Tuesday, 31 January 2006 09:00

Insurers and their partners publicly expose themselves

Written by Dick Strom

It's time for the seventh installment ofBarons in the Buff, a collage of candid quotes from the mind-trust of insurance personnel, those who once walked in their shoes, and from those who know them best. 

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We trust you will find these quotes educational and entertaining, and en-courage you to send any notable quotes you've received to my address listed at the end of this article. No fabricated or embellished quips, please. Now sit back, read and enjoy - it's your turn to laugh - and consider.

Character of insurer representatives

"If you work exactly off my estimate, we won't be responsible for the poor quality of your work." (actual statement from our "favorite" insurance adjuster)

"Just reinstall it in the car and maybe it'll last another 6 months before it goes out. Then I can say its not accident-related and deny it." (adjuster's comment concerning a shattered A/C fan motor assembly badly needing replacement; he acted somewhat as if he was joking when he made this statement, but did not include the part in his estimate)

"You mean you are going to hold this vehicle hostage until you get our check?" (insurer on a $13K repair)

"We won't pay the shop the disputed dollar amount, but we will reimburse you (the customer) the full disputed amount if you pay the shop that portion." (insurer rep who knew by law the shop was due payment, yet refused to admit it to shop, and pay up)

"At the end of the day, we [NRMA -- the Insurance Australia Group] are the customer. It's our business that we're passing for [collision repairers] to do for us, and we're essentially saying we want those repairers who are interested in [our] work to bid for [our] work. I don't see that as an unfair process…" (Michael Hawker, CEO of NRMA stating his company's position on repairs, reported in 9/25/05 CRASH Network)

"I don't think (the insurer) will pay for the license plate frame because it is A/M." This adjuster then said they would be paying for an A/M bumper for the vehicle. When questioned about this he explained that his company had no problem with his using parts that devalued the vehicle, rather than added to its value. We were talking about a $5.00 A/M license plate frame! (an independent adjuster's reasoning to a shop appraiser)

"You're not the only one waiting for a supplement check…we have a lot of other people that haven't been paid yet either." (adjuster's comment upon our calling to collect an overdue supplement; like this is supposed to make us feel better)

"I know that it needs to be done, but we just don't pay for that." (claims manager's conclusion after our trying to reason with him to pay for tinting to a blendable match.) He then stated he pays for this operation only 20% of the time. When we asked him if he was suggesting we only tint the paint for two cars out of ten, he replied that was all he would pay. When we asked what he would suggest we do if the next ten vehicles that came in were all brand new silver metallic cars, his response was that he still would only pay to tint two of them. When we asked about his arbitrary denial of tinting, his response was, "that's not arbitrary."

"Car company (OEM) parts are NOT crash tested. There are no federal rules governing aftermarket parts whether made by a car company or a non-car company. CAPA manufacturers build parts with the same physical, mechanical and chemical properties as car company parts. Experienced engineers test CAPA parts to assure their similarity to car company parts in all of these areas." (CAPA spew. One has to wonder what the NHTSA regularly tests, if not OEM parts on factory-built vehicles. Also, if CAPA parts are built with the same properties as OEM, why do they weigh different, contain different weld locations, rust more rapidly, etc?)

"Since CAPA's incorporation in 1987, over 18 million CAPA certified parts have been sold. There have been only two complaints about corrosion in that time." (more CAPA spew)

"There are 'not-included' P-page operations listed in CCC that are needed for a complete repair, but the 'industry standard' on these is that they are free." (statement made by a claims manager to us in the presence of a group of local insurance agents that sell that company's insurance; this raised some serious eyebrows among the agents)


"The replacement parts written on this estimate are intended to return your vehicle to its pre-loss condition with proper installation. After repair, if any sheet metal or plastic body part included in the estimate fails to return your vehicle to its pre-loss condition (assuming proper installation), in terms of form, fit, finish, durability or functionality, Progressive will arrange and pay for the replacement of the part, to the extent not covered by a manufacturer's or other warranty." (one has to wonder why the insurer felt obligated to stress "with proper installation" twice when speaking of warranting imitation parts)

"Some of you did very well on your LKQ and A/M parts usage, but the majority of you had little to no alternative parts usage. I understand that LKQ or A/M parts may not always be the best method of repair, but I find it hard to believe that there are no situations where these parts are not a good repair method. As a group, the GRS shops averaged 6.0% alternative parts usage. We expect a much better result from all of you… You all agreed to use LKQ and A/M parts where they were applicable and available. But this is not happening." (portion of letter from GEICO to its Guaranteed Repair Shops (GRS) managers of DRP shops)

"Don't have a heart attack over this, but we're still not paying $40/hour yet. Hope you are back to work soon, because I miss giving you a hard time. I'll make a deal with you; don't beat me up so bad the next time I come in, and I'll take it easy on you until you are 75% recovered from your heart surgery." (#2 insurer rep to a shop owner who was just recovering from quadruple heart by-pass surgery)

"It's a lot of work to remove the engine, transmission, suspension and all the mechanicals from the vehicle.' (explanation of a Phoenix shop owner to a TV investigative reporter of why it took 9 months just to dismantle the vehicle. He continued that he "…had people who handled those things…" but that he didn't know exactly what had taken so long)

A supervisor for a large insurance company said it was "a computer glitch" that failed to tax some parts, rather placing them in a "non-taxable" parts category. (all parts that go on the car are taxable. Computers seldom "glitch" without human help)

"In the Mitchell estimating system I just noticed the refinish times for used parts are less than for new parts. A repaired part pays the same refinish time and materials as a new one. But if you buy the part used and clean it up, it pays less. I thought this must have been a mistake, but was assured by a Mitchell rep that it was not a mistake. The Mitchell rep stated, 'Paint time on used parts should be less than on brand new OEM parts, because on used parts you have an OEM surface that only needs to be scuffed and painted.' The Mitchell rep understood that in the real world salvage yards don't send us undamaged parts that need only to be scuffed and painted. He instructed me that I should just bill the cleanup needed to the insurer. When I pointed out that this still did not correct the problem of the missing paint time, he suggested I bill out the rest of the paint time to the insurer. Explaining that just billing extra paint time on every used part would not cure the database shortage problem. His final comment was that the insurance company's not paying for the extra time needed to prep and paint used panels was 'not my problem.'" (shop owner experience dealing with Mitchell)

Those who must deal with insurer reps

"Too often, NCOIL's advocacy is virtually indistinguishable from those of insurance interests. Perhaps because so many of their members are affiliated with the insurance industry, NCOIL consistently promotes industry self-regulation and weak oversight of insurance abuses. I'm issuing a consumer alert to federal and state lawmakers that they cannot count on NCOIL as an unbiased source of information on pressing insurance issues." (comment of Consumer Federation of America Director of Insurance and former Texas Insurance Commissioner, J. Robert Hunter)

"In July of 2003, the California BAR, a sub-agency of the Department of Consumer Affairs, published the results of its Crash Parts Certification Study. In the results of that study, BAR plainly stated that because certifiers would not stand behind the quality of the products they approved, their certification provided absolutely no benefit to consumers. 'With regard to product warranty, certification has no value to the customer; if there are problems with the certified product the certifying entity does not stand behind their own certification process. If the certifying entity warranted their certified parts it would provide "added value" to the certified part, and protect consumers against poor quality parts.'

"Despite this recommendation made two years ago by the BAR, that certifiers provide consumers with real value by warranting the products they approve, the certifiers still chose not to do so. The fact that certifiers will not accept responsibility for the parts they claim are 'equal to or better than' OEM parts, demonstrates the very real problem created for consumers if this Committee endorses an artificial presumption of quality for such parts." (portion of written testimony of attorney Erica Eversman to 2005 meeting with NCOIL over certification of imitation parts)

My favorite quote of the year

In a recent interview, General Norman Schwartzkopf was asked if he thought there was room for forgiveness toward the people who had harbored and abetted the terrorists who perpetrated the 9/11 attacks on America. The general answered, "I believe that forgiving them is God's function. Our job is to arrange the meeting." (Amen!)

Dick Strom, Modern Collision Rebuild, 9270 Miller Road, NE, Bainbridge Island, Washington 98110; (206) 842-3621; e-mail: moderncol@qwest.net.