BodyShop Business
Negotiations: Educate, NOT Alienate

2/4/2011 11:32:59 AM

Quite often, estimators ask me how they should approach insurers to get paid for what they do. I’ve found that by asking these estimators the following four questions, we end up having a much more productive dialogue toward finding a positive path to proper reimbursement:

1. Is it required to put the vehicle back to pre-accident condition?
2. Is it included in any other labor time?
3. Is there a predetermined time in the estimating database?
4. What is it worth?

Question No. 1

My intention in negotiating to get paid for what I do is to “Educate NOT Alienate,” so how do we determine if it’s required to put the vehicle back to preaccident condition? We can use the following resources:

• OEM recommendations
• I-CAR recommendations
• Paint manufacturers’ bulletins
• OEM information provider
• Other sources

We need to understand that while we may not like or agree with it, it’s our job as estimators to present the burden of proof to show that it’s required to put the vehicle back to pre-accident condition if we want to get paid for something. Consider making a PowerPoint presentation, and have all of your “justification documentation” prepared in advance.

Question No. 2

To determine if it’s included in any other labor operation, we need to:

• Review the appropriate Estimating Systems Not Included Section (i.e. P-pages)
• Use the ASA not included charts
• Submit an inquiry to

Question No. 3

To find out if there’s a predetermined time in the database system:

• Look in your estimating system and, if in doubt, just “click it.” If it’s included, allow the system to show you. If it’s included and you have some doubts that it should not be, submit an inquiry at

Question No. 4

What is it worth? This is where you really have to be prepared:

• Conduct your own time study (you can download some for free from my website,, under “forms.”

• Take a video of the procedure or photos to make a presentation on what’s required.


Let’s say you receive a brand new Toyota bumper cover that has to be refinished. Toyota bumper covers come in a raw plastic state and require additional prep work to get to the refinish state. So is it required to prep a new OEM Toyota bumper cover for refinish? Yes, it is. So how could we show this?

• You could obtain the Toyota CRIB bulletin that shows this is necessary. We have now removed any individual opinions and have now shown this is necessary. It’s not your opinion now – it is now fact.

• You could visit and download a list of OEM raw bumper covers to justify.

• You could visit and download the refinish flier for raw bumper covers.

• You could get a bulletin from your paint manufacturer highlighting the necessary steps.

Is it included in any other labor operations, such as refinishing the bumper cover? To determine this:

• You could review the individual not included pages for that specific estimating system.

• You could submit an inquiry at and receive a response that will state it is not included.

• You could use the ASA not-included chart that will show it’s a not included operation.

Is there a predetermined time in the estimating system?

• One information provider recently came out with a labor time for this additional preparation required – providing the answer to how much you should be allotted for this not- included operation.

• Another information provider has had a formula for some time that can be applied to this procedure – which would provide the answer to how much you should be allowed for this operation of additional prep for a raw bumper cover.

Let’s for the sake of argument assume there was no time in any of the databases, and you come to question no. 4: What is it worth? Remember the minimum amount of time that can be allocated is .1. This is where you may have to negotiate the time that’s required. How would you determine this?

• Perform a time study.

• Check with your paint manufacturer.

While we may not agree or even like the fact that we have to prove that we should be reimbursed, if you follow the above questions, it will lead you towards a path of positive reward.

If you have a specific estimating question that you would like me to address, e-mail [email protected].

Mike Anderson is the former owner of Wagonwork Collision Centers in Alexandria, Va., and current owner of, a full-service collision consulting company. He can be reached at [email protected] or (301) 535-3333.

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