to how you are advised and handled. At any rate some companies do behave as described by the article…
Another member offered:
Daily I see and hear about how claims people under pay legitimate auto repair claims through various efforts from listing untested non-factory replacement parts from Taiwan, junk yard parts, omitting necessary processes and materials (i.e. corrosion protection, sound deadening etc.), denial of recommended procedures (road testing, frame measurement etc.) all to save the carriers monies. Monies gained at the consumer’s loss.
Every day I hear of Insurer’s efforts to steer unwary consumers away from quality oriented repairers to those who chose to participate in their “Direct Repair Provider” programs where those participating shops give the insurers significant discounts, concessions, and use whatever parts they are instructed to use (regardless of quality or safety) all without informing and edifying their true customer…the unwary vehicle owner.
And yes… some insurers offer incentives and bonuses to claims people for steering consumers to these shops as well as incentives for meeting the company’s desired “severity rate” or “claims pay-out criteria” in their claims settlements. Those that don’t offer bonuses offer other incentives… such as allowing one to keep their job!
Let’s face it: if insurers were truly “Good Neighbors and “Good Hands People” and truly concerned about the best interest and welfare of the consumer, they would inform and educate consumers on what their rights are relative to their particular claim.
As an example; if they were a third-party claimant, the insurer would advise them that they may be entitled to diminished (loss of) value for their now damaged and repaired vehicle. If the insurer truly sought proper indemnification, they would provide for quality replacement parts to aid in restoring the damaged vehicle to its “pre-loss condition” in safety, function, appearance and value…as promised and as owed…but insurers don’t…they don’t offer any proactive information to aid the consumer when it comes to money and settlements…the consumer must first know what they are entitled to in order to ask…and even then the consumers are often provided less than accurate information by the insurer simply due to the insurer’s efforts to avoid paying…so they can make profits, to market to more consumers to convey a message that 15 minutes will save you 15%,…when the true fact is, that 15 minutes could cost consumers the billions used to pay for the various insurer’s marketing!
Like it or not, the simple truth is that consumers are often taken unfair advantage of by insurer claims people. Why, because the insurer is in the business to make money and they often make more in the monies they owe but don’t pay out than they do through investments and such of premiums… These efforts for “cost containment,”cost mitigation” or “retention of funds” is a very profitable and a powerful incentive for many to be overly aggressive in their efforts. After all, they already have the money in their company’s coffers…all they have to do is to keep it!
As for DRP or “direct writer” shops work quality, again, some are better than others but all of them offer concessions and discounts as needed to be on the insurer’s program, and in many cases many of these shops are found to provide far less than appropriate repairs and for various reasons including, but not limited to not being amply compensated for doing proper repairs, hurrying to increase profit by ‘doing more for less’ and using inferior labor, parts and materials to reduce their expense as to augment their profits (make up for concessions and discounts)…as well as some who simply commit fraud out of greed or perhaps mere survival.
Any shop can offer a “Lifetime Warranty”…it too, like insurance, is a numbers game. Problem is consumers can’t recognize a poor or insufficient repair when given one.
Concerning getting your car repaired, here is what you should do, whether or not the accident was your fault:
- Report the accident to your insurance company. If it the accident was someone else’s fault, also notify that person’s insurance company.
- Get two independent appraisals for the damage repair from facilities you know and trust. Don’t know or trust any? Get referrals from people you know and trust, or look up several facilities on-line and see what consumer reviews have to say.
- Submit both appraisals to the responsible insurer. The insurance company responsible will agree to pay for the lower cost appraisal. Take your car to that facility for repairs.
Some insurance policies require that only new parts can be used for your car if it is relatively new (less than 12 months or perhaps fewer than 18,000 miles). Check your policy. If used parts are involved, insist that they are Original Equipment Manufactured (OEM).
If, once repairs begin, the estimate is less than what is needed, the repair facility will contact the insurance company and they can usually resolve the difference.
But beware, again, of insurance company directed facilities. Some “approved” repair facilities are unscrupulous and those extra charges can be part of a game. The repair facility will purposely “low ball” the initial estimate and then add charges as the repair is in process (called a “supplement”). This practice actually helps the insurance company, because if the original estimate had these “extra” charges, the insurer would have had to declare the car a “total loss” and pay more.
Not all insurers, and not all repair facilities are bad or unethical. But keep your eyes open and ask questions. Your safety, and that of your family depends upon it.
Paul A. Samakow is an attorney licensed in Maryland and Virginia and has been practicing since 1980. He represents injury victims and routinely battles insurance companies and big businesses that will not accept full responsibility for the harms and losses they cause. He can be reached at any time by calling 1-866-SAMAKOW (1-866-726-2569), via email, or through his website.
His new book “Who Will Pay My Auto Accident Bills?: The Most Comprehensive Nationwide Auto Accident Resolution Book, Ever” can be reviewed on http://www.completeaccidentbook.com and can be ordered there, or obtained directly on Amazon: Click here to order
Mr. Samakow’s “Don’t Text and Drive” campaign, El Textarudo, has become nationally recognized. Please visit the website http://www.textarudo.com and “like” the concept on the Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/textarudo.