What you don’t know can hurt you
Do you believe that your insurance company is like a good neighbor, or that you’re in good hands? If you think that all your protection is under one roof, buckle your seatbelt. We’re going to peek behind the curtain, and tell you the truth about insurance company tactics.
An overwhelming number of consumers are unaware of the process of filing a claim after a car accident. They have suffered a traumatic experience, and are often in shock immediately following an accident. They have been told that the first thing they should do is to call the number on the back their insurance card, and the reasonable expectation is that everything will be handled for them.
The insurance adjuster is not your friend
Sure, many people choose an insurance company because their friend, neighbor or business associate is an agent for that brand. And while that is a noble gesture of trust built on some level of relationship, it’s important to note that your friend literally has nothing to do with the way their company handles claims.
One of the first people you speak to after an accident is an adjuster for the insurance company. Chances are good that you’ve never met this person, and that you will never see them again after your claim is settled. Their training includes making you feel comfortable, but make no mistake… their number one interest is to protect the insurance company, and their profits.
Tactic #1: Speed is the name of the game
Insurance adjusters are instructed to get you to make decisions about where to take your car, and eventually how much to settle for as quickly as possible. They are happy to provide you a list of their “preferred” body shops and often tell you that if you choose one of them, they will get started right away. They may even suggest that they can get you into a rental car the very same day if you choose one of their suggested shops.
The fact is that you have the right to choose any body shop you want. But if you tell them you want to go to a shop of your own choice (outside their preferred network), they will often shift their story. They may suggest that by going to a non-preferred shop, there’s a possibility of a delay in getting your car inspected and they won’t guarantee your repairs. This makes the pressure to go with their preferred solution a very strong alternative to the average consumer.
Tactic #2: Out of network shops are more expensive
One of the most persuasive insurance company tactics is to tell you that if you choose a shop other than the one’s within their preferred network, you will likely have to cover (out of pocket) the difference in price for parts and labor.
Insurance companies have Direct Repair Programs with their preferred shops. In short, that means that those shops cannot argue if the insurance company writes an estimate for less expensive, 3rd-party aftermarket (non-original manufacture) or even used parts for your repair. Those shops have also agreed to charge less than reasonable or market labor rates, believing they will make up the loss by the sheer volume of business the insurance company will steer through their doors.
What they don’t tell you is that there are independent body shops who will stand on the principles of performing the “right repair”, instead of the “cheapest repair”. And depending upon the language of your specific policy, the insurance company may have to pay for the correct original manufacturer parts, despite what the adjuster tells you.
They don’t tell you that those independent body shops handle your claim and fight on your behalf to get the insurance company to pay you everything you are owed. This information threatens the insurance company’s profit margin, and so they do everything they can to scare you into believing that it will cost YOU more… when in many cases, THEY are obligated to pay the difference.
A reputable body shop will tell you the truth about what your policy will, and will not cover. They will guide you through the process, and handle all of the back and forth with your insurance company until an agreement is reached, while all the time keeping you in the loop.
Tactic #3: Delay
If you choose to take your vehicle to an independent body shop, you can expect the insurance company to exercise their most common tactics: delay, deny and defend. Their adjuster will schedule an appointment to inspect your car, and then they will write an estimate based only upon what they are able to see with their eyes.
In most cases, this estimate is just the beginning. The damaged part of the car will then have to be disassembled, and the body shop will write a supplemental estimate that includes all of the parts (and labor) that could not be seen without disassembly. They will send this to the insurance adjuster, and then the shenanigans begin. Often, adjusters will take a day or more to reply to the supplemental estimate provided by the body shop. If a weekend is involved, it could be more than 2-3 days before they reply.
Tactic #4: Deny
In almost 100% of the cases, the adjuster will deny payment for several of the items that the body shop requires to make the proper repair, even when the vehicle manufacturer’s procedures require what the shop is calling for. They will counter the shop’s estimate by re-writing it to not use the manufacturer’s required procedures, and to use less expensive aftermarket parts. No vehicle manufacturer supports the use of said parts.
They will only agree to pay the amount for labor that they pay their “preferred” partner shops. And they will often deny payment for entire procedures necessary to make the proper repair, because such procedures would not be performed by their preferred body shops. Remember, those shops are contractually bound not to argue with the insurance company’s estimates.
The insurance company tactics of denying payment for proper repairs is tantamount to them actually dictating how the repair should be performed. This shows up as a major double standard that is rarely discussed, and often hidden from you, the consumer.
Tactic #5: Defend
In a 2018 Texas court case, State Farm was accused of involvement in the repair of a vehicle that did not follow vehicle manufacturer procedures. The car was involved in a fiery crash where the occupants of the car were trapped in the burning vehicle.
State Farm defended the allegations by stating that they didn’t have any influence over the repair. “To the extent alleged, Defendant (State Farm) denies that it coerced or enticed any body shop to not follow vehicle manufacturer’s procedures, cut corners, take safety shortcuts, or do anything that jeopardizes members of the motoring public,” states their response. And based in part on this assertion, they were acquitted of any wrongdoing.
The question that you should then ask is: If the insurance company denies coercion or enticement for any body shop to not follow vehicle manufacturer’s procedures… then how is it that they decline payment for those procedures??
If they refuse to pay for vehicle manufacturer’s procedures, isn’t that the same as coercion? Are they not attempting to insert themselves into the active repair plan? And if they do so, then why don’t they state as much in a legal proceeding in court? Instead, they untruthfully deny having any part of the repair plan.
Be Informed of the big picture
Automotive collision repair is a business where the very safety of vehicle owner’s lives is at stake. Insurance company tactics make it appear that they are simply working in the best interest of their insured. And yet, they continually delay the repair procedure of shops that do not have a contractual obligation to do exactly what they say. They constantly deny payment for manufacturer’s documented procedures. And they defend themselves when necessary by claiming to have no influence over the repair process.
You are encouraged to find an auto body collision repair shop that will inform you of the PROPER repairs to your vehicle. If the shop is reputable and bases their repair plan on your safety over the insurance companies’ profits, they will fight for ever dollar you are owed to repair your car to the proper manufacturer’s specifications.