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There’s been a lot of talk lately about a law firm representing Progressive Insurance Company asking an Illinois shop to reimburse the insurer $141.45 for a rental car — due to the shop causing unnecessary repair delays.
And nearly all of the talk has gone something like this: “I can’t believe Progressive would hire some law firm to bully this poor, innocent shop. The shop owners say the delays weren’t even their fault! Could insurance companies be any more evil?!”
As easy as it is to blame insurers for everything bad in the world, as I investigated this situation, I quickly realized that the shop was responsible for the repair delays — and actually brought on this entire fiasco itself.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t like a lot of the things insurers do any more than you, but that’s no excuse. Collision repairers still have a job to do. Period. And when they don’t do it, pointing the finger at the insurance company is, for lack of a better word, crap.
Case in point: These Illinois shop owners are claiming that Progressive’s adjuster caused the delays by writing an estimate that included the wrong parts.
“Progressive authorized the rental car, and [the adjuster] is the person who wrote the estimate, figured the wrong parts and missed the additional damages to the vehicle,” says one of the shop’s owners. “I feel this is another case of an insurance company doing what they want to do and, in most cases, getting away with it.”
What? Is this guy for real? So these shop owners are saying that instead of them — the repair experts — writing their own estimate, they chose to use the estimate written by the insurance adjuster — a person who, I’m guessing, has never repaired a vehicle in her life? And because she didn’t write a complete and correct estimate, it’s Progressive’s fault the repair was delayed?
Unbelievable! Unbelievably nervy. Unbelievably naive. Unbelievably negligent.
Let’s not forget: you repair cars. Insurers settle claims. Granted, the insurance industry has muddied the water and gotten way too involved in the repair process, but shops like this — relinquishing their role as the expert and becoming, instead, a glorified order taker — are not helping the situation.
This repair should have been simple — the shop isn’t on Progressive’s direct-repair program and the customer whose vehicle was damaged isn’t a Progressive insured. It was a third-party claim! And it should’ve gone something like this: Shop tears down car, shop writes complete estimate, shop orders all parts required, shop receives parts, shop repairs vehicle, insurance company pays claim.
Yet that’s not at all what happened. Instead, the parts were ordered per Progressive’s estimate and as work began, more damage was discovered, which required a reinspection.
“In the meantime, I received a phone call from the Toyota parts department telling me that the part numbers I gave them for the right rear suspension did not match up to the description I had given,” says the shop owner. “Come to find out, the adjuster figured the wrong parts on her estimate.”
The shop’s owners are now accusing Progressive of harassment and have sent a detailed account of their experience with Progressive to the Division of Insurance (DOI). The DOI informed Progressive of the complaint, and Progressive responded with its own letter. In it, the insurer’s Southern Illinois claims manager, Tom Wickenhauser, wrote: “Our records indicate that the repair time should have been about 11 days, but the vehicle took 28 days to repair. We are asking the shop to reimburse us $141.45 or provide us the documentation supporting excessive repair time. Per the shop, this delay was due to a parts delay, which could easily be documented with invoices.”
Undoubtedly, Progressive has overstepped its bounds but, by the same token, so has the shop. These shop owners take no responsibility for what has happened. In fact, they would have us believe that they’re innocent victims of insurance company bullying — when, in reality, the only victim here is the vehicle owner.
Georgina K. Carson, editor
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