Thursday, 24 February 2011 17:06

“It’s a Misunderstanding”—Insurance Appraiser Boot Camp

Written by Walter Danalevich

Those of us who are active in the auto body industry understand there is much skill involved negotiating with insurance company appraisers in arriving at an “acceptable” (profitable) repair bottom line.

During my 30 year auto body career, I have written thousands of auto body repair estimates mastering the “the art” of negotiating with a variety of insurance appraisers. It’s only natural to have a preference of which insurance appraisers we welcome into our auto body shops. Commonly we find some insurance appraisers are consistently easier to work with and arrive at a profitable “bottom line.” Then there are those appraisers that make us feel as though they are paying for the repairs out of their own pockets.

Recently, our body shop in Santa Barbara, Calif., had an insurance claim where the issuance of the supplement was an experience I have never encountered in over thirty years of owning and managing a body shop.

On the day the insurance appraiser representing a well known company arrived,  I noted this appraiser had never been assigned an appraisal inspection at our shop before. Therefore I had some concern we did not have any history of a working relationship.

The insurance appraisal inspection involved a 2002 BMW 323cic. Upon introducing herself the appraiser began taking photos of the claimant’s vehicle and making notes pertaining to the damaged left rear door and quarter panel. I listened attentively to the often heard we-can-only-pay-for-this-procedure speech.

Days later, we completed the repairs and submitted a supplement to the insurance appraiser. During my follow up on the supplement confirmation, I received a phone call from the appraiser saying her supervisor has now decided not to pay for the rear $130 bumper molding she had originally approved to be replaced on her preliminary insurance estimate. By the way, the “non returnable” part has been installed on the customer’s vehicle. My initial reaction was I could not believe what I was hearing. If this was ten years ago I feel certain this appraiser would have been on the receiving end of some colorful language. Instead, I phoned the vehicle owner and informed him there is an insurance delay in delivering his car today. I said it appears the insurance company does not mind paying for “additional” rental car expenses over the weekend because of an unsettled new policy which I never experienced before. I explained the “we would pay for it yesterday but not today” response. The vehicle owner phoned the insurance appraiser expressing his concern about the delay as he needed his car returned for an upcoming trip. That same day I received a phone call from the insurance appraiser who stated I would need to call their company’s supplement hotline to “negotiate” an agreement for full payment concerning the $130 molding.

I thought to myself there is nothing to negotiate here—the insurance company owes us full price for the part! On Monday morning I then phoned the insurance company’s 1 (800) SCREW U hotline. I’m sure many of you know the supplement hotline which I am referring to. This particular hotline did not have a human voice, only a voice recording instructing you to fax your supplement to 1(800) SCREW U 2. Feeling frustrated, I then phoned the insurance appraiser and learned she had this Monday and Tuesday off, probably for meeting the insurance company’s quota of withdrawing parts and labor from the original written estimates.

Near mid-day Monday, I received a phone call from the insurance supervisor who appeared to be “shadowing” this claim. He told me the claimant had phoned seeking his assistance to arrive at a settlement which resulted in unnecessary delays in releasing the vehicle to the claimant. I explained to the insurance supervisor the problem initiated by their appraiser, specifically, the $130 bumper molding part which had been withdrawn from their proposed supplement. Upon further discussion the claim supervisor replied his decision of withdrawing allowance for the part was based upon thinking the part in question was a door side molding not the bumper molding!  Say What!? At that point, I had to ask how long his appraiser, has been employed. He replied about “Two months”! Like, No Kidding!

According to the insurance supervisor’s explanation this was all a “misunderstanding”!

Is it a misunderstanding or a mistake when hiring someone who is not experienced enough for the position to make confident decisions? As a result of my efforts in standing up to the insurance supervisor we were paid in full ($181) for supplement parts and labor pertaining to the withdrawn bumper molding from the original insurance repair estimate.

Have you ever had a 1 800 SCREW U 2 “misunderstanding”?

If so, drop me a line I would welcome you to share your memorable insurance “misunderstanding” experiences.

Walter Danalevich

Read 5262 times Last modified on Wednesday, 14 December 2016 00:24