John Yoswick

John YoswickJohn Yoswick is a freelance automotive writer based in Portland, Oregon, who has been writing about the collision industry since 1988. He is the editor of the weekly CRASH Network (for a free 4-week trial subscription, visit www.CrashNetwork.com).

He can be contacted at john@crashnetwork.com 

Tuesday, 06 September 2022 15:40

Insurers, Collision Repairers Discuss How to Improve Estimating, Claims Adjusting Process

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Connie Hutton of Erie Insurance encourages shops and insurers to keep customers in the loop while claims are being handled. Connie Hutton of Erie Insurance encourages shops and insurers to keep customers in the loop while claims are being handled.


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Collision repairers and insurance company representatives at this summer’s Collision Industry Conference (CIC) discussed the friction that exists between the two segments of the industry in terms of estimating damages and adjusting claims.

An appraiser for Erie Insurance seemed to surprise some collision repairers at the meeting when she suggested shops and insurers should keep customers in the loop about the claims adjusting processes.


“So if you’re emailing the shop, ‘cc’ your customer in that for information purposes,” Connie Hutton suggested during the CIC Estimating Committee panel discussion. “And continue the thread. It keeps them informed and, believe it or not, when I was on the shop side, I got paid for most everything I did because I kept [the customer] informed.”


Panelist Rob Wagner of Rob Wagner Auto Body in Pittsburgh said he was “blown away” by Hutton’s suggestion.


“We need to invest in cloning technology,” Wagner said of Hutton, drawing laughter. “Because that’s literally something that’s created friction between me and appraisers before. It’s, ‘What are you doing talking to the customer about this?’ But it’s their car.”


Insurer Estimate Not a Repair Plan


Hutton also emphasized there’s a clear difference between an insurer estimate and a repair plan.


“When I send my estimates out, my first line says: If you need a supplement---photos, invoices, sublets, whatever---just send all that’s clear, and you’ll be paid,” she said. “Half of [shops] don’t even read that. It just wastes time for you, not me.”


Hutton was asked what types of repair operations are the hardest for her to approve.


“A sublet to a [dealer] that doesn’t include any documentation when the bill is $3,500,” Hutton said. “It just says, ‘Calibration done.’ I need a little bit more than that. I’ll pay it, but give me...

...a little bit more information. And the shop should need it, too. Any time you sublet something, it’s on you, still. We’ll come back to you, not to them.”


Collision repairers on the panel were asked what operations they most struggle to get approved for payment.

“Safety inspections. It’s getting easier, but that’s definitely one,” Wagner said. “If you have structural damage on a Subaru and you’re writing to take the whole interior apart, and you have a bill-payer that’s not used to seeing that, that’s probably going to freak them out.”


Panelist Erin Solis of the Certified Collision Group referred back to Wagner’s reference to cloning.


Erin Solis web

Erin Solis of the Certified Collision Group said shops often struggle to get paid for safety inspections because too few shops actually do them.


“You want to clone them, but the rest of us want to clone you,” she told Wagner. “Because part of the reason why you can’t get paid for the R&I of the steering column on a Subaru when you have to measure it could be because you’re the only one in your market doing it.


“There are still a lot of repairers not doing the safety inspections, and I hear from shops all the time they are getting push back because [they are told] no one else in their market is doing it.”


Claims Handling Inconsistency


Wagner said one of his frustrations with how auto claims are adjusted is the inconsistency in what procedures get approved.


He pointed to two claims at his shop involving the same Lexus vehicle, with virtually the same damage and the same insurer involved. Shortly after the shop completed the first $17,000 repair to the vehicle, the customer hit a deer, resulting in similar damage and a $19,000 bill.


“With the first repair, there was a short-pay of about $2,500, and on the second repair there was a short-pay of about $2,500,” Wagner said. “But items that the insurer said on the first claim they would never pay, got paid on the second claim, no problem. And vice versa. It just seems like they reach a quitting point [when reviewing a claim], and decide, ‘That’s good enough.’”


Wagner also drew applause at CIC when he challenged...

...the estimating system providers to do a better job including small and one-time-use parts often needed during repairs in their systems.


“Clips, O-rings, screws are parts, and they need to be in the database,” Wagner said. “If you want to talk about the one thing that absolutely irritates me to no end, it’s all the time I have to spend digging to try to find all those parts.”


Rob Wagner web

Pennsylvania collision repairer Rob Wagner said inconsistency in the way insurers handle claims is frustrating for shops.


Wagner said his shop recently was repairing a vandalized Jeep and needed to disassemble the dash to remove broken glass. The two O-rings needed as part of that work weren’t in his shop’s estimating system, so he had to locate them in OEConnection’s RepairLink, then manually enter them into his estimate.


“Luckily the O-rings were $24.30 each, so we’re at least making a little more money than we would on a $3 O-ring,” he said. “But it still can make my blood boil when I just spent 20 minutes to sell $50 worth of O-rings that should have just been a simple click in the [estimating] system.”


Panel moderator Danny Gredinberg of the Database Enhancement Gateway encouraged the industry to report such missing parts to his organization, something Wagner does regularly.


“Submit that inquiry, and we’ll work with the information providers to hopefully get that added in there,” Gredinberg said.


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