Even though the heat and humidity makes me want to stay indoors and enjoy the A/C, in my area of Florida, the month of July means it’s scallop season — which means it’s time to be out on the boat with friends and family enjoying what the Sunshine State has to offer. It’s also a special time to celebrate one of my favorite holidays, Independence Day, our great nation’s birthday.
The word “independence” has special meaning to me since I grew up in and owned and operated truly independent collision centers and have taught other quality repairers over the past 15 years how to become truly independent. Like those independently minded repairers reading this, during my 38-plus year career in the collision repair industry, I’ve seen and heard a lot of things that drive me crazy. Here are some of those things that come to mind:
- Parts sourcing. Insurers trying to dictate what parts to use and where to get them, where their only concern is low pricing and avoiding liabilities. They have no concern about the additional effort and hassle involved in ordering and returning defective parts from various vendors from various states across the country or the payment options and hassle in returns due to damaged or incorrect components. Nor do insurers share concerns over the quality of the replacement parts as they have no liability for their fit, finish or function/performance. Once obtained and installed, the liability for those parts rests with the repairer. The insurer gains all the savings, and the repairer gains all the risks and loss in efficiency, discounts and resulting profits. Insurers are also unconcerned regarding the special relationships and discounts repairers may have attained with local vendors/suppliers who have earned their trust and confidence by providing optimum quality and service over the years. Independent repairers should combat insurers’ efforts to bolster their profits at the loss of repairers by properly serving their clients’ needs through providing a proper and thorough repair using locally supplied quality and undamaged parts.
- I used to own or work in a shop, and we never did that, and I’ll never pay you for that! “Well, knucklehead, if you had worked in a quality-oriented shop that wrote accurate damage/repair assessments and performed proper and thorough repairs, you would have not only seen this and other required procedures listed on their estimates, but you would also have been compensated for the time, materials and liabilities involved in providing it! Oh … and if you had been fairly compensated for your shop’s efforts, you would likely still be the owner of a very successful shop or two and providing well for you, your staff and your family.”
- I’m not paying you for that. “Well guess what, Mr. Claimsperson, you’re not paying me at all! Our customer is paying for our services. Your company is paying them under the terms of your insurance policy and in compliance with this state’s laws and regulations. I don’t have a contract with you, and your company does not have one with mine. And know this: I’m not going to get mad if you don’t provide for this needed procedure so long as the customer doesn’t get upset with me for not performing it … so let’s go let the customer know what you’re refusing to provide for so they can decide what they would like me to do in their repair.”
- You’re holding the customer’s vehicle hostage. “No, Mr. Claimsperson … the customer came to us to solve a problem for them, and we have provided that solution. As such, their billing is now due and payable. They’re waiting for your company to pay them so they can pay their bill (and the storage that has accrued while you were wasting time ‘adjusting’) so they can then arrange to have the vehicle removed from our facility and stop the storage and administrative activities and related costs from accruing further.”
- It’s only black and we’re not paying you to tint the color. Little do many claimspeople (and other amateurs) know, or perhaps wish to ignore, there are as many shades of black and of white as there are in grays and other colors. To not tint a color and perform sprayout cards (and get paid for it) is accepting unnecessary liabilities for mismatched colors, upset customers, and costly time and materials in redos … and of course avoidable stress and frustrations.” Do it right and get paid right for your efforts!
- All we owe is the prevailing competitive prices or PCP. Now here’s a true doozy that has saved auto insurers trillions of dollars over the years. Other than this term being used in the stock market, in order to better understand and combat this deception in the collision repair industry, you must have a little knowledge of auto insurance policy contracts and the laws that govern them in your state. The term PCP is strictly an insurance term (it is not found in Black’s Law Dictionary) that is often found in insurance policies under the portion generally referred to as, “What We (the insurer) Owe”. It’s common for an auto policy contract to read something to the effect that the insurer has the right to choose to either “pay for repair, make repair or replace with like kind and quality” or something to that effect. It may also state that the insurer only owes what pricing it can secure in the same general market area and what insurers refer to as PCP. Of course, insurers will attempt to employ DRP pricing they’ve been able to secure from participating DRP repairers to establish their PCP and compel others to accept it regardless. Over the past several years, I’ve been actively involved as an expert witness in hundreds of legal cases regarding pricing of automotive-related goods and services in Florida. In several precedent-setting cases, a unanimous three-judge court ruled that the prices DRP shops charged the insurance carrier certainly didn’t count as the prevailing rate described in the insurer’s policies. They ruled that the insurer owed “the price the service would bring in a competitive market, not the price set in an agreement between the insurer and a particular provider or providers.” In an appeal of one of these trials, the presiding judge ruled and stated the following: “What the insurer owed was what the service would cost in a competitive market in a normal, arm’s length, non-insurance transaction”. In a sense, the courts have recognized two distinct industries exist when it comes to insurance claims and pricing of goods and services. There are those prices that are arranged between a third-party administrator (which includes DRP-type relationships (discounts in exchange for direct referrals), and there is other pricing for those service providers who do not participate in such referral programs and are independent and do not receive direct referrals and therefore owe the carrier nothing in the way of discounts, concessions or special pricing constraints. When you hear the term PCP, the first thing to ask yourself is: “Do I derive referrals from this insurer or am I an independent operator?” and then price your goods and services accordingly. Or, “As an independent operator, do I merely accept what I’m given and make do with it?” As I tell my clients, “It’s yours and you can give it away if you want to … you just can’t do it for very long.”
- You’re the only one (my all-time most disliked statement). If I had a nickel for every time I heard that come out of a claimsperson’s mouth, I’d be writing this article in Cancun on a beach sipping a margarita! I think this is learned in Claims Adjusting 101 and taught to claimspeople by their employers on their first day of training. It’s not only a dumb thing to say, it also likely represents: ignorance; gross incompetence; intentional misrepresentation (a lie); or a combination of two or more of these. The simple fact is that claimspeople are in a position of public trust and have a duty to speak the truth and act in good faith when dealing with consumers and their claims for damages. This is why, in most states, claims adjusters must be trained, pass a state test and be licensed. As such, they’re legally obligated to speak the truth as best they know it. If they don’t know the truth, they’re obligated to perform an investigation to obtain the truth and employ it in their claim settlements. If they deviate from the truth and say or do things that are not in keeping with the state laws, rules and regulations, they fall into deceptive and perhaps fraudulent business practices for which they and their companies should become liable. Such conduct could be cause for significant fines, penalties, sanctions and even loss of licensure for the company they represent and/or the offending claimsperson. When a claimsperson has been caught in deception, it’s more likely than not that the company they represent will not merely go down with them; they’ll more than likely distance themselves from the claimsperson and take the position that the claims person was merely a rogue employee and was not conducting themselves or acting in a manner as trained and expected by the company. The claimsperson will then be on their own to defend their statements and actions while hoping to find another job with another insurance company. Good luck with that!
Whether you own or work in a body shop or are a claimsperson who works with an independent claims company or for an insurer, it’s vitally important that you conduct yourself in a professional and forthright manner to avoid the potential liabilities that lie in wait. It’s important to always remember: There’s never ever a good reason to do the wrong thing!
Do you have a pet peeve regarding things you’ve heard from claimspeople? Let me know by emailing me at [email protected]. I’d like to hear from you!