What is the best way to handle a customer who wants you to write prior damage on an estimate for an insurance claim?
Asked by Denise Stone, Whitefish, Mt.
A body shop operator can write an estimate for any repairs requested by a consumer, be they related to an accident covered by insurance or not. One's contract is with their customer only. However, if the shop has knowledge of unrelated damage and includes it in an estimate destined to be paid by an insurance company, one is complicit in the fraud.
It's the knowledge of the consumer committing the fraud on an insurer that makes all the difference.
I would explain your willingness to do any repair work the customer authorizes, but be clear to the customer that what they are requesting is insurance fraud and that you will not be a party to an illegal act.
You may lose the job to a less scrupulous competitor, but it's not worth the risk, particularly if the unrelated damage is clearly not part of the covered loss.
I'm not a lawyer and cannot give legal advice, but my response is based on my 35-plus years of experience in the industry and working with attorneys.
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Charlie Barone has over 36 years of experience in collision repair and is an ASE Master Certified technician and a licensed damage appraiser.