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The Indiana Auto Body Association (IABA) was founded at the beginning of 2004 by a group of forward-thinking shop owners and vendors with the mission of promoting “professionalism and consumer awareness of the automotive collision repair industry in the state of Indiana.” Near the end of 2004, IABA’s Board of Directors asked Tony Passwater to fill the role of Director for the association because they felt it would be best to engage someone who was not a shop owner or vendor to grow the organization for the future. Passwater notes that, at the association’s conception, “it had been almost eight to ten years since the last association had folded, and the timing was right.”
IABA was founded on a multi-faceted Code of Ethics. This code dictates that their members conduct all business practices in a lawful and professional manner. They must also recommend only proper collision repair procedures and explain to the customer why these repairs are required to correct the collision damage the vehicle suffered. Other items contained within the code of ethics include: offer the customer a price estimate for the work to be performed, obtain prior authorization for all work, notify the customer when promises cannot be kept, furnish an itemized list for all parts and services, exercise reasonable care of the consumer’s property during the repair, maintain a system to settle customers’ complaints, cooperate with all established consumer complaint mediation activities, maintain a high quality level of repairs, and cooperate in a good business manner with insurer representatives and make a sincere effort to provide affordable service to the motoring public.
According to Passwater, IABA’s short-term goals include growing IABA to the largest state association in the midwest and providing tangible benefits to members, as well as informing consumers that they have the right to choose the collision repair facility that works on their vehicle and educating them on how to choose wisely. These goals contribute to the association’s long-term objectives of protecting consumers from steering and improper repairs and of providing a resource that improves the professionalism and unity of the collision repair industry as a whole.
Some of IABA’s current projects focus on attaining these goals. In addition to trying to maintain and improve data privacy, they are also struggling to eliminate double taxation on some paints and materials. Additionally, IABA supports members pursuing short-pay lawsuits as they try to establish standards for collecting funds on operations performed that insurers refuse to compensate shops for completing.
Passwater notes that IABA is also involved in “stopping insurer-mandated programs that interfere in the industry’s business,” such as PartsTrader which he sees as “tortious interference that only benefits the insurers to fuel their greed... it is extortion and tactics used by the Mafia.”
In mid-September, IABA hosted six meetings across the state, which were attended by over 325 shop owners, managers and industry vendors, to discuss issues related to insurer-mandated programs, such as PartsTrader and American Family’s APU Solutions. Attendees were fearful of what insurers are doing to the industry, and many felt hopeless about doing anything to circumvent these programs. Panel discussions served to inform participants of the options available for stopping these programs as well as to educated them on the actions being taken on local, state and federal levels to eliminate insurer interference in the collision repair industry. The panel consisted of Lloyd Bush of Bush Collision in AL, Marvin Windham of Benchmark Chrysler in Birmingham AL, Steve Plier of C.A.R.E. in Hoover AL, and John Mosley of Clinton Body Shop in Clinton MS. A webcast of the panel discussion can be viewed at www.IABAlive.com.
IABA has committed itself to using whatever actions are necessary to prevent this form of extortion, whether the means are legal, legislative and/or related to public awareness. The association has come out in support of SCRS’s position on PartsTrader and similar programs because “the IABA believes, as other associations and leaders have recently stated, that all repair decisions, vendor selections, and business processes should be left to the collision repair professionals who work on these vehicles, and have been entrusted by the vehicle owners to make correct repair decisions regarding their vehicles.”
IABA recognizes that such programs are not designed to improve efficiency or to benefit the consumer; these efforts seek only to increase insurers’ profits and to allow insurers to establish more control over the collision repair industry.
In late October, IABA organized a nationwide petition to stop insurer-mandated parts procurement programs, and they are encouraging their members and other collision repairers across the country to sign it by visiting www.1963ConsentDecree.com. Their email blast, sent on October 24, explained, “To make change happen requires action, but it often begins by the smallest of actions. History has shown that changes begin not by the war to end all wars but by the individual battles that define the injustice and dedication to the need for that change by those willing to accept the challenge.” They plan to use this show of support to regain control of the industry.
In addition to the challenges imposed by these type of programs, Passwater lists several other challenges facing the industry which need to be addressed for the benefit of the collision repair industry as a whole: labor rate suppression, the manipulation of estimating systems and databases, the unequal enforcement of current EPA and OSHA laws, and “improper repairs due to new technology and the inability to purchase the training and equipment needed to repair the vehicle properly.”
Though IABA has not taken an official stance on the PARTS Act, Passwater believes “OEMs should be afforded the same protection as any industry for their investment in technology and innovation.” Regarding the Right to Repair, Passwater’s opinion is that “everyone needs the information equally to repair the vehicles today.”
In the beginning of 2013, IABA also implemented a comprehensive consumer-focused member benefit entitled “A Shop You Can Trust.” According to Passwater, “this program is available to IABA members that meet the qualification process. It includes a consumer focused website listing (www.aShopYouCanTrust.com), and three additional optional programs that are designed to eliminate steering and create customer loyalty. It has co-branded materials with the Better Business Bureau available. A webcast about the program is available at www.IABAlive.com.”
Covering the entire state of IN, IABA currently consists of 105 member shops, plus 15 supplier sponsors. IABA has designed numerous benefits to attract members, and according to Passwater, “with our affiliation with SCRS and ASA, they are even greater. Our greatest benefit is our partnership with Associated Insurance Agencies. They have saved our members thousands of dollars yearly.”
Still, there are always challenges inherent for any industry association to maintain operations, Passwater admits. “As with any state association, we constantly struggle to match time focus on dollars available. Even though we have tangible benefits that outweigh our members’ yearly dues, we still have only 10% to 12% of the shops members and much less for industry-related vendors and suppliers.”

IABA
PO Box 532364
Indianapolis, IN 46253
(317)290-0611 x201
www.iaba.info

Environmental concerns have become a major priority in the collision repair industry along with removal and reutilization of recyclable material. The Automotive Recyclers Association (ARA) is playing an increasing role in this movement.

Since it was established in 1943, ARA has been the only trade association representing the automotive recycling industry. It is dedicated to efficiently removing and reutilizing automotive parts as well as seeing to the safe disposal of inoperable motor vehicles. ARA has expanded to represent approximately 1250 companies through direct membership, plus over 3000 additional companies worldwide through their affiliated chapters in 43 states and 14 other countries.

Wednesday, 25 September 2013 22:21

Maryland Shop Owners Prevail Against Short Pays

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Anyone who has been involved in repair for any amount of time knows how frustrating it can be when insurers refuse to pay the full amount billed for a repair. Many repairers count their losses and move on to the next vehicle, but Mark Schaech Jr., co-owner of Mark’s Body Shop in Baltimore, MD, refuses to take this insult lying down. While he and his partner, his father, would prefer to avoid the necessity of taking legal action, he’s definitely “not taking it anymore!” Schaech knows this is a common problem that shop owners face, so he’s glad to share his experience and advice with collision repairers across the nation.

In May 2013, Schaech won his first short-pay lawsuit against GEICO for $392.95. Since then, Schaech won a case against State Farm when the insurer filed a replevin lawsuit (replevin  is a legal remedy for a person to recover goods unlawfully withheld from his or her possession) against him, claiming his charges for storage were unreasonable and not competitive within the market area. Mark’s Body Shop was holding a car while awaiting payment, but when State Farm settled with the car’s owner and took title, they refused to pay Schaech. The repair contract was the deciding factor in Schaech’s victory, playing a huge role “like it does in any other case,” according to Schaech, who added that “it is so important that your documents are in line.” In addition to being paid the full amount owed, Schaech was also reimbursed for his attorney’s fees. He feels the victory was very important since a loss would have given State Farm, and possibly other insurers, precedent for refusal to pay on total losses.

Schaech credits the CCRE (Coalition for Collision Repair Excellence) for his knowledge of such legal actions, noting that “the first time I heard of a shop taking control of their business was at a CCRE meeting.” He followed that up by hiring an industry consultant, Barrett Smith, of Auto Damage Experts and a good Maryland attorney, Anthony DiPaula to support his efforts to take control of his own business. He is also grateful to all of the “attorneys fighting a successful fight.” His next case involved an assignment of proceeds, ammunition he obtained from industry lawyer Erica Eversman, but it doesn’t stop there! Schaech is currently pursuing numerous lawsuits, including one involving an older claim of two short-pays from GEICO and a similar suit against State Farm.

The lawsuits that Schaech is currently pursuing are older claims since he has not had any recent problems with GEICO, which he attributes to his successful case in May. Most insurers are paying his operation costs, though labor rates with insurers refusing to pay his full labor rate continue to be a problem. The one exception he notes is State Farm who always leaves a short-pay, but for now, the customers are paying the difference. Schaech is not taking any additional assignments of proceeds at this time as he has several in progress.

Schaech notes, “I would say that 90% of the time, insurers in our market refuse to reimburse our customer for their entire repair bill. These short pays are for reasonable and necessary rates and procedures required to repair our customers’ vehicles to pre-loss condition to the best of human ability. It seems that the larger the carrier, the worse the behavior. It seems like as opposed to fairly paying claims, these carriers would prefer to spend those dollars on advertising campaigns.”

Regarding what may cause him to hesitate before filing a lawsuit, Schaech admits that it can be expensive and time-consuming to sue an insurance carrier, especially when the short-pays are small amounts, but one way to combat that is to pile several claims into one case, making it more efficient.  His ultimate goal is to handle these cases on his own; as he attends the trials, he is educating himself via his attorney in hopes of being able to handle future suits in small claims court on his own. “All I will have to spend is time which I’m more than willing to do in order to ensure my customers are being taken care of,” Schaech notes.

The short-pay lawsuit in May was the first that Schaech actually pursued to trial. Because these types of cases are new to the Maryland court system, “it takes a bit of educating the courts that we are contracted by our customers to provide a proper and safe repair and do not have any contract with any insurance companies. But the misconception is that, because the insurance company is paying the bill, they have a right to inject themselves into the repair process when this is simply not the case. Because we are the experts, we carry all of the liability associated with the repair. We are the ones who have to provide a warranty to our customers and stand behind the repairs. We are the ones who know our cost of doing business. Therefore, only a shop can know what to charge for a given repair. The duty of the insurance company, by contract, is to make the customer whole, not to control the price or dictate the repair methodology, all while not sharing in the liability for those repairs.”

Though most insurance companies insist that they don’t pay for certain operations or that a shop is overcharging, Schaech insists, “the collision repair community knows that these are word tracks that insurance adjusters have been trained to use for years, and in most cases, these carriers do pay for that, and the shops that are asking to be compensated are not the only ones asking for these operations and rates.”

Schaech was happy when the judge ruled in his favor: “It felt good that the Judge got it. I also feel confident that the courts will continue to find in our favor as courts are in many other states all over the country. It takes a close look at the law and the insurance policies to realize that determining the cost of repairs and the repair methodology is not the business of insurance. In many policies, the insurance company has the option to take the customer’s vehicle and repair it themselves, but if they chose that option, they would have to accept all of the liability that goes along with the repair which is why they do not select that option.”

As a proud member of CCRE and SCRS, Schaech strongly encourages other collision repair experts to stand up for their rights. “I would encourage other shop owners to know their state laws and get a good attorney to work with. There are many shop owners across the country who have been forced to go legal, and these repairers have been an inspiration and have always made time to answer my questions and lend advice. There is unbelievable support available to those who want to learn.” Schaech’s desire to become more involved has also led him to become involved with the Washington Metropolitan Auto Body Association (WMABA) where he sits on the Board of Directors.

Schaech also assures other shop owners that the trial itself was not very difficult. “It was easy for us to explain who the expert repair professional is and who decides what the Final Bill should be, and the judge agreed that because GEICO doesn’t know our costs, they cannot possibly determine what we are able to charge.”

It is also important to note that Schaech’s lawsuit has not really affected his relationship with GEICO or any other insurers. His problem isn’t with the individuals that he deals with but the company’s policies on handling claims.

Schaech also takes issue with his state’s laws regarding insurance companies breaching contracts and how this affects consumers’ rights.

“If a Maryland Insurance Company breaches their contract with the policy holder, and the consumer wants to hold them accountable in a court of law, the consumer is not able to recover attorney’s fees in our state. This really inhibits consumers from taking action, even when it is obvious that they are in the right… I wish the carrier would spend some of those billions of dollars they spend on marketing to properly compensate consumers for quality and safe repairs. I see a lot of poor repairs that have been completed in shops who were not properly compensated for repairs, and this is a consumer problem, especially as it relates to consumers’ safety and the value of their vehicles.”

When asked what measures should be enforced to prevent the necessity of short-pay lawsuits, Schaech notes, “If insurers would get back to the business of insurance, selling policies and paying claims, and stay out of the collision business, we would not have to go this route. The reality is that, by law, consumers have the right to choose the body shop that they feel will do the best job, and by contract, the insurance company is supposed to indemnify the policy holder when there is a loss. So, I say ‘just pay the bill Mr. Insurance Company.’”

In 1975, Schaech’s father opened Mark’s Body Shop in a two-bay garage. After six years of refinishing cars through high school and college, Schaech managed the family business from 1999–2002 when they moved into their current 17,000 square foot facility. At that point, Schaech Jr. became his father’s partner.

Though Mark’s Body Shop repairs approximately 1000 cars annually, grossing around $3 million in sales, they do not participate in any DRPs, but that wasn’t always the case. “There was a time when we participated in as many as five DRP programs, but over the years, these programs developed into bargain basement repair programs. We were asked to use more aftermarket and junk yard parts which we find to be a lower quality alternative to new OEM parts. We were instructed to utilize remanufactured wheel and junkyard suspension components which we believe to put our customers in harm’s way. Finally, we were asked to work so cheaply that it became difficult to invest in new equipment and training which is imperative to repair today’s modern vehicles.”

To shops that are currently facing difficulties obtaining full payment on repairs, Schaech offers the following advice: “There are numerous organizations and individuals in our industry who really care about consumers and repair facilities. These leaders are only a phone call or email way and willing to provide sound advice when a shop owner or consumer needs some sound advice.”

“The reality is not all shops are the same; we all have different costs, different levels of quality, different equipment and training, different certifications, and different fixed costs. It just doesn’t make sense that we can all work for the same price.”

Mark’s Body Shop
4025 Mortimer Ave.
Baltimore, MD 21215
410-358-5155
www.marksbodyshop.com

Over the past six years, the age of the average collision repairer has increased to 38.7 years old, which means many repairers will be retiring in the near future. In turn, this creates a dire need for entry-level repairers, and in anticipation of this crisis, the Collision Repair Education Foundation has taken the proactive step of supporting training programs for future repairers. Brandon Eckenrode, Director of Development, believes this is imperative because “the more actively engaged the industry can be with the high school and college collision programs, instructors and students, the brighter the industry’s future will be.”

to read a PDF of this story with photos go HERE

Established in 1991 to develop, promote and distribute a curriculum program to ensure entry-level employees received training on needed skills, the Education Foundation continued to sell curriculum and provide educational support through various programs, such as CRIN and the Training Alliance, until 2008 when curriculum sales and support moved to I-CAR, allowing the Foundation to focus exclusively on acquiring and distributing donations to schools and students in the form of scholarships and grants. Now, the Foundation is a purely philanthropic organization with the sole purpose of raising money to support and educate future collision repairers. Though I-CAR still plays a key role in allowing the Foundation to operate as a four-person organization, they changed their name in 2010 to distinguish their organization from I-CAR as a way of clarifying that I-CAR training tuition fees do not support the Education Foundation.

 

Their mission is “to secure donations that support philanthropic and collision repair education activities that promote and enhance career opportunities in the industry.” According to Eckenrode, “it’s a full circle from support to staff- the collision industry provides monetary and in-kind donations to the Foundation, which are then distributed to high school/college collision programs, and these donations help assist in providing the best technical education possible for the students, and then these students are ideally hired into the industry.”

 

The Education Foundation’s current goal is to educate the industry on who they are and who they support, in addition to getting more industry members involved in order to raise the level of support they provide. Eckenrode hopes that they will help place entry-level students in a more organized way in the future, in addition to providing a higher level of financial support. They’ve already begun to educate guidance counselors on the industry, teaching them about the great career opportunities students can find in the collision repair industry. According to Eckenrode, “through an increase in support, specifically with monetary donations, we can fill in the gaps within these instructors’ collision budgets and ensure that they have all of the proper tools, equipment and supplies needed to teach the students.”

 

Eckenrode is the sole full-time fundraiser for the Education Foundation, focusing his efforts on locating supporters within the industry as well as working in communications to inform the industry of the Foundation’s efforts. When asked if his work is rewarding, Eckenrode notes, “Rewarding doesn’t fully describe the work for me. I believe we are ‘facilitators of this industry’s generosity,’ and when you hear instructors get choked up because you were able to send them a box of safety glasses for his/her students or get to inform a student that they are the recipient of a $5000 scholarship, it makes you proud of our industry for making that possible.”

 

Eckenrode fondly recalls their Cintas technician shirt project when they provided promotional shirts to students attending NACE several years ago. The project led to the distribution of nearly 10,000 shirts, and he has been amazed to hear how this “uniform” has transformed students’ attitudes, giving them a sense of professionalism and pride. As such, he hopes to expand the program even further.

Melissa Marscin serves as the Foundation’s Director of Grant Programs, distributing the donations received, whether those donations are in-kind product donations, school grants or scholarships. Distribution plays a vital role in their mission as they strive to ensure that received support is distributed where it is most needed; their application process is critical in providing information on where support is needed and what exactly the need is.

 

Marscin says, “I have the best job in the world because I am able to give out scholarships and grant funds to deserving schools and students. And the best part is that I am able to directly see that my work is helping to improve the collision programs which, in turn, help to produce better entry-level technicians for the industry. It is extremely rewarding to have a student or instructor call me and say ‘thank you’… you really never realize how much of a difference you are making until you receive those notes and speak to the instructors or students in person, and then hear how the Foundation has changed their life.”

 

When Marscin was asked for an example of a rewarding experience, she said, “my favorite story is one about a recent $3 million donation to the schools which included basic things like sandpaper. The donation came late in the school year, and one of the instructors who received the items said he literally had no budget left for supplies this year, and he was worrying about how he would finish out the school year. Then, this box of materials showed up, and he said he felt like he won our $50,000 grant! It’s amazing what a difference a small item like sandpaper means to schools, especially with their budget challenges. The Education Foundation has been called Santa more than once, and it is always a great feeling to see that we are making a difference.”

 

The Collision Repair Education Foundation receives donations from industry supporters nationwide, and both products and monetary donations are then distributed to high schools, technical schools and college collision programs, instructors and students in all 50 states. All segments of the collision repair industry, and any outside entity as well, are invited to donate products and scholarship money to the Foundation. Eckenrode encourages such donations; “donated tools, equipment, supplies, and other materials greatly assist collision school instructors who are working with very minimal budgets. In 2012, we raised a record $4.9 million, and we are tracking slightly above (3%) that amount half way through 2013 so far.”

 

In 2013, 126 schools applied for the Foundation’s “Ultimate Collision Education Makeover” grant, a huge increase from the 72 applications submitted last year. Marscin believes this grant is very important because “as school budgets continue to decrease, schools need a way to supplement their budgets, and the Makeover is a perfect solution to this. The winning schools get $50,000 worth of tools, supplies, and equipment for their collision program, and we have hundreds of smaller prizes to help schools get supplies to better teach their students. Every school that applies does get some donations out of this program, so it is beneficial for every collision school to apply!”

 

Any school offering a collision repair program is eligible for grants by filling out an annual survey that helps the Education Foundation collect important data on trends and statistics within the industry.

 

According to Eckenrode, “the Collision Repair Education Foundation plays a vital role within the industry as we are supporting its future professionals. The more actively engaged the industry can be with the high school and college collision school programs, instructors and students, the brighter the industry’s future will be… Supporting the schools, instructors and students is vital, but we also need to collectively do a better job in showcasing this industry as a great career choice to students/ parents at an early stage in their education.”

 

It’s easy to make a monetary, tax-deductible donation or in-kind product donation. Simply visit the Foundation’s website, or email Eckenrode who invites “any and all industry members to reach out to us to help them find a collision school program in their area and get involved. The industry taking an active role with their local schools assists in these students being able to graduate as efficient, productive entry-level workers.”

 

Why would a collision repair facility want to support the Collision Repair Education Foundation? Eckenrode’s answer is simple; “to donate to the Foundation is a re-investment in the industry’s future.”

 

Collision Repair Education Foundation

http://CollisionEducationFoundation.org

5125 Trillium Boulevard

Hoffman Estates, IL 60192

888-722-3787

Brandon.Eckenrode@ed-foundation.org

 

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