Sunday, 31 March 2002 09:00

Insurers and their partners expose themselves

Written by Dick Strom

It's time for the third installment to Barons In The Buff, a collage of candid quotes from the mind-trust of insurer and associates wit and wisdom. Barons In The Buff simply re-quotes some of their stand-alone statements, untouched except for occasional clarification or comment. Want to contribute?… Send your gems to my address listed at the end of this article - no fabricated or embellished quips, please: What men say is often stranger than fiction. So sit back and have a good laugh, remembering that "A merry heart does good like medicine." 

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"AMICA does not recognize hazardous waste." (emphasized on an IAS estimate. I wonder if they'd "recognize hazardous waste" if shops mailed it to their head office)?

"That's not easy… just try asking insurance companies for money." (comment by CAPA's Jack Gillis as he predicted needing twice as much insurer funding this year.)

"The radio show host… in a bizarre diatribe stated that, frequently, DRP shops' concessions with insurers force them to commit fraud in order to make a profit; i.e.: that the public is likely to get low-quality work from insurer-recommended shops. Hey! Ninety percent of my work comes as direct insurance assignments. I do top quality work with the best equipment and the best trained techs…my CSI is proof of it. Obviously, the host was fed information that was mostly wrong, very opinionated, and full of false assumptions by someone within our industry reveling in the past. The station unfairly portrayed our industry as a bunch of schlocks in bed with insurance companies bent in ripping off the consumer by a combination of fraud and cost-cutting. End result: it was publicly embarrassing to the industry, completely unprofessional and out of step with the times." (editorialized comment of a Northwest shop owner. If I'd known the segment was being aired, I would have given my opinion from my 30 years experience.)

"We (very large insurer) have built our business on consumer service and have never 'harmed' a customer." (spoken at NACE, 2001 by an executive of that insurer.)

"CAPA recalls their parts that fail. They send notices to all consumers, when parts are decertified, in the form of a recall." (this obvious misinformation was reiterated three times in the conversation by a legal counsel for the National Assn. of Independent Insurers.)

"It's not fraud… my tech just forgot to install the part." (large DRP's excuse for not replacing a structural part needing replacement, which they were paid to replace.)

"What do you mean you can't clip a convertible? I've been clipping convertibles for 30 years." (re-inspecting shop stated the "repair" was "so ugly it'd make a train take a dirt road" - the insurer was eventually forced to total the vehicle.)

"I'm prepared to pay at least 10% of your supplement." ("whoopy -do" winner.)

"I don't need to see your (shop's) estimate… I've been doing this for 20 years." (insurance adjuster whose company eventually paid an additional $12,000 supplement because he didn't see all the damage… which the shop's estimate included!)

"Why blend? If your painter was any good he could 'butt-match' white pearl." (when shop owner suggested this adjuster repeat that statement in the presence of the shop's painter, he quickly paid for the blend.)

"It's only cosmetic damage on that 'B' pillar." (dealer-DRP shop's comment when forced to re-inspect its shoddy structural replacement work, which included porous, missing, and unpainted welds… a good tug would have pulled it out!)

"We merely pulled the quarter panel off the car with no drilling or chiseling." (concerning "re-repairs" made to a dealer-DRP shop's original "repair".)

"When do you start paying storage charges? Today, when we declared it a total."

"I'm only paying for 5 days storage because we hadn't determined the vehicle was totaled until 5 days ago." (when salvage company picked up vehicle they paid shop the full 18 days storage, and nothing further was heard from insurer.)

"It doesn't matter that we write imitation parts since 80% of the shops install OEM parts in order to move the car and satisfy the customer." (insurer court statement.)

"Yes, there's paint flaking off the strut… but what makes you think it's damaged?" (adjuster's view of destroyed suspension on 2001 Honda with 2" setback.)

"Was that one of our employees you described in your article?" (humble query from local insurer claim center to an article I wrote describing the deceptive practices of a certain local adjuster. It wasn't, but I thanked them for being concerned enough to ask.)

"Oh, don't tell me you're using that crap Paint-Ex." (adjuster then proceeded to give his canned version of how the Paint-Ex system works. Bob Klem of Paint-Ex [888/888-5501] would be happy to explain how incredibly accurate his process really is.)

"You said your supplement is only $138. Do you know what that would cost our company if we had to pay $138 more on every claim?" (do insurer reps. know what effect losing $138 on every job would have on repairers?)

"Your appraisal has no labor hours (it was written in dollars as crash programs allow and many attorneys recommend). Nor does it include a labor rate. My appraisal is figured with labor hours taken from Mitchell, and is in the customary appraisal format." (insurer response to shop estimate figured in dollars, not hours or time units.)

"All supplements must be in writing." (Oh, really?)


"What's the big deal about these floor buckles… the carpet covers them!" (insurance adjuster's words. Shop owner reports, "You should have seen his supervisor's jaw drop! This joker-adjuster no longer works in my area.")

"I don't think this is the department you should be talking to." (Response of Pennsylvania Dept of Insurance Deputy Commissioner when confronted with a certain insurer's appraiser willing to be an informant against that insurer. "When we asked if this DOI is in charge of enforcement, they answered, Yes. But when we challenged them, 'why not interview this insurance employee who is willing to testify as to his company's practices?' they refused to discuss the matter. And here we thought the DOIs' purpose is to represent consumers' interests.

"Please keep it at your end of the table… we aren't interested" (same day, same DOI Deputy Commissioner's response to a copy of PaintEx offered for his department to examine.)

"When insurers get these invoices, they pay them, right?" (question by Illinois Insurance Department Market Conduct directors following an hour of shop owners explaining material capping, backed up by Mitchell and PaintEx invoice examples. To which the shops present replied, "No, if insurers were paying the invoices we wouldn't be sitting here!" These are the same people who remind us that tax dollars do not fund the insurance department, but that taxes on insurers do, which explains why they "don't work for the taxpayer.")

"We no longer pay R&I on anything five years or older." (insurer rep. statement.)

"If I don't put the parts on the car, do you split the money with me?" (question posed to shop owner by a "hacker" looking for a new roost. He didn't get the job.)

(insurer statement) "We won't pay for that." / (shop owner's response) "OK, no problem." / (insurer) "So, does that mean if you don't get paid for it, you won't do it?

"That dent in the quarter panel will just pop right out after you pull the frame." (shop owner replied that was impossible because his magic wand batteries were dead.)

"That's not my problem… we only pay for reconditioned covers." (insurer rep's response when told that reconditioned bumpers have no texture options.)

"Why did you figure replacing the bumper… that's a two hour repair." (bumper was torn nearly in half, and one end was dragging the ground when car came in.)

"They don't??" (clueless Mega-glass claim handler response when shop informed her USAA doesn't have local agents. "She told us a USAA agent would handle the claim!")

"Something bothers me… I have (insurance) companies that want me to withhold depreciation as a form of 'punishment' to make sure the insureds replace an item that probably doesn't need to be replaced…" (on-line insurer comment on CADO Forums.)

"I was reprimanded for not saying LKQ - I called the part USED - even though the customer knew LKQ is just a 'gray' word for USED." (DRP shop manager.)

"I could do work for (this insurer) for $12/hour and still make money." (comment from shop owner who at the time turned away work for the three largest insurers.)

"I locked myself out of my office. My computer has been down. My fax machine isn't cooperating." (all these excuses for not sending us the estimate this insurer rep had supposedly written were given us within the same week on the same file. She's since moved to other pastures.)

"The only way you can have your repairs done at the shop of your choice is to make the claim through your own insurance." (insurance claims center steering lie.)

"You have to go to our drive-in claims center." (insurer insistence to a claimant. When claimant stated she knew her rights, insurer rep dropped her BS story: Steering.)

"I'm not in a position to talk about parts failing." and "Oh, my. You're going to have to talk with Jack Gillis (CAPA administrative director). We've given all that information to CAPA." (reactions by Entela [CAPA's testing lab] employees when CRASH Network asked them to comment on reports that almost 50% of CAPA parts fail the test fit at the Entela lab.)

"I'm not sure what the percentage is." (Jack Gillis' reply to the above question.)

"It's my goal to make you completely satisfied." (slogan prominently displayed on a large insurer's estimates, advertising, and phone answering machine.)

"We're a 'bottom line' (insurance) company, and we'll write estimates that might not itemize everything the shop must do in the repair, but we try to make sure the 'bottom line' is there." (an insurer state supervisor's statement to a shop owner and his attorney.)

"We sometimes call it cost-shifting!" (company adjuster, sitting on the above conversation, trying to clarify his boss's statement. [open mouth… insert foot].)

"Why do you need 'cleanup' on LKQ parts? The salvage yard says they're cherry." (insurer rep. feigning no discernable comprehension of the term "used" part. All shops should be writing 'repair used part' rather than 'cleanup used part'.)

"No! I don't want to talk to Aaron (my son, one of our painters) - I know how that family (our family-owned business) works." (insurer rep's behind our back comment to our secretary when she suggested Aaron explain the painting process required on a disputed refinish procedure: Surprise, insurers… Aaron and his brother Micah will be taking over our shop within 2 years… so, deal with it!)

"That's just the little game Dick plays. Now he gets to charge me to O/H the bumper twice, and pay for painting materials twice." (same adjuster's slander of me to my secretary when remanufactured bumper cover he listed, which came with lumpy gray primer over cracked original paint, showed up cracks after it was clearcoated.)

Dick Strom, Modern Collision Rebuild, moderncol@aol.com, Fax (206)-842-8056