Writing a proper estimate is an important component of running a successful collision repair facility.
There are many aspects to consider when preparing an estimate, and Roger Cada, senior consultant for Accountable Estimating, said collision photography is a requirement that is often overlooked.
When taking photographs to document repair damage, Cada said that a poor image could actually work against you, costing a body shop time and money.
During a webinar held in September and hosted by Dave Luehr’s Elite Body Shop Academy, Cada shared how to take pictures strategically to document damage as well as the repair process.
As collision repairers move into the world of ADAS systems and advanced high-strength steels, Cada said it’s crucial to keep good records for every vehicle.
“Photos are a big part of this and provide the record you need so if you are challenged later on, you have the documentation that tells a story of exactly what was needed and what was done,” he said.
Any information in the file also becomes evidence if it goes to litigation and can help protect your shop.
“As much as we might not like it, insurance companies are now expecting more information on the administration side,” said Cada. “If you build an estimate correctly, and you are challenged in a court of law, documentation is better than your word.”
When talking to webinar attendees, Cada drew on his 45 years of industry experience, which includes working in collision repair for 15 years. More than half of that time was spent as an estimator and business manager for independent shops and dealerships. In 1983, Cada joined State Farm Insurance and was a corporate lead trainer for estimators during the majority of his career. Part of this role included working alongside automakers and information providers to write the most accurate estimates possible.
He said it’s helpful to think about it this way: “If it’s not documented, it never happened.” As a result, he said his goal has always been to help shops achieve a positive outcome of success, so every detail of the estimate is covered and supplements are reduced, but not at the cost of reducing profitability for the shops.