Travelers Insurance Company and the North Carolina Department of Insurance (DOI) have entered into a voluntary settlement agreement after Pack Brothers Collision Center of Belmont, N.C., filed a complaint that accused the insurer of steering.
According to N.C. Gen. Stat. 58-3-IS0(a), insurers must allow a claimant to select the repair service or source for the repair of damage to a motor vehicle, and Subsection (b1) prohibits the insurer or insurer representative from recommending the use of a particular motor vehicle repair service without clearly informing the claimant that he or she is under no obligation to use the recommended repair service.
Pack Brothers’ complaint to the DOI stated that a Travelers adjuster may have steered a claimant away from their shop, which resulted in a loss of revenue in the amount of $1,566.38.
The settlement agreement states that the insured indicated to Travelers that they wanted Pack Brothers to perform the repair and requested that the insurer send the estimate to the shop.
In response, a copy of an email between the insured and their insurance representative showed that the representative advised them not to send the estimate to Pack Brothers since Pack Brothers would not accept Travelers’ estimate and would not work with Travelers if additional damages were found, and thus recommended that they have their vehicle repaired elsewhere.
While Travelers did inform the insured that they were more than welcome to use Pack Brothers, the insurer said they would most likely incur out-of-pocket costs.
The settlement said that based on the information made available to the DOI, it appears that the insured relied on the statements made by their insurance rep, and based on such statements did not attempt to discuss the matter with Pack Brothers to determine whether Pack Brothers would work with Travelers with respect to the issue of additional expenses or delays that might occur during the repair process.
Despite the DOI not being able to clearly determine whether Travelers was acting in the interests of its insured or itself in “steering,” the DOI decided that even if such cautionary language was in the best interests of the insured, such action resulted in a loss of revenue to Pack Brothers and an opportunity for Pack Brothers to talk to the insured and possibly alleviate any concerns they may have had with respect to the cautionary language in question.
In the interests of avoiding similar occurrences in the future, the DOI recommended that insurers be made aware of using such cautionary language about the claimant being personally liable for additional costs outside of the insurer’s estimate, especially in cases where the claimant expresses a desire to have the repair work done at a specific repair facility.
By signing the settlement, Travelers, without admitting any liability or violation of any insurance statute or rule, agreed to reimburse Pack Brothers for the total amount of the estimate prepared for the repair of the insured’s motor vehicle.