Collision Repairers Learn How to Negotiate with Insurers to Get Paid for All Work

Danny Gredinberg, left, and Mike Anderson, right, taught repairers how to effectively negotiate with insurers.

Negotiating with insurers is just part of the repair process and nothing to dread, according to Mike Anderson of Collision Advice.

Anderson and Danny Gredinberg, of the Database Enhancement Gateway (DEG), presented “Bullet-Proof Negotiation Tactics” Nov. 2 at the 2022 SEMA Show, part of the Society of Collision Repair Specialists’ (SCRS) Repairer Driven Education series.

“I’m seeing more and more friction between shops and insurers,” Anderson said. “The goal is to give you negotiation strategies to reduce that friction and get paid more.”

Anderson and Gredinberg gave tips on how to approach negotiations from a fact-based standpoint---with documentation, and where to find it---and finally discussed a collision repairer’s options when an insurer still won’t pay for work.

Anderson said anyone can get a copy of the full presentation by emailing his assistant, Tiffany Driggers, at

“This presentation is in no way anti-insurance,” Anderson said.

Many people make the mistake of thinking of negotiations as a negative thing, like a fight or an argument, he said, but they’re a discussion aimed at reaching an agreement.

Repairers must negotiate on things like labor times, not-included labor operations, labor rates, alternative parts usage and more, Anderson said.

The negotiation begins the moment you interact with the customer, he said. “The customer is really the boss. Get the customer believing in you before you enter into conversation with the payer.”

Anderson suggested reviewing the vehicle’s owner’s manual with the owner, to show the owner exactly what the automaker says must be done to properly complete the repair. If the manual isn’t in the car, it can be downloaded from the DEG’s website,

If your shop is not in a DRP and the insurance company is causing a delay, call the customer every day, Gredinberg said.

“Tell the customer their car is on hold after disassembling, and they may want to call to expedite the claim,” Anderson said. “After you’ve called them two or three days, the customer will call and either get their insurance to pay, or they’ll pay it themselves. Either way, you get the car out.”

When writing an estimate, it needs to tell a story, with good line notes and quality photos.

“Line notes are critical to show why you support that charge,” Gredinberg said. “It helps reduce back and forth on a phone call.”

Photos should capture damage head on, use aids to show dents, use proper lighting and have a date stamp if allowed, he said.

Attach OEM repair procedures to the estimate, as they can change frequently.

Anderson then went over his “Rules of Negotiation.”

Your Opinion Don’t Mean Jack

“It only matters what you can prove, substantiate or justify,” he said.

Don’t Take the Bait

“When insurers say, ‘No one else charges for that, you’re the only one,’ they’re baiting you,” he said. “Say, ‘I don’t care what anyone else charges for, I want to stick to the facts.’”

Present the Facts

Is it required to restore the car to pre-accident condition? Is it included in any other labor operation? Is there a pre-determined time in the database? If not, what is it worth?

“These are questions based on fact, not emotions,” Anderson said.

Prove It

Use OEM repair procedures; estimating systems; credible internet sources like SCRS, I-CAR, ASE and OEM websites; manufacturer bulletins; scan tools; the vehicle manual;; and Collision Advice’s “Who Pays for What” surveys to find documentation supporting your position.

SCRS’s Guide to Complete Repair Planning, available on, is a reminder of steps that may be performed during repair process, Anderson said, and the SCRS BOT, available at, finds potentially missed line items.

“The average shop that uses this increases estimates by $300 to $600,” Anderson said.

Gredinberg said the DEG allows shops to submit inquiries about steps and parts that might be missing from repair procedures in CCC, Audatex and Mitchell. The inquiry is usually resolved within a day, and the procedure gets updated.

Anderson said to build a foundation of trust with the insurance providers as well.

“A foundation of trust gets to resolutions quicker,” he said. “You can have an honest dialogue without fear of them judging you or getting mad.”

When an insurance provider says no, it doesn’t mean no---it means they don’t know enough to say yes, Anderson said. “They’re not convinced.”

Use time study videos---recording a technician performing a step in the repair process---to prove how long it takes and how much that labor time is worth, or a resource like 3M’s RepairStack.

Next, focus the conversation on what the negative consequences will be if you do not perform the operation.

“Tell them, the reason I need to do this is because if I do not, these are the negative consequences,” Anderson said.

As an example, he said, Toyota says when the bumper is removed, the front camera must be adjusted, because, if not, the panoramic view monitor system won’t work.

If the insurer doesn’t want to pay for the front camera adjustment, ask “How should WE notify the vehicle owner the panoramic view monitor system won’t work?” Gredinberg said.

Next, try to understand the insurer’s position.

“You don’t have to be wrong for me to be right and vice versa; there can be two right answers,” Anderson said. “It’s all about perception. Why do they believe they should pay for four hours on that dent when you think it needs a new door?

“Seek to let that person feel like they’ve been heard,” he said.

When adding a new charge to an estimate for the first time, the appraiser will ask “Why now?”

“Start the conversation with your story---what has changed in your world,” Anderson said. “You took a class, watched a video, read an article, saw it in the owner’s manual, etc. Have the documentation ready before they arrive.”

Anderson said the goal is to present your estimate so matter-of-factly, “no” is not an option. He suggested improving interactions with insurers by developing scripts and practicing those conversations with your team, after business hours, a minimum of four times.

Avoid the “pause” in a conversation with an insurer, Anderson said.

“It causes you to second guess yourself and then cut your own estimate,” he said. “Instead, go straight in to presenting the facts, and close with the negative consequences [of not performing that operation.]”

If the insurer still is not convinced, the options for the repairer are to perform the operation for free, charge the customer, refuse the job, ask for a hold harmless agreement, right to appraisal, involve the agent or have the customer come on-site and meet with the insurer, but prep the customer first.

“The best thing you can do is to get that customer involved in the very beginning,” Anderson said.

“At the end of the day, remember: do you want easy, or do you want worth it?” he said. “This is not a magic bullet, but it’ll increase your chances of reimbursement.”

Abby Andrews

Abby Andrews is the editor and regular columnist of Autobody News.

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