Time For a Pep Talk

December 9, 2004 by
Filed under: Uncategorized 

How many of you have given legal advice to an attorney before? I bet a lot of you have. And lawyers are supposed to be so damn smart. They may be smart, but most of them know squat about dealing with accident related issues. Sure, they can fight for personal injury claims, but when it comes to getting the insurance company to pay for proper repairs, many of them are lost. That?s where you come in. Here, you are the expert. Here is where you can make an attorney feel pretty inadequate.

Three weeks ago I had a 2003 Volvo S60 towed into my shop slammed hard in the rear by a truck.. It even needed the package tray replaced. In 25 years, I?ve never had to replace a rear package tray. Anyway, the owner was a lawyer; she was going to sue, sue, sue. The person who hit her had Allstate insurance. Yeah, I know what you?re thinking, not good. She had MetLife, so I convinced her to have her insurance company come look at the car in case Allstate didn?t come up with the money needed to properly repair her car. MetLife came right out. The appraiser matched my bottom line almost to the dollar. But when the owner found out how much it would cost to repair her car she wanted it totaled. Unfortunately for her (and us) the repair cost wasn?t even half the retail value. Few insurance companies would total her car, especially MetLife or Allstate.

The car sat for two weeks waiting for Allstate to look at the car. The owner decided she definitely didn?t want to use her own insurance, even though she told me again she was going to sue the crap out of the guilty party?s insurance company, Allstate. Allstate called several times to find out the progress of the repairs. We repeatedly told the rental car lackey that the car was sitting, waiting for their appraiser. She always sounded so surprised that the claim had gotten lost in their system. Two weeks worth of rental payments and they hadn?t even seen the car. Yeah, and you can bet that once they?ve seen the car they would be driving us crazy calling every day to get a repair status.

As I had predicted, and told the vehicle?s owner would happen, Allstate?s estimate was $2,000 short. It was the usual problems with used parts, ADP?s custom Allstate setup designed to suck body shops dry, low labor rate, etc, etc. So Ms. Attorney asks me what she should do. An attorney asking me how to deal with Allstate? She told me she squares off with them in court all the time, but she now wants me to tell her how to get paid. I suggested she let her insurance company pay for the repairs, and then let them go after Allstate. She said no way, she?s not paying one cent out of her pocket (her deductible) and she didn?t want this estimate on her record.

We talked almost every day for another week, her asking me what she should do, me telling her her options, her telling me she wasn?t paying anything out of her pocket. Finally, I asked her what she was going to sue for if she didn?t plan on paying for anything up front. She couldn?t answer. I explained to her diminished value, and how much she would lose if she sold the car or traded it in. And I also explained that filing diminished value claims in Connecticut was pretty much a waste of time?I couldn?t think of any successful lawsuits, so it didn?t leave her with much to go after.

By the time I finally got her to sign a repair authorization, I figured she owed me about $1,000 in legal fees. How could an attorney know so little about dealing with insurance companies? I began to remember all the attorneys I have as customers. Volvo and Saab attracts a lot of attorneys. Thinking back, I remembered countless conversations like the chats I have been having with Miss Sue Man Sue here, and I was always surprised at how pathetic some of these people seemed when it came to dealing with accident related issues.

These attorneys aren?t pathetic, though. They aren?t idiots. These people are very smart. The thing is, when it comes to matters of insurance companies, many of us are much smarter than the average attorney. We deal with these problems many times every day. And much of our expertise is in insurance law, consumer rights, motor vehicle statutes, repairer?s liability, etc. We have very valuable knowledge, knowledge that highly educated attorneys don?t possess. Like doctors, attorneys are held in high esteem in our country, even though some of them can be socially and morally on par with the greenish black bacteria that grows on the underside of your toilet seat. You?re a collision repairer giving them what could be considered legal advice. You are climbing the social ladder.

By the way many of us conduct our businesses, it is clearly evident that we don?t think too highly of ourselves or our profession. An attorney can look you square in the eye and hand you a bill for their services that includes charges like $25 to fax a document and $250 per hour for a $20 per hour paralegal to fill in the blanks on a computer generated legal contract. They feel comfortable charging for talking with you on the phone, and driving to court. I just heard on the news that some big law firm charged a company about a half million dollars to produce their client?s bill.

Do you get paid for your phone calls? Is your hourly rate ten times your employees? hourly pay? Do you charge your customers for faxing documents to the insurance company? Do you charge for making out your invoices? Do you charge your customers for legal advice?

As an industry we must realize just how valuable our services are, and how even more valuable our experience and knowledge is. When you are advising lawyers on the legal aspects of their dealings with the insurance company, for that short period, you are elevated above them on that social ladder. Imagine if you got paid what your services are worth! Lawyers make their living from their knowledge. Their product, or service is strictly intellectual. They produce nothing. (Nothing but higher insurance rates because of the insane lawsuits.) They price their services based on how much they know and how good they are at using and expressing that information.

Your shop floor is not the only profit center in your operation. Your front office has the potential to profit as nicely as any law office. I am always deriding the intelligence level of the people running our industry. But intelligence doesn?t equate to knowledge. Our industry is chock full of people who are experts in their field. Our industry is flourishing with some very smart and knowledgeable people. Unfortunately, the vast majority of us don?t know how smart we are. Most of us do not have the self esteem to charge for our knowledge. We have been belittled for decades and are convinced that we are forever servants to our own social standing. We are living a self fulfilling prophecy.

It is time to recognize our value and begin to charge for it. For, we are important in society. We are smart people. We have only ourselves to blame for our position is American society. And only we can elevate that position. We are collision repairers. We should have pride and compensate ourselves properly. Only we can decide how much we are worth. Only we can ensure that we are fairly compensated. Only we can control how we feel about ourselves. How do you feel today?

Oh yeah, I almost forgot the end of the story about the lawyer and her car. After a week of convincing, she finally decided to suck it up and let her own insurance company pay for the proper repairs of her car. She should have realized I knew what I was talking about and listened to me in the first place. She?d have her car back by now.

Embarrassed by State Farm

It was barely a day after I posted my last article including information about State Farm ending its Survey program when I started hearing from some of you telling me you had just filled out survey forms. A couple of you even had a good time engaging in self gratification at my expense. So glad I could help you amuse yourselves. I?m embarrassed, and I apologize for the bad information. It turns out that State Farm is giving its managers information on a need-to-know basis only. My contact at State Farm was very surprised to hear that shops in other states were getting surveys. Surveys have been suspended in Connecticut and Rhode Island, but no reason was given, and no information offered related to other states. He just assumed it was a nationwide policy. This is why I write opinion and stay away from hard news. My opinion is never wrong.

Feel free to leave a comment and make fun of my screw up if it makes you feel better. Maybe you can leave a comment naming your state and whether or not you received your State Farm survey. And remember, you can go to their website and fill one out online if you feel their labor rate is not accurate in your area.

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3 Comments on Time For a Pep Talk

  1. Tommy on Thu, 9th Dec 2004 9:28 am
  2. Why didn’t you tell the lawyer to sell her car as is. She is owed the difference between its before and after occurance value. A certified letter to Allstate stating, The value of my vehicle before the accident was $25,000, I have received a bid for the damaged vehicle for $10,000. Please send me a check for $15,000 as soon as possible. I will give you two weeks to secure a higher bid, if you cannot then I will assume that you agree that my loss is in fact $15,000.

  3. David on Fri, 10th Dec 2004 6:17 am
  4. I have been fumbling through the daily shop BS and in a rut, and reading your opinions have greatly helped light the fire to get me back on track. I have been feeling a little defeated by the insurance companies and what to do about it without pushing away business. I am in a multi dealership body shop and have been feeling like the bottom of the pile and your “pep talk” at least let me know that there are others out there that feel that we are more than “body shop people”.

    Thank you greatly

  5. Peter on Fri, 10th Dec 2004 2:11 pm
  6. Some lawyers also do other work(suits) for the insurance co’s, and don’t want to bite the hand that feeds them. Not to say that all are like that, but some have their palms greased on Workman’s Comp claims. etc.
    my 2 cents, thanks

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