Industry professionals shared their expertise with members during the quarterly meeting of the Auto Body Association of Connecticut (ABAC).
Topics discussed ranged from insurer interference to storage charges and OEM repair procedures. ABAC News provided association members with a recount of information panelists shared with attendees.
The meeting began with Bob Amendola, ABAC president, welcoming attendees and thanking sponsors. He covered highlights from ABAC’s previous “Winds of Change” meeting. In addition, he addressed ways in which the panel would work. Amendola shared, “We hope to be concise when addressing your concerns. Every time we engage with each other, we all learn more.”
Following dinner, Tony Ferraiolo, former ABAC president, encouraged attendees to see the importance of the Customer Repair Contract.
“If you don’t use a Repair Contract, you have nothing, said Ferraiolo. “If these people do not want to pay you or if you go up against an insurance company in court, you have a zero chance of a decision in your favor.”
Dave Fogarty, panel moderator from Lorenson Auto Group introduced the rest of the panel: Amendola (Autoworks of Westville), Ferraiolo (A&R Body Specialty), Tony Cavallaro Sr. (Airport Road Auto Body), Ed Lupinek (Eddie’s Auto Body), Tony Lombardozzi (Superare Marketing, CCRE president) and ABAC’s legal counsel, John M. Parese (Law Offices of Buckley, Wynne & Parese).
People often question why collision repair facilities permit insurers to interfere in their business. Lombardozzi said, “There is a better way—it’s a mindset change. [The insurers] don’t belong in our business—they sell insurance; they pay claims. We’re not in the insurance business—we repair collision-damaged vehicles.”
Parese explained the difference between an authorization to repair versus a repair contract. An authorization to repair has more limits, since it gives the shop the authorization to fix the vehicle. He added, “A repair contract is fundamental to everything you do and protects you in three important ways. It can be utilized for fighting insurance companies when there’s a short pay, but it can also protect you from your own customer who doesn’t pay. It also protects you against any complaints that may be filed against you at the DMV.”
The hot topic of the evening—the value of OEM certifications—was approached. Cavallaro said, “I feel so fortunate that I made the investment to become certified. The OEM manufacturers will be your customers moving forward. If you’re on a certification program while a customer gets into an accident, that vehicle is coming to you before it gets into an insurance company’s hands.”
Amendola assured attendees that pre- and post-scanning is necessary to properly repair modern vehicles. He urged them to check OEM guidelines, which can be cited on the invoice to receive compensation from the insurer. Amendola was asked if shops are entitled to charge for labor—including time spent with insurers and customers, on total losses—and he said, “Yes. You’re taking into consideration many things that cost you your time such as removal of the plates, customer personal belongings, fair-damage assessments and more.”
Attendees received advice on dealing with insurers who refuse to pay posted labor rates. When it comes to handling insurers who refuse to pay for necessary parts or procedures to restore the vehicle to pre-accident condition, Ferraiolo reminded everyone, “You’re the professional repairing that vehicle and you need to make the judgment call as to what is necessary to repair the vehicle properly.”
In response to insurers who refuse to pay for necessary repairs that have already been started, Lupinek advised, “Once an insurance company inspects a vehicle, determines the loss and liability, we produce a repair plan and repair the vehicle. You can and should document what you are doing and take photos. A final invoice along with photos is all that is required.”
Regarding how to respond to insurers who insist that parts must be purchased from a specific vendor, Lombardozzi claimed, “They lie! I don’t believe there is any law in Connecticut that states you are bound to purchase parts from a source that the insurance company recommends.”
In addition to discussing menu pricing and how to calculate the true cost of labor, Lombardozzi said to include billing for research time on your invoice.
The entire panel encouraged attendees to educate customers by explaining the difference in OEM and aftermarket parts up front and keeping them apprised of the entire process. By being honest, shops can properly repair vehicles without losing customers. Moreover, unless a shop is a DRP for an insurer, their only contract is with the customer and their primary responsibility is fixing that customer’s vehicle.
Additional topics discussed by the panel of industry experts included insurers’ abandonment of cars without salvage value, shops’ entitlement to be paid on a sublet, shop materials organization, storage charges on repairable vehicles, photo estimates and equipment usage charges in a shop’s business model. Amendola thanked the other panel members for sharing their wisdom. The meeting drew to a close with 50/50 raffle prize drawings.
For more information about the ABAC, visit abaconn.org.