Despite a highly unusual dusting of snow that caused business closings for several days, around 40 collision repair industry professionals braved the inclement roads to learn how to protect themselves from litigation and be properly compensated for completed repair operations during a presentation from industry attorney Erica Eversman. The meeting was held at Wyndham Atlanta Galleria in Atlanta, GA.
Association Secretary Gregg Goff feels association meetings like this one are important in order to "provide information to shop owners and managers that help them promote a more professional and complete repair process. Many do not have time during their day to catch up with recent events or news from the collision repair industry."
Goff opened the meeting by discussing several upcoming events for the association: the 2018 Southern Automotive Repair Conference (SARC) in Biloxi, NACE/Automechanika in Atlanta later this year and GCIA's 2018 golf tournament, scheduled to take place this fall. After reminding association members to update the VRS Labor Rate Survey, he introduced three candidates for the office of Insurance Commissioner in the 2018 election: Tracy Jordan, Jim Beck and Shane Mobley.
Goff then introduced Erica Eversman, Chief Legal Counsel for Vehicle Information Services, who presented "Providing Customers Safe, Proper Repairs and Recent Lawsuits Exposing Insurer Interference with that Goal." Eversman stressed the importance of following OEM procedures and documentation during the repair process.
"Erica discussed the difference between a cost estimate (insurer estimate) and the damage analysis," Goff shared. "Cost estimates are done by insurers to verify and document the loss while allocating funds internally to be available for the payment of the claim, and the damage analysis should be completed by the shop as the blueprint for the repair. She discussed how DRP arrangements are seen by legal means as 'electing to repair' by insurance companies and puts liability on them for the repair completed, along with the shop. As such, the insurance estimate should not even be considered for the repair process; this keeps the authority in the hands of the shop where it belongs."
Further exploring the implications of shop liability, Eversman cited the following court cases as evidence of the importance of shops following the correct procedures and standing up for themselves and their customers: Cook v. State Farm (KY, 2004), Smith v. American Family S. W. (MO, 2009), Progressive v. North State Autobahn Greg Coccaro (NY, 2011), Seebachan v. John Eagle Collision Center (TX, 2017), and Nick's Garage v. Progressive/Nationwide (NY, ongoing).
Goff recalled, "As vehicles evolve with ADAS options, they are becoming more and more complicated to repair. Shops must invest in training, equipment, scan tools, OEM procedure information and an internal documentation and auditing program to indemnify themselves in case of legal ramifications relating to repair. Shops must follow OEM repair procedures to protect themselves and their customers.”
After her presentation, Eversman engaged in a question-and-answer session, which elicited insightful feedback from attendees.
She concluded with, "The real question is whether you, as the repairer, would be willing to repair your child's vehicle in the same way and feel safe with them on the road."
For more information, visit www.gcia.org.