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Estimating: Insurers vs. Repairers

The repairer is the expert, and they should be the ones who determine what damages have occurred as well as the best method for a proper repair.

Barrett has authored numerous industry trade journal/magazine articles, including several cover stories for BodyShop Business. Having grown up in a family-owned collision repair business and owner/operator of two successful collision repair facilities; his ongoing efforts as industry speaker and repairer coach-consultant are geared toward educating professionals and consumers to achieve equally successful resolutions to automotive-related property damage issues. Such issues include proper and thorough repair, reasonable repair profitability for repairers as well as equitable claim settlements for both claimants and the responsible/paying parties. ADE offers numerous professional services nationwide.

“Why is it that when a shop takes the time to put together a complete supplement and turn it in, the insurance company thinks they have the right to change it to suit them? They did not do a complete estimate to begin with and, for the most part, have very little or no knowledge of how to repair a vehicle.”  – Derrick Corbett, owner/manager/painter, Big Daddy’s Body Shop, Valdosta, Ga.

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The short and simple answer is: Because repairers across the country allow them to!

For the long answer, I encourage you to read an “Ask the Expert” column I wrote in the February 2019 edition of BodyShop Business where I answered a similar question.

To provide you an abbreviated answer, insurers have taken full advantage of repairers who try to merely “go along to get along.”

Paradigm Shift

Decades ago, there was a slow and steady paradigm shift in who determined what was needed in a vehicle repair and how it was to be done. The repair industry slowly relinquished their role as the repair experts while retaining all the responsibilities and liabilities for the repair. And, they received a less than fair and reasonable price while the insurers saved monies that should have been paid for a proper and thorough repair with no liability for the outcome. In short, repairers retained all the risks while the insurers enjoyed all the rewards.

When insurers underpay for needed repairs, the repairer typically fails to properly assert their expertise in fear that they will alienate the insurer. To make matters worse, the repairers are reluctant to involve their true customer, the vehicle owner, in fear of being seen as the cause of a poor experience, potentially damaging their reputation.

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The fact is, the repairer is the expert professional, and they should be the ones who determine what damages have occurred as well as the best method for a proper repair. From a legal perspective, if an issue arose where damage or injuries resulted from a less-than-proper repair, the repairer would be held fully accountable. All one needs to do to fully understand this is to research the John Eagle lawsuit where the repairer was held responsible in spite of their ineffective argument that they merely performed the repair as per the insurer’s direction.

The Beginning

The problem begins when the repairer, at the beginning, fails to properly inform their customer of the issues and fully explain their damages, recommended method for their repair and any options if applicable (i.e. aftermarket parts, etc.).

Once the repair is underway and an insurer chooses alternative methods or fails to provide for the proper procedures, parts and materials, it becomes incumbent upon a quality-minded repairer to notify and inform their customer. They should fully explain the differences, potential ramifications and reasons for their recommendations and seek direction from the customer as to how they would like their repair performed. The repairer then has the right to proceed as they deem best for their business, including but not limited to terminating the repair if it protects them, their staff and their company from unreasonable liabilities and risk (e.g. damage to their company’s reputation).

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Going to the Doctor

Imagine if a loved one was gravely ill and your doctor took cost-cutting measures because the insurer wouldn’t approve their recommendations in an effort to minimize their costs of treatment. Even worse would be if the insurer’s recommendations placed your loved one in jeopardy for further risks and potential disabilities, and your doctor failed to inform you. If you later learned of this, I can’t imagine anyone who would be the least bit satisfied with their doctor’s conduct.

The truth is, many collision repairers conduct business like this on a daily basis by using unsafe parts, omitting needed procedures and performing incorrect repair methodologies while not informing their customer in order to not expose insurers’ behavior. As such, the repairer becomes the problem while encouraging the insurer to continue their cost-cutting measures…all the while, doing so without risk.

So repairers must ask themselves, “Am I part of the ongoing problem?” If so, do they continue to do as they have always done, or do they change their behavior in order to properly serve their true customer and instill accountability to change the behavior of insurers who have chosen to conduct themselves in this manner?

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As the old comic strip character Pogo once stated: “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

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