In my day-to-day operations running an auto body shop I often find myself faced with the challenge of how do I serve my customers best interest while maintaining peace with insurance companies. This is not always easy. And sometimes I need to fight in order to help my customers and stay within bounds of my personal integrity. Here’s an example:
A couple of years ago I had a customer who’s new Lexus RX330 SUV was parked in front of her house on the street and hit by a driver who tried to get away. Incredibly the driver got stuck and the police showed up. The driver was charged with a DUI. The driver only had minimal liability coverage, in CA that’s $5,000. My customer brought her car in and the preliminary estimate was approximately $4,200.
FYI, Insurance companies usually expect about a 20% supplement on a big claim, because until the car goes through tear-down we aren’t completely sure of the extent of damage. Additionally the insurance company needs to factor additional money to cover a car rental.
In this case the preliminary estimate + 20% would be approximately $5000, but the rental would push it over that threshold.
So when I spoke to the driver’s insurance company, they basically said they wouldn’t do a claim because it would go over $5000 and they are not liable to pay unless they pay in full. So the adjuster happily told me to have the customer call her insurance and handle it through them…
I find this offensive. My customer had nothing to do with the accident and now she was being put in a situation where she needed to go to her insurance to file a claim, pay a deductible and get it handled that way. Big headache.
This is where I really went into action.
I called my customer and found out that she didn’t need a car rental. Score! So I called back the driver’s insurance adjuster and told her that my customer didn’t need a rental car and therefore we had a claim. Bingo! Let’s just say the adjuster was a bit speechless… I could almost hear her thought bubble “Oh, shit, now I’ve got do deal with this guy. He’s getting paid anyway, why does he care?” I almost wanted to say to her “Gotcha!”
So the next step was to tear-down the car and rewrite a precise estimate to make sure it would fit under the $5000 threshold. Which I did, and it came in at $4,921. Perfect. I informed the driver’s insurance adjuster. They made me sign a contract which basically stated that if I find something that causes it to go beyond the estimate, it is on the customer or me to cover that. I was confident that I had everything I needed and would be able to complete the job for under $5,000. To go from initial estimate to getting approval for the work took nearly 20 phone calls! But mission accomplished. The work was done on budget and now I have a customer for life.