13 February 2007

Tell Us What We Auto Do

In this country, we have a longstanding love affair with the car culture and, like any love affair, this one has its moments of passion occasionally tempered by a moment of dysfunction and a boiled pet rabbit or two. When it comes to the seamier side of the car culture, E.L. Eversman, chief counsel for Vehicle Information Services, Inc. and proprietor of the fascinating AutoMuse blog, is well-positioned to dish.

Having left the auto industry for the legal industry, Eversman's Blawg Review #95 demonstrates ample expertise in both. Highlights include "Jerry Springerish" judges, a very brief brief, and banning red-light camera evidence. There is, of course, much concerning the ins-and-outs of auto insurance, including this troubling observation:
Automotive News($) published a recent J.D. Powers survey involving only 5,752 consumers who had been involved in collisions and addressed their satisfaction about the repair experience. The survey results suggest that people are happier with the collision repair experience when using insurer “direct repair program” shops or when they have received a referral from an insurer. Part of the rationale given in the story in Automotive News for why consumers feel better about insurer recommended repair shops is that insurers investigate them and insist that they have the latest model equipment and best-trained technicians. Holy cats, is that a sell job, because it is absolutely untrue.

. . . .

You can see, therefore, the complete lack of value of the J.D. Powers survey. The only reason those customers are satisfied with the insurer’s recommendation is because the insurers tend to leave shops in their “networks” alone and don’t play games with them by browbeating their customers, refusing to pay for necessary repairs, deliberately delaying sending an adjuster to review the damage for two or more weeks, and other lovely games. And why do they leave the network shops alone? Because those collision repair shops have signed documents that trade away many rights of the customers (unbeknownst to the customers), agree to use inferior parts, use salvage parts (including salvage airbags), and agree to fully indemnify the auto liability carrier for anything (negligence, intentional acts, diminished value, attorney fees, titling problems — oh yes, some of those clips are “front end” clips. That means the VIN on your dashboard is a salvage vehicle VIN and no longer matches the registration or title of your car.) Anyone who takes the insurer’s recommendation for a collision repair shop is asking for trouble.

We'll enjoy a bit of Southern hospitality next week when Bill Watkins hosts Blawg Review #96 at the South Carolina Appellate Blog.

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