Wednesday, 25 May 2011 19:42

Total Loss Fees Are Profits to be Gained, Not Given Back

Written by Walter Danalevich

As an auto body shop owner for over 30 years, I understand total loss vehicles are a part our industry’s day to day business. With the addition of more and more electronic gadgets, gizmos, and the installation of additional air bags it is not unusual to have an insurance company choose to total a vehicle, and retain the auction salvage, rather than roll the dice on the possibility of a multi-thousand dollar supplement and being held responsible for other liability issues. This is usually the standard insurance game plan unless you come across a naive insurance appraiser who does not value his job.

Recently our body shop in Santa Barbara, California, was involved in an insurance claim involving a customer’s 2005 limited edition Scion XB which accidentally ran into a shopping center wall while exiting a shopping mall parking structure. The driver must have experienced one heck of a distraction to cause so much damage to the right front of his vehicle.

Upon closer inspection we discovered the right front frame was kinked enough to require replacement of the frame rail. The engine would need to be removed to install the frame rail which resulted in additional labor placing the car in the total loss category.

While the appraiser was leaving our repair facility he commented his insurance company is very attracted to low mileage fuel-efficient compact vehicles such as this one. Later that day, I went out to the Scion and noticed there was a tag on the windshield stating the vehicle now belonged to the insurance company. I asked myself how this could be when the vehicle owner has not been notified or given information on his options of retaining the vehicle or accepting full retail value from his insurance company.

Even more intriguing, the next day I received a phone call from the Insurance Salvage Auction company requesting to pick up the Scion. I was surprised at what felt like a decision to essentially steal the low mileage Scion instead of getting notification from the owner on what he has decided.

Soon after receiving the 24-hour is-the-vehicle-released call from the salvage auction company, I contacted our customer and reported the aggressive efforts by his insurance company who seemed to have overlooked providing us with a completed itemized repair estimate. Neither did they make a reasonable offer of retail value settlement to their insured. The customer responded he would prefer having his car repaired. I advised him to request a copy of their repair estimate. I also recommended he do his homework in obtaining some comps on the value of his low-mileage vehicle. I advised him  not to be “intimidated” or feel rushed by the insurance company who had already sent him an e-mail declaring they will “limit their storage fees to only two days.”

A couple days later, the customer received the insurance repair estimate and forwarded the attachment to our shop where we confirmed the vehicle as a total loss. Vehicle valuation #1 was also sent to the insured who asked if I would assist in the settlement process.

Upon reviewing the valuation report I noted there were several listed comps, which were not from our area, resulting in a lowering the settlement value offered to the insured.

Another major item, to the insurance company’s advantage, was there was no mileage posted on any of the vehicles reported. This alone can significantly reduce the value of the insurance company’s settlement offer. I reviewed the posted locations and values with five of the proposed comparable listings and discovered four vehicles had significantly higher mileage and sold for almost $1,000 more than what was reported in their #1 valuation report.

This got the attention of our customer and he proceeded with his own follow-up on the posted listings. I recommended he speak to the insurance company, report his findings, and declare several of their valuations not valid. A second valuation was soon received allowing for a $1,500 buy back from his final settlement cost to retain the vehicle.

The customer e-mailed the insurance company creating a paper trail of their inaccurate comps and requested valuation #3. About four days later the customer forwarded me a copy of a new valuation which provided an increase of over $500 from the first valuation which the insurance company insinuated he accepts. Here’s something to think about, calculate how much would result if each insurance company total loss claim was shorted by $500—Gee, what a nice investment fund that would create.

The customer was still undecided about accepting the full insurance settlement offer or go with a ‘buy back.” After a few days he came to a decision to let his baby go to the “Auto Auction Heaven” and accept the increased settlement offer.

This month’s article savings message is about assisting your customer in their time of crises and not being intimidated by the insurance “SCREW U CUSTOMER CARE HOTLINE.” You have now gained a customer for life while adding to your bottom line for teardown, labor, and storage fees.

Read 4464 times Last modified on Wednesday, 14 December 2016 00:26