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Responding to what they view as “high tension” between collision repairers and insurers, the Washington Metropolitan Auto Body Association (WMABA) recently held a roundtable discussion with insurers in an attempt to clear the air about problems perceived on both sides of the industry.Easier said than done. Although three major insurers signed on and were confirmed for the event — State Farm, GEICO, and Nationwide — only State Farm appeared and answered some of the tough questions posed by the association’s membership, illustrating one of the biggest problems between repairers and insurers: communication. These questions, which were sent out to the three insurers in advance of the roundtable, addressed major issues such as labor rates, operations and procedures, claim practices, and direct repair programs. Many of the questions were very candid, perhaps giving insurers the feeling that they were about to step before a firing squad.”We didn’t see the point in asking questions that everyone knows the answers to,” said Torchy Chandler, WMABA president and collision shop owner, in a statement. “That’s the reason we used the questions our membership sent — to get answers for those who have the problems in their [collision] business every day. If [we] have insurers in the room with us, why not have real conversations with them that may yield a better understanding in the future?”When answering the questions, State Farm offered some advice to repairers and explained some of the reasons why the company does business in the manner it does.”If the majority of the collision repairers in the market are doing ‘x,’ then State Farm will do it or pay it,” said George Avery, State Farm consultant, in a statement. “But, in order to protect our policyholders, we must wait for the majority of the market to change before we can act in accordance.”Avery also offered specific tips to repairers that work with State Farm, suggesting that they continually update their rates and current information regularly at the company’s business-to-business web site ( www.b2b.statefarm.com ), regardless of whether or not they are involved in State Farm’s Select Service program. He also assured attendees that if a repairer changed their rates, it would not mean that they would automatically be removed from the company’s program.While the roundtable spurred discussion, it’s clear that not all of the issues were resolved between insurers and repairers. In an attempt to keep the lines of communication open, the WMABA intends to meet with several insurance commissioners to get answers to collision repairers’ questions. “We owe it to our membership to get answers,” said Jordan Hendler, executive director of WMABA, in a release. “[Our members] asked the questions, and it is our responsibility to make sure that something is done to try and alleviate their concerns. Our attempt is aimed not to create conflict, but to initiate resolution in a positive manner.”The WMABA is a regional collision industry association, currently covering the areas of Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, DC. More information is available at www.wmaba.com .

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