Insurance

Attorney: Short-pay lawsuits should explain insurer estimate doesn't govern shop

A Connecticut attorney last fall said hello can be necessary during short-pay litigation to rebut the concept that the insurer estimate carries exactly the same weight because the shop’s invoice.

“Those two situations are very different documents,” Buckley Wynne & Parese partner John Parese told the virtual “Litigating and Winning Short Pay Claims” audience.

Parese said he’s even had judges ask why an appearance shop doesn’t work off of the insurer’s estimate and declare “‘the shop needs to get permission in the insurance company'” to deviate from it. This means a plaintiff must explain “why that’s backwards,” Parese said.

“Inevitably,” parties for example consumers, laymen and judges don’t appreciate the distinction between a insurer’s estimate along with a collision repairer’s, Parese said throughout the virtual course. The category mostly centered on short-pay small-claims court lawsuits involving an auto repair shop which carried an assignment of advantages from the first- or third-party claimant.

Parese said he created a letter for that Auto Body Association of Connecticut explaining the main difference between an insurer and shop estimate, and it can be listed in the court to operate “almost like a legal brief.”

“Not all courts will allow me to put this in,” Parese said. However, most permit so that it is introduced, he explained.

The letter responds to the question: “What's the role and legal significance of an insurance estimate in the context of an auto body repair; and may an insurance estimate be part of dictating how a vehicle ought to be repaired or as proof of the true cost of repair?”

“That’s a central issue that we gotta confront,” Parese said.

The document states:

Reinforcing the last point here, we ought to also point out that initial estimates are incomplete the majority of the time. CCC data found 60.9 % of repairable vehicle claims in 2021 had supplements, typically representing 18.7 percent from the repair cost. The typical repair bill was $3,421, which means the initial estimate typically missed $640 worth of damage.

Parese also points out that under Connecticut law, only licensed repairers regulated by the Department of Motor Vehicles can deal with vehicles, and insurers have “no legal authority, experience, training or oversight in the business of auto repair. …

“Furthermore, as the licensed repairer may be the one ultimately liable for the steadiness of the repair, it would be inapposite and unethical for that trained auto repair expert to surrender his or her judgment for your of somebody in the insurance business.”

Should a legal court browse the document, “It'll advance your cause dramatically,” Parese said.

Another document

Parese said he also liked to introduce the Society of Collision Repair Specialists’ declaration that OEM repair procedures would be the industry standard of care.

The original landmark SCRS-ASA-AASP-Assured Performance 2011 position is situated here; Parese’s presentation appeared to feature the 2021 SCRS position reiterating the stance and confirming it includes diagnostic and mechanical procedures.

“e hereby recognize published repair procedures, as provided by the Automobile Original Equipment Manufacturers , because the official industry recognized ‘Repair Standards’ for collision repair,” the trade groups wrote this year. “These standards, where they exist, will be the basis for the establishment of coaching, testing, repair practices, and documentations.

“Whereas, we acknowledge that OEM repair procedures are incomplete as compared to the full scope of vehicles and repair operations that you can get available on the market; the OEM published repair procedures shall function as the baseline for industry repair standards, with the recognition that further development of procedures will be necessary in areas not covered by published procedures.”

Parese named it a “great bit of evidence.”

He asked the crowd: If your repair shop can demonstrate it followed automaker procedures and also the OEM may be the standard, then how could an insurer not licensed to perform repairs override the standard?

“They can’t,” Parese said. “Case over.”