Friday, 31 December 2004 09:00

Shops discuss expert witnessing; third-party inspections

Written by Dick Strom

CCRE Update from NACE

The Coalition for Collision Repair Excellence Annual Convention, held in Las Vegas during NACE, far surpassed any previously held. Following a Thursday morning closed-door session for CCRE members only, attorney David Wattel presented a very convincing case for educating attorneys and consumers in pursuing insurers for proper repair of vehicles, and for collecting at least inherent diminished value. 

Attorney Erica L. Eversman, Vehicle Information Services, Inc., then expanded on ways insurers successfully control their costs through controlling the repair industry. She exhorted us to get more involved in the decision-making process through creating a CCRE-Certification board, a grievance and discipline board, conducting repairer and insurer ratings, becoming more politically active, and taking legal action to assure that independent shops don't get pushed out of business by the coming wave of Insurer-DRP networks and/or Manufacturer-Certified networks.

Who else repairs cars?

Attorney Bruce Cornblum opened his Proposal For Economic Reform session with a history lesson outlining how professional baseball became a profitable industry, and how applying the same principles to the repair industry would revolutionize it. Among the many points on which Cornblum expanded were the collision industry's fundamental need to unite from a standpoint of strength, know and exercise the existing laws that affect our businesses, create standards for repair, develop political action committees (PACs), assist in resolving disputes over inferior work, create newsletters to promote our goals and accomplishments, and collect annual dues to support the work.

The substantial shortfall between insurer-generated estimates and actual costs of repairs highlights the fact that shops' charity has to stop. In detail, Cornblum mapped the course the collision industry needs to take, with eliminating shops' fear of insurers being the first: Insurers, having no other place to have cars repaired, they must deal with us.

Insurers don't play fair

Brian Vesley, attorney and collision shop owner, summarized the recent case in which fraudulent practices by insurers have been exposed by N.Y. Attorney General Elliot Spitzer, an opportunity which some in the collision industry have long awaited.

Insurers regularly rely on such fraudulent practices as skimpy estimates, labor rates for all shops based on rates insurers have with shops with which they have volume agreements, paint and materials calculations based on obsolete pricing, and steering work to their DRPs. Then, a question and answer session hosted by CCRE's attorney-speakers gave insight on how to deal with numerous problems repairers face.

Shop owner, industry writer and expert witness Patrick Yurek, along with Ken Klein, gave a great rundown on what shop owners need to know to become expert witnesses. Fueled by the poor quality of many repairs, and the insurer cost-cutting that often encourages these, the fast- growing Post Repair Inspection (PRI) industry is assured to be a profitable field for many repairers to enter, with great potential to raise the rapidly sinking so- called "industry standards" for collision repair.

Yurek skillfully covered in great detail what PRI inspectors should expect, how to present an accurate, convincing case for proper repairs to judges and juries which have limited knowledge of collision repair, and make a convincing case for "reasonable and necessary" rather than the "usual and customary" behind which many insurers hide.

Do it right the first time

Former shop owner, Rocco Avellini, now owner of PRI company Collision Repair Consulting - "the ultimate second opinion in collision repair" - showed how insurer-generated estimates, often 30-50% below actual repair costs, decrease the overall quality of repairs, which in turn adversely affects bodily injury claims which are often based on the dollar amount of damage to the vehicle.

Re-repairing vehicles being much more time consuming and expensive than doing the repair correctly in the first place, Avellini gave examples in which shops have collected on re-repair labor rates of nearly double the shop's normal labor rate. He pointed out how the collision industry's subsidizing of its own demise through substandard pricing can be brought in line through post-repair inspectors such as his Wreck-Check Car Scan business.

Long time shop owner and originator of the collision repair franchise, Preferred Collision Professionals, John Padula pointed out the advantages of shops joining a franchise, allowing shops to be "in business for themselves, but not by themselves." Franchises also enable volume-buying pricing of tools and materials, plus numerous other benefits.

Following Padula, well-respected industry writer and master technician Paul Bailey gave us a "tech's eye" view of the industry that few shop owners have considered. The three-day educational exposition concluded with a Licensed Legal Professional Attorneys seminar hosted by Rocco Avellini, and a session dedicated to Independent Glass Association. (IGA) issues.

A notebook of notes, useful forms, and the like were included in the admission price for each attendee. But one of the most profitable aspects of CCRE Annual Conventions is being able to network with other true repair professionals in a casual yet instructive atmosphere, free from insurer interference. The CCRE will be conducting more of these in the very near future at various locations across the country. The CCRE invites you to join us in taking an active part in taking back control of the collision industry from those outside entities that presently control it.

For more information on theCCRE, contact Dick Strom, Modern Collision Rebuild, 9270 Miller Road, NE, Bainbridge Island, Washington 98110; (206) 842-3621; e-mail: moderncol@qwest.net. Or visit www.theCCRE.com .