Monday, 14 March 2016 22:22

VA Photo Bill Passes with WMABA's Suggested Amendments

In January, Virginia Senate Bill 193 was presented to allow photos of collision damage to be used during the appraisal process, creating a stir among industry advocates who feared its passage could pose potential risks to consumers and collision repair professionals in VA. The Washington Metropolitan Auto Body Association (WMABA) quickly went to work to negotiate a compromise.

According to WMABA's Executive Director Jordan Hendler, "The bill passed with our suggested amendments, which was great."

The original verbiage in VA Senate Bill 193 did not seek to remove the requirement for vehicle appraisals to be based on physical inspections, but it would have permitted an initial appraisal based on photos to be used as the final appraisal. This provision caused Hendler to fear that consumers would cash out a claim without a physical inspection, which could reduce the value of their vehicles since over 90 percent of VA estimates require a supplement.

Because WMABA also saw potential benefits for consumers and shop owners from the proposed legislation, Hendler focused on refining the language in Senate Bill 193 to minimalize the possible risks. Attempts at compromise were successful, ensuring that the physical inspection receives precedence over photos provided when writing the appraisal.

The original proposed amendment to VA Code 38.2.510 stated, "Notwithstanding the requirement that an appraisal be based upon a personal inspection, the repair facility or the insurer making the appraisal may prepare an initial, which may be the final, repair appraisal on an automobile that has been damaged as a result of a covered loss either from the representative’s personal inspection of the vehicle or from photographs, videos or electronically-transmitted digital imagery of the automobile; however, no insurer may require an owner of an automobile to submit photographs, videos or electronically transmitted digital imagery as a condition of an appraisal.”

This was revised to include, "Supplemental repair estimates that become necessary after the repair work has been initiated due to discovery of additional damage to the motor vehicle may also be made from photographs, videos or electronically-transmitted digital imagery of the motor vehicle, provided that in the case of disputed repairs, a personal inspection is required."

WMABA said they are pleased that the bill passed with their suggested amendments which place emphasis on the physical inspection and promotes consumer safety by allowing the collision repair professionals to determine what is necessary to properly restore these vehicles to their pre-loss condition."