From a crack-down on fraud to attempts to halt the growth of insurer-owned shops, it's been an interesting year for the collision repair industry. Here is our annual year-in-review wrap-up, a collection of some of the most memorable, important, interesting or enlightening quotes heard around the industry during 2003.
Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi, responding to the workers' compensation crisis dampening California's economy, announced he has significantly lowered the advisory pure premium rate by 14.9%, effectively returning it to the July 2002 level.
The Texas law passed earlier this year that puts a halt on the growth of insurer-owned shops is nine pages long.
Michael Spears is serious about his business. He is results-oriented and motivated by the challenges representing the collision repair industry. Spears is part owner and general manager of Green Valley Collision Center, a brand new 30,000 sq. ft. auto body shop in Las Vegas, Nevada. Green Valley is a member of The Auto Body Group, along with Falconi's Collision Center and Speedway Truck and R/V Center. In addition, ground is to be broken on another 38,000 sq.ft. collision repair center in spring 2004.
The issue of shops needing multiple estimating systems to meet insurer direct repair program requirements may not be resolved soon, according to panelists at a NACE Town Hall meeting that focused on automated claims processing.
At the last International Autobody Congress and Exposition (NACE) expected to be held anywhere other than Las Vegas, attendees had an opportunity in early December to enjoy a welcome party at Universal CityWalk in Orlando, Florida, participate in 45 educational sessions, hear a keynote address from news commentator Bill O'Reilly, and browse a 176,000-sq.-ft. trade show featuring 488 companies.
Attorney General Bill Lockyer filed a $50 million lawsuit against Irvine-based Caliber Collision Centers and its subsidiaries on December 4, 2003 alleging they committed widespread fraud by billing consumers for services and parts that were not provided.
Nine owners or employees of area auto repair shops were arrested and charged December 17, 2003 with auto insurance fraud following a lengthy investigation by a multi-agency task force headed by the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Bureau of Investigation, LA District Attorney Steve Cooley announced. Two others were charged but were not yet in custody.
Allstate has won a round in its fight to own collision centers in Texas. In the U.S. District Court of North Texas, Dallas County, Judge Ed Kinkeade granted a motion for a preliminary injunction against enforcement of H.B. 1131 as requested by the plaintiffs in Allstate Insurance Co. and Sterling Collision Centers Inc. v. Greg Abbott, Attorney General of Texas and Carol Keton Strayhorn, Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts ("defendants").
From "unintentional fraud" to "estimating database abuse" and the added costs created by the lack of standardization among direct repair programs, the Collision Industry Conference (CIC) plans to address a wide range of topics in 2004.