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Get educated and choose your collision shop... before your insurance company does

By Lea Wojciechowski Ross, Blogger for Dotten Collision ~ July 14, 2016

The last time you got into a car wreck, whether it caused significant damage or just a fender bender, did you know which collision shop you were going to go to?  If not, did you do your research to make an educated decision?  Don’t let your insurance company tell you where to go – the shop they direct you to might not be the best place for you to go, your car might not end up fully repaired, and the fact that the insurers are directing you anywhere is, in fact, illegal.

Insurance “steering” is defined as “the practice of insurance companies directing first party insureds and/or third party claimants to or away from specific repair facilities or providers” (Insurance Consumer Advocate Network (I-Can)).  Insurers will steer the consumer to a particular repair facility or provider by offering to grant a guaranty for the repairs to be performed.  Thus, “both the insured and the repair facility agree to a method, scope, and cost of repairs as defined by the insurer.”

In short, if an insurance company tells the consumer where or where not to take their car, they are steering – and that is a big no-no. 

When an insurance company’s primary objective is to incur the least cost (to themselves), they are less concerned about the quality of the direct repair.  They may ask a collision shop for a discount because they want to pay out as little as possible – but if the insurance company is paying less, that means that the collision shop has less money to complete the repair that needs to be done.  When a consumer asks the insurer to back up their guaranty of the repairs, the insurer and their partner repair facility may insist that the repairs are “just fine” or “good enough” – which they might be, for awhile, but “good enough” is not at the standard of quality necessary to assure that the consumer won’t need to get a follow-up repair soon.  The consumer may then have to pay to have the repairs inspected by an expert, and only then does the insurer agree to back their guaranty by re-repairing the vehicle or saying that the vehicle is totaled.  The insurer or the repair shop may actually buy the vehicle, and by not processing the claim as a total loss, insurers can get around title laws and sell the poorly repaired vehicle to unsuspecting consumers.

Pressuring a shop to do a low-cost repair could also compromise the safety of the vehicle and lead to preventable damage of the vehicle and/or personal safety.  From a financial perspective, steering hurts consumers because without the proper repairs, post-repair resale value is significantly diminished.

The 1963 Federal Consent Decree illegalized steering.  The Decree was established after a lawsuit was brought against the insurance industry by then United States Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy.  That lawsuit alleged that “a conspiracy had existed among 235 different insurance companies to artificially suppress insurance claims and defraud consumers” (I-Can).  Steering was one of the methods used by these insurance companies.  Thus, steering is in direct violation of the 1963 Decree, which is still valid law, but it is not being enforced by the U.S. Attorney General.

An insurance company may provide a consumer with a list of area collision shops that they frequently work with.  This is not steering (as long as they do not point to the list and say where to go or not go).  The consumer has the right and responsibility to do some homework to find the shop that is best for them.  The consumer may choose a shop from the list provided by the insurance company, or they may not.  The consumer is the one, though, who must make an educated decision for themselves and not succumb to pressure from their insurance company about where to go or not go (which would be steering).

Dotten Collision works with the one insurance company that doesn’t ask for a discount.  This company (call the shop and ask for more details, if you’d like them) is willing to pay for the full repair that is needed.  It does not ask Dotten Collision to compromise the quality or the necessary specifications of the repair.  Dotten Collision’s consistently high-quality work coupled with their positive relationship with the consumer has put them on the list of top performers.  You’re here on Dotten Collision’s website now – take a look around the site and do your research to come to your own conclusion.

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