Sixty-five collision repairers who are part of the national, consolidated lawsuit filed against various insurers for short-pays visited Washington, D.C., in September to educate congressmen, senators and their staff on the 1963 Consent Decree.
Based on the 150 meetings they had, lead attorney John Eaves Jr. said the experience was overwhelmingly positive.
“The [congressmen and senators] were very, very supportive,” he says. “One of the reasons is that 80 percent of the people we visited with had a bad experience trying to get their car fixed.”
Matt Parker, owner of Parker Auto Body in West Monroe, La., rated the experience an “A.”
“Everyone, including Speaker of the House John Boehner, was very receptive and told us they would help if we could get something up there to them,” says Parker. “They asked questions and wanted to know about things. They were all very receptive because most of them have had accidents and been screwed by insurance companies. I couldn’t tell you how many of them told us they had not been treated fairly by an insurance company.”
Tony Passwater, executive director of the Indiana Auto Body Association, said that a big misconception he had about lawmakers was cleared up.
“I had always thought that you were a little peon going to D.C. compared to everybody else there and that they were always higher up on the pedestal and they really didn’t want to listen to what you had to say. And I was 100 percent wrong,” said Passwater. “I was amazed at the reception we received and the friendliness and look of concern and interest in what we were saying.”
Passwater related that when he or the other repairers arrived for a meeting, they were greeted by name and asked if they wanted a bottle of water. Then, the aides took vigorous notes and asked many questions. According to Passwater, meetings like these typically last 15 minutes, but every one of his group’s meetings lasted much longer than that, some even an hour.
Parker discovered that overall, the people he met with had “no clue” what the Consent Decree was, but once they read it, they wanted to know why it wasn’t being enforced.
“The whole problem with this is that we already have laws; they just need to enforce them,” Parker said. “And nobody except our attorney general here in Louisiana, Buddy Caldwell, has had enough guts to say, ‘Hey, we’re going to enforce this.’”
The group’s next step is to go back to the Capitol in November after the election to follow up with those they met to make sure things are getting done.
“The goal will be to see what they have done and make them be accountable for what we’ve already started,” said Parker. “They said they were going to do something, so we’re going to want to see what they’ve done. I think we’re going to continue to [visit the Capitol] until something happens.”