On Feb. 12, members of the Houston Auto Body Association (HABA) and the Auto Body Association of Texas (ABAT) gathered at the Texas Capitol in Austin, TX, for their Inaugural Collision Day at the Capitol.
According to ABAT Executive Director Jill Tuggle, “We planned this event to make lawmakers aware of the safety crisis that is happening in the collision repair business and that HB 1348 was written to address these issues. The day went very well. We met at the Capitol and were introduced in the House and the Senate. We had meetings with legislators and had a rally outside. We exceeded our expectations. Almost 100 people showed up in support, and thanks to Texas Watch, we made some lasting impressions.
“Attendees came from all over Texas to show their support. It was inspiring to see shop owners, managers, technicians and jobbers drive several hours to participate. It was a demanding day with some attendees leaving home as early as 4 a.m., participating in a very long day’s work, and then driving back home to be at their businesses the next day. It was surprising to see such energy from this exhausted crowd. It always feels good to let your voice be heard and make a difference, and that was evident on the faces of the participants.”
HABA President John Kopriva added, “We were pleasantly surprised on the morning of Feb. 12 to find an overwhelming response from all over the state. Everybody was fired up about what we would be doing.”
In anticipation of the event, eight HABA members traveled to Austin on Feb. 6 and divided into pairs to visit as many offices in the Senate and House as possible and distribute information about the group’s upcoming visit.
Texas Collision Day at the Capitol began with a rendezvous on the west side of the Capitol at 9:30 a.m. Attendees were then introduced in the House Gallery by Representative Travis Clardy (R) before being recognized in the Senate Gallery. Following lunch at the Capitol Grille, attendees met with Melissa Hamilton and the Office of Public Insurance Counsel to discuss the industry’s issues, the associations’ missions, and House Bill 1348.
Kopriva noted, “We were pleased by the number of supporters for HB1348. Melissa Hamilton and her office requested that we provide examples of some shortcomings that we are fighting, and members spoke up about steering, insurers’ refusal to follow OEM procedures, and how insurance companies are endangering the motoring public with their unethical practices.”
House Bill 1348 was sponsored by Representative Clardy along with Representative Leo Pacheco (D). The bill addresses certain insurer practices with respect to the repair of motor vehicles. It would prohibit an insurer from requiring that: “(1) a vehicle be repaired with a part or product on the basis that the part or product is the least expensive part or product available; or (2) the beneficiary of a policy purchase any part or product from any vendor or supplier, including an out-of-state vendor or supplier, on the basis that the part or product is the least expensive part of product available.”
Additionally, an insurer “may not consider a specified part or product for the repair of a motor vehicle to be of like kind and quality as an original equipment manufacturer part or product for any purpose unless the insurer or the manufacturer of the specified part or product has conclusively demonstrated that the specified part or product: (1) meets the fit, finish, and quality criteria established for the part or product by the original equipment manufacturer of the part or product; (2) is the same weight and metal hardness established for the part or product by the original equipment manufacturer of the part or product; and (3)has been tested using the same crash and safety test criteria used by the original equipment manufacturer of the part or product.
“(a-3) Under an automobile insurance policy that is delivered, issued for delivery, or renewed in this state, an insurer described by Subsection (a), an employee or agent of the insurer, an insurance adjuster, or an entity that employs an insurance adjuster may not directly or indirectly limit the insurer's coverage under a policy covering damage to a motor vehicle by: (1) [(2)] limiting the beneficiary of the policy from selecting a repair person or facility to repair damage to the vehicle to the vehicle's condition before the damage occurred in order for the beneficiary to obtain the repair without owing any out-of-pocket cost other than the deductible; (2) intimidating, coercing, or threatening the beneficiary to induce the beneficiary to use a particular repairperson or facility; or (3) offering an incentive or inducement, other than a warranty issued by a repair person or facility, for the beneficiary to use a particular repair person or facility.
“(b) In settling a liability claim by a third party against an insured for property damage claimed by the third party, an insurer, an employee or agent of an insurer, an insurance adjuster, or an entity that employs an insurance adjuster may not: (1) require the third-party claimant to have repairs made by a particular repair person or facility; [or] (2) require the third-party claimant to use a particular brand, type, kind, age, vendor, supplier, or condition of parts or products to repair damage to the vehicle to the vehicle's condition before the damage occurred; (3) intimidate, coerce, or threaten the third-party claimant to induce the claimant to use a particular repair person or facility; or (4) offer an incentive or inducement, other than a warranty issued by a repair person or facility, for the third-party claimant to use a particular repair person or facility.”
HB1348 would also prohibit insurers from requiring an insured to travel to a repair shop at a distance considered inconvenient and would prevent insurers from being able to: “(4) offer, communicate, or suggest in any manner that a particular repair person or facility will provide faster repair times, faster service, or more efficient claims handling than another repair person or facility; or (5) disregard a repair operation or cost identified by an estimating system, including the system's procedural pages and any repair, process, or procedure recommended by the original equipment manufacturer of a part or product.”
At 2 p.m., HABA and ABAT members held a rally in front of the wrecked Honda Fit involved in the infamous $42 million John Eagle Collision lawsuit.
Kopriva shared, “We provided information on the crash, and a sign on the car reminded everyone of the importance of safe and proper repairs. Representative Clardy made statements regarding his support for HB1348 again.”
As the day concluded, attendees circulated around the Capitol Building to distribute information and branded items.
Kopriva added, “It was a very productive day, and now we are in the process of planning our next phase, which will address how to handle the bill when it is read.”
Tuggle believes these types of events are important to the associations’ memberships and the industry as a whole because “associations are designed to fight for their members and make their industry better. It’s what their membership dollars are paying for.”