Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell today filed a lawsuit against State Farm Insurance alleging the nationwide insurer has engaged in a pattern of unfair and fraudulent business practices aimed at controlling the auto repair industry and forcing unsafe repairs on vehicles without the knowledge or consent of Louisiana consumers.
Attorney General Caldwell said, "State Farm has created a culture of unsafe business practices in which consumer vehicle repairs are performed with cost-savings as the primary goal rather than safety and reliability."
The suit, filed in Louisiana’s 19th Judicial District Court, alleges State Farm violated Louisiana’s Unfair Trade Practices Act and Monopolies Law by using scare tactics to steer Louisiana consumers to State Farm’s preferred repair shops and forcing shops to perform vehicle repairs cheaply and quickly, rather than in accordance with consumer safety and vehicle manufacturer performance standards.
The lawsuit alleges that State Farm steers consumers to direct repair providers that have signed agreements with the insurance company. As part of the terms of the agreement, those repair shops must comply with the standards for repair laid out by State Farm. The insurance company, not the repair shop, dictates how long the repair should take, what types of repairs are made and the quality of replacement parts. In many cases, the repairs are completed with sub-standard parts without the consent of the policy holder.
"In some cases, we’ve found that these parts are nothing more than used junk yard parts. In others, we've found them to be foreign knock-off parts of questionable quality," said Caldwell. "Auto repair is not an industry where you can cut corners to save a little money," he said. "It could be a matter of life and death."
Caldwell says the suit aims to change the culture of unsafe business practices led by State Farm in the auto insurance and repair industry. State Farm currently holds the largest share of auto insurance policies in Louisiana. In 2012, State Farm wrote one third of all auto insurance policies in the state totaling over $1 billion in premiums.
"Each month Louisiana consumers give their hard earned money to State Farm under the assumption that the insurer will take care of them if an accident occurs. This simply isn't happening. Quite frankly, State Farm has been there for State Farm, not the Louisiana consumer," Caldwell stated.
The Society of Collision Repair Specialists (SCRS) launched their first iteration of the Repairer Driven Education series at the SEMA Show in 2010, and with annual adjustments to the format and content it has become one of the most comprehensive programs of collision repair education being offered to the industry. This year, one of the most noticeable new developments to the SCRS program is the launch of the very first issue-specific, collision repair industry forum that will be featured on Wednesday, November 5th, and titled as the OEM Collision Repair Technology Summit.
"There is really no topic more captivating of everyone's attention right now than the rapidly changing landscape of automobile technology, and how it is driving adaptation in the collision repair marketplace," shared SCRS Chairman Ron Reichen. "It is a topic that has broad-reaching impact on everyone in the industry and it was important to both SCRS and SEMA to develop a forum that would address the significant interest from all who are making the investment to join the industry in Las Vegas this fall."
"We are really excited about how this program has come together, and the unique nature of the participants, "added SCRS Executive Director Aaron Schulenburg. "We have speakers coming in from all over the world, and participation from a wide variety of well-respected automakers such as Ford, GM, Toyota, Tesla, BMW, Audi and Mercedes - but we will be hearing from representatives that we often don't have a chance to interface with."
The panelists represent companies with rich histories of producing sophisticated structural designs and technological advancements, and will be bringing technical insight into the design, architecture and development of their vehicles, and how advancements in those areas intersect with the repair process. The discussion will fittingly be moderated by Jason Bartanen, Director of Industry Technical Relations for I-CAR, and one of the lead representatives from the training organization involved in their work as an "OEM linking pin."
The program will also include separate panel discussions with representatives from certified repair facilities, equipment suppliers, certifiers/auditors and special presentations from the aluminum and steel industries.
"SCRS really crafted a completely unique networking and learning forum with this event, and we are convinced it will put repairers in an interactive environment with subject matter experts that simply can't be found in any other event," added Peter MacGillivray, Vice President, Events and Communications for the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA). "As a show organizer, we are keenly focused on how to enrich the attendee experience, and this partnership with SCRS continues to deliver toward that objective."
"Every participant in this industry can benefit from better insight into how vehicles and materials are evolving, what that means in the repair process and what will be expected of those who are performing these repairs," added Schulenburg. "The future of our collision repair industry is highly skilled professionals, working on highly sophisticated automobiles that require the industry to embrace the necessary investments in training and equipment; but also relies on informed business owners who understand how to define for themselves what a sustainable and successful business model to support that investment looks like."
The OEM Collision Repair Technology Summit is made possible through support from PPG Refinish Products, Ford Motor Company, BASF, Toyota Motor Sales and The Hertz Corporation.
For more information about SCRS' Repairer Driven Education (RDE) series, and to register for the OEM Collision Repair Technology Summit and other RDE sessions, please visit www.semashow.com/scrs.
Polk County Florida: At the recommendation of the Honorable Judge Gregory A. Presnell, United States District Judge for the U.S. Court for the Middle District in Florida, the attorneys representing dozens of Florida Collision Repairers have re-filed an amended complaint seeking their day in court in front of a jury of their peers.
As announced previously (ref: 06-12-14: “Florida Judge Denies Insurer’s Request to Dismiss and Seeks Clarification in Auto Body Shop’s Lawsuit Against 39 Insurers”) the Judge had denied the defendant insurer’s efforts to dismiss the repairer’s lawsuits and allowed the plaintiff repairer’s to amend their complaint to provide more detailed information relative to the specific actions by each insurer and specifying the related damages which led to the multi-litigation lawsuit by twenty-plus Florida auto body repair shops against the more than three-dozen insurers.
The requested changes and clarifications were made and the modified complaint was re-filed to comply with the Judge’s recommendations. *(see the accompanying modified/amended complaint)
“We’re excited to have this interruption behind us” stated Ray Gunder of Gunder’s Auto Center, one of the plaintiff repairers represented in the lawsuit. “In reading the complaint, everyone in this industry knows it to be the truth…I am looking forward to bringing the issues to a jury and exposing the insurer’s egregious practices and ending the suppression that has been so harmful to our industry and to the consumers we serve. All repairers want is to serve our customers in an unencumbered manner and to see our employees earn a fair wage for their efforts” stated Gunder.
Auto Damage Experts, Inc.
Consulting and Expert Assistance
P.O. Box 460
Dover, Fl 33527
Telephone: (813) 657-6705
Savannah, GA. Chatham County: Georgia State Court Jury finds State Farm Guilty of Breach of Contract and Bad Faith.
Stemming from their complaint of State Farm Insurance, the country’s largest private automobile insurer’s denial and failure to provide for necessary collision repair procedures and materials, a Georgia state court has ordered State Farm to pay their policyholder $40,508.00 after a jury found the insurer had breached its contract and acted in bad faith with their policyholder.
The suit stemmed from the insurer’s denials and under payment of approximately $4,000.00 in the costs for repairs being performed by Hernandez Collision Center in Savannah, Ga.; the shop was a witness in the case. The judgment included $5,508.00 for breach of contract, $5,000.00 as a bad faith penalty and $30,000 in attorney's fees for a total verdict of $40,508.00.
“It is refreshing to see the results in this case and know that a jury of our peers awarded Mrs. Roberts for the hardship caused by her insurer.” stated April Hernandez, AAM of Hernandez Collision. “While Hernandez Collision Center gladly works with all insurers, our responsibility is to our customers to ensure all damages to their vehicle is repaired properly and thoroughly. We feel it is also our professional responsibility and moral obligation to help customers like Mrs. Roberts when they are treated unfairly. We congratulate Mrs. Roberts on her courage and conviction and are thankful that we could help her in this endeavor.
After the court’s ruling, Mrs. Roberts stated: “"When you know you are right, don't let someone take advantage of you just because they are a large company. Always stand up for what you believe."
Auto Damage Experts, Inc.
Consulting and Expert Assistance
P.O. Box 460
Dover, Fl 33527
Telephone: (813) 657-6705
Auto Damage Experts, Inc.
Consulting and Expert Assistance
P.O. Box 460
Dover, Fl 33527
Telephone: (813) 657-6705
Polk County Florida: The Honorable Judge Gregory A. Presnell, Senior United States District Judge for the U.S. Court for the Middle District has filed an order in an effort to attain more specific information relative to the lawsuit initially filed by twenty-plus Florida auto body repair shops against dozens of insurers.
In an effort to gain a more thorough understanding of the issues leading to the lawsuit, Judge Presnell dismissed the case without prejudice allowing the plaintiff attorneys to modify, amend and re-plead the complaints to meet the court’s request. The Judge has asked that the plaintiffs provide a more detailed complaint listing specific actions, or inactions by each of the defendant insurers along with the specific damages relative to each on or before June 27th, 2014.
Additionally, in another ruling, Judge Presnell dismissed the defendant insurer’s request for the court to dismiss the repairer’s lawsuits which by way of the judge’s ruling were “moot” and summarily denied through the judge’s dismissal.
This lawsuit is similar those filed in Mississippi and other states by Attorney John Eaves earlier this year who on behalf of a group of body shop owners against more than three dozen insurance companies who purportedly, through Direct Repair Programs, conspired to manipulate labor rates and other shop charges to reduce their claim costs.
The suit alleges State Farm is at the heart of an effort by the insurers to suppress labor rates, to coerce shops into accepting less than actual or market costs for materials, to refuse to pay for many required procedures and to punish non-compliant shops through steering. The suit alleges these actions constitute tortuous interference, unjust enrichment and violation of Sherman Act price-fixing and boycotting prohibitions. These actions, the suit states, places the shops in "the indefensible position of either performing incomplete or substandard repairs and thus breaching their obligations to automotive owners to return vehicles to pre-accident condition, or performing labor and expending materials without proper compensation."
The suit also seeks an injunction prohibiting the insurers from "directing, advising or otherwise suggesting that any person or firm do business or refuse to do business" with any of the named shops; from using boycott, coercion or flat rate manuals to establish or control repair shop pricing; and from requiring the shops to participate in any parts procurement program (i.e. Parts Trader) and unspecified compensatory and punitive damages suffered by the represented shops.
2014 Georgia Collision Industry Labor Rate Survey June 2 - 30
This year’s survey includes a real time survey of shop labor and material rates plus a survey of training, certifications, and equipment. The purpose of the 2014 GCIA survey is to provide Georgia collision shops with Prevailing Market Rate Ranges (PMRR’s) in their markets which more accurately reflect labor and shop rates than does one single prevailing rate. This survey methodology significantly improves the possibility that you will be compensated a fair and reasonable rate for your work.
The 2014 Survey is being conducted by National AutoBody Research. After submitting your survey form, an email will be sent to you with a Temporary Username and Password providing 7 day access to the NAB’s “Survey the Market” and “Quote” tools, the new “NABR Labor Rate & Profit Calculator,” and the Shop Locator. We hope you will take advantage of this special offer and check out these great tools that can help you run a more profitable and successful business.
by Nick Palermo
Collision repair shops and wholesale parts suppliers continue to align in opposition to mandated electronic parts procurement systems and other practices they say are unfairly harming their businesses.
PartsTrader, the system implemented by insurer State Farm, is fueling growing complaints from both repairers and parts suppliers. Steering of customers and short pays by insurers also remain top concerns for collision shops. Coordinating through local professional associations, shops are asking courts to consider their disputes. Parts suppliers are considering legal actions, too.
In some parts of the country, lawsuits have already been filed. About 30 Mississippi body shops filed an injunction last year requesting that State Farm be prohibited from requiring shops to use PartsTrader in the state. The Mississippi Collision Repair Association is also among the plaintiffs. Attorney John Eaves Jr. is representing the group while also leading national efforts seeking compensation and improved practices by insurers.
Earlier this year, 21 Florida repairers filed a similar lawsuit in Florida. Plaintiffs include Ray Gunder of Gunder's Auto Center in Lakeland, Florida, a shop owner that has become a de facto spokesperson against insurance company interference with collision repair businesses. Representing plaintiffs is Brent Geohagan, the attorney that has also helped Gunder to recover short pays from insurers.
Other states have seen legal actions, too, with some moving in a direction that favors plaintiffs. In 2011, Price's Collision Center in Brentwood, Tennessee, filed a lawsuit against Progressive to address short pays and steering. More recently, a judge denied Progressive's motion to dismiss the lawsuit, paving the way for a trial.
In Indiana, 14 collision repair shops and the Indiana Auto Body Association filed suit against a list of insurers, complaining of steering, short pays and, at direct repair program (DRP) shops, coercion and further interference in business practices.
With the help of Eaves, collision industry players including repairers and parts suppliers are considering multi-district litigation to stop PartsTrader and address short pays and steering. During a conference call to discuss possible litigation, Marvin Windham explained the effect of PartsTrader on the wholesale parts business at Benchmark Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram in Birmingham, Alabama. Windham is parts manager for Benchmark.
"We see a lot of quotes that we don't get a parts sale to justify it," Windham said. "We're having a harder time keeping our calls answered."
That's because shops required to use PartsTrader are requesting estimates from six or seven parts vendors instead of one or two. While that may result in some cost savings for repairers, it can also slow repair times as shops wait for responses from parts suppliers swamped with quote requests. Jason Dunn of Leith Automotive Group in Raleigh, North Carolina echoed Windham's sentiments.
"We have 23 stores that are on PartsTrader right now," Dunn said. "I get reports from PartsTrader for all the stores. We're at less than 50% of the quotes we're sending out that we get any kind of order on. We're spending a lot of time with little in the way of return."
Before PartsTrader was implemented, Dunn said, he had a much better closing percentage.
No specific details of any multi-district litigation have been announced, but Steve Plier of Consumer Auto Repair Excellence updated conference call participants on other actions. He reported additional filings by collision repairers in Utah and Tennessee, and said he expects action soon in Louisiana and Alabama.
Plier also invited industry professionals to visit safecars.us to learn more about the Safe Cars for Everyone Educational Symposium being held late this month in Schaumburg, Illinois. Among attendees will be Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood. The event will include seminars on key topics like how to respond to media requests, how to lobby representatives and how to document safe repairs to limit liability.
The groundswell of vocal criticism of insurance company practices has gained significant momentum as collision repairers and wholesale parts suppliers have sought legal action against insurers. Once afraid to upset the status quo, both parties are speaking out against unfair – and possibly illegal – interference in their business practices.n
(Chicago, IL) - PartsTrader has announced the completion of the national deployment of its parts procurement platform which began in August 2013. As of April 17, 2014 collision repairers and parts suppliers are active on the system in all 48 continental states and the District of Columbia.
Throughout the initial pilot and subsequent rollout stage of the program, full adoption and use of the system has continued to grow each month. There are currently over 7,500 repairers and 8,500 suppliers active on the PartsTrader system. Of the active suppliers, over 75 percent are OEM dealers.
"A dedicated field presence in each new market by knowledgeable PartsTrader staff has been a big help in assisting our customers adapt to a new parts purchasing process," said Dale Sailer, PartsTrader's Vice President of Business Development. "Our field staff has focused most of their effort on training users and listening - bringing suggestions for new functionality and integration back to the product team that have increased our value to users with each new release."
Since launching its initial pilot product 25 months ago, PartsTrader has processed over 750,000 quote requests, with an average response time from suppliers of less than 15 minutes. These quote requests have generated over 1,000,000 confirmed parts orders.
While program use and adoption has grown, PartsTrader has remained committed to its primary objective: to provide a platform that positions repairers at the center of the parts procurement process.
Repairers choose which OEM dealers they invite to quote.
Repairers choose who to order from after considering quality, service, delivery time, part types, the reputation of the suppliers, and price.
Repairers choose when to order (the need may be so urgent that there is not enough time to seek competitive quotes.)
All suppliers are given the same equal opportunity to compete for a repairer's business
Insurers do not have access to a repairer's buy prices, other than for recycled parts, as they do today.
"Our core application is now very different from when we started over two years ago," said Rob Cooper, PartsTrader CEO. "We are committed to giving repairers and suppliers a product of choice by continuing to adapt it to their changing needs. Earlier this year we introduced the industry's first system for tracking two-way repairer and supplier performance feedback. For example, repairers now have the ability to rate suppliers based on service and quality of the parts delivered. This ensures that each party can make a fully informed business decision before placing or responding to an order. Most recently, we've enhanced vehicle mapping capabilities and improved integration with the estimating systems, and have many more exciting features on the near term horizon."
Driven by customer feedback and the increasing industry adoption rate, PartsTrader is available to all repairers and suppliers across the country, regardless of any Direct Repair Program (DRP) affiliation. Everyone can now benefit from the industry's most robust and customizable parts procurement system. Repairers interested in utilizing PartsTrader for efficient procurement can register their interest on the PartsTrader website and be up-and-running in the same business day, if desired. Suppliers who are interested in reaching parts buyers through the PartsTrader marketplace must be nominated by a participating collision repairer within the application. Once nominated, these suppliers can be up and running on a same day basis as well.
"We're excited about transitioning into the next phase of service for our current and future customers,"said Sailer. "One of the things we've been pleased to see is the growing number of repairers who have achieved process improvements and are now using our system for all their parts procurement needs, not just those related to a specific insurance company."
Three-C Body Shops is seeking recovery of short-pays, fees and court costs from State Farm Insurance for the insurer’s repeated underpayments for services generally rendered and charged to their customers when their vehicles have been deemed to be total losses.
Currently there are approximately 89 active lawsuits between Three-C’s and State Farm which began in November, 2012. Generally the suits stem from total-loss billings whereas Three-C Body Shop is seeking an estimated $296,807.93, of which State Farm has agreed to pay only $31,565.03, leaving an unpaid and contested amount to date of $265,242.90. Similar lawsuits will likely be filed.
Bob Juniper, second generation owner and President of the 58 year-old family owned company is no stranger to controversy or to taking on the challenges the collision industry presents. He was one of the first shop owners in the nation to ‘put his money where his mouth is’ by his hard-charging and often controversial local television and radio consumer awareness ads and commercials regarding Direct Repair Programs (DRPs).
Bob Juniper stated; “When a vehicle becomes a total loss we cease normal repair related activities and change to another mode of operation, and as such, charges for such activities are assessed that may or may not be consistent with a repair. Such charges may be processes including but not limited to clean-up from fluid leaks, relocating a disabled vehicle, storage, protection, research, documentation, administrative activities, parts handling and others. We have closely studied the high cost of handling and processing total loss vehicles. In the Columbus area insurers understand and pay for such charges, all but one that is. State Farm continues to be ‘the odd-man-out’ in settling such claims fairly.
We must be paid for our efforts and liabilities associated with the handling involved in total losses as such activities are not "the cost of doing business”. We have decided to let the courts decide who is right and who is wrong. Our efforts to work things out with State Farm directly were unsuccessful. I believe the facts will show that the money is owed. We look forward to sharing the results of these cases with the collision repair industry.”
Todd A. Fichtenberg, one of Three-C’s attorneys of the law firm Skinner & Associates, LLC of Columbus, Ohio stated: “Ohio lacks the statutory provisions that have made those like Ray Gunder in Florida so successful in the recovery of fees and costs. Without that statutory framework, we are using Ohio’s existing laws and good faith arguments for the extension of those laws in an effort to recover Three-C’s fees and costs”.
Three-C Body shops was founded in 1956 and currently has six (6) locations including two satellite locations (inspection-estimating, drop-off and delivery) which help feed their four (4) repair production locations in and around the Columbus market area. The company does $10 million-plus in annual sales. More information on Three-C Body Shop may be found at their website at www.threecbodyshop.com or one can reach Bob Juniper at 614-403-1408.
Ray Gunder of Gunder's Auto Center in Lakeland introduced John Mosley, of Clinton Body Shop, Inc. of Clinton Mississippi, who, along with several other Mississippi Shop Owners and Plaintiff Attorney John Eaves, flew into Lakeland, whereas with local Florida Attorney Brent Geohagan held a meeting to share their national efforts to stop implementation of PartsTrader and State Farm's attempts to impose it upon an unwilling collision repair industry and their suppliers who were also in attendance.READ MORE
Federal judge denies Progressive Insurance's Motion to Dismiss Price's Collision Center's "Tortious Interference With Business Relationship" and "Breach of Contract" claims, which challenge improper insurance company steering and underpayment of claims.READ MORE
Beaverton, OR, : During a meeting with the area State Farm Estimatics Manager, Ron Reichen, President of Precision Body and Paint in Beaverton Oregon, chose not to re-negotiate his company's Select Service agreement with State Farm Insurance, the nation''s largest personal auto insurer. A relationship which lasted over 17 years and of which accounted for $2 million dollars in business over the past year.
"It was actually a business decision we had been considering for some time" stated Reichen;"Discussions came to an impasse over fair and reasonable rates and allowances for aluminum repair. Our terminating the Select Service agreement stems from our company being a certified Tesla repair facility and the investments in time, equipment, training, specialized equipment and facilities which we could not offer for the rates State Farm was willing to pay. This will no doubt enable our company to re-evaluate and revise our pricing on other goods and services for the other manufacturers of which we are a certified repairer for including Porsche, Audi, Volkswagen, Nissan, Volvo, GM, Chrysler and several others." READ MORE
Over 130 people attended an Automotive Service Association of Arizona (ASA AZ) meeting on the evening of August 13th that featured Dale Sailer from Parts Trader and George Avery, national spokesperson from State Farm Insurance. Mike Anderson of Collision Advice facilitated the meeting in which questions were answered following presentations by Mr. Sailer and Mr Avery. Among those in attendance were two state legislators curious about the program and the impact on constituents. READ MORE
By Nick Palermo
Collision shops and industry associations nationwide have voiced concerns over PartsTrader as the electronic parts ordering system has been implemented in initial markets. The Mississippi Collision Repair Association (MCRA) and more than two dozen shops in that state are acting in advance of its arrival there by filing an injunction to block a requirement to use PartsTrader.
The lawsuit was filed late last month in Hinds County Chancery Court against State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company and PartsTrader LLC. According to plaintiff John Mosely of Clinton Body Shop in Clinton, Mississippi, the suit argues that a requirement to use PartsTrader represents tortious interference in a collision shop's relationships with its customers. Tortious interference occurs when one party intentionally causes a second party to not do business with a third party.
Mosely also said that, if the lawsuit is successful, he hopes collision shops and industry associations in other states will follow Mississippi's lead.
Shops in other states are indeed watching closely. Reactions to PartsTrader have not been overwhelmingly positive as collision industry professionals voice concerns over control of their businesses, specifically how they deal with customers and suppliers. Reporting by Southern Automotive Journal on Georgia Collision Industry Association (GCIA) members' outlook on the program reflects skepticism at best.
In a presentation earlier this year, Dave Sailer, a representative from PartsTrader, pitched the system as a competitive new marketplace that would improve efficiency in the industry to the benefit of all parties. George Avery of State Farm said the same late last year, citing an opportunity to repair vehicles that would otherwise be totaled and provide quicker turnaround, improving bottom lines. Of course, even Avery recognizes that State Farm has perhaps the most to gain from such efficiencies. Reducing repair times by one day – across all State Farm claims – would save the insurer $43 million annually in rentals.
At that time, Avery stopped short of telling GCIA members that they would be required to use PartsTrader if they wanted to do business with State Farm customers. But Mosely told Body Shop Business that Avery expressed an impending ultimatum to MCRA members.
"George Avery announced to us that there will come a time in the near future where someone will sit across from your desk and describe this program to you, and you will make a decision as to whether this program is good for your business or not," Mosely said."And for those of you who choose not to follow the program, you will quickly become irrelevant to State Farm."
Mosely also explained the plaintiffs' position on such a black-and-white choice.
"The only way we cannot do business with State Farm is to not have those customers in our shops, and we have no intention of losing any customer that each of us have built our business to serve," Mosely said."We intend to fight to keep our right to free enterprise."
Statements from other collision industry leaders in the wake of the lawsuit's announcement support the action my MCRA and the Mississippi body shops. Charles Bryant, executive director of the Alliance of Automotive Service Providers of New Jersey this week expressed solidarity with the Mississippi efforts.
"The collision industry has clearly rejected the concept of PartsTrader, yet State Farm is taking the position that they are going to force PartsTrader on the collision industry – like it or not," Bryant said."This lawsuit should be a wake-up call for State Farm. State Farm's attempt to create the appearance that they are trying to help the collision industry solve a problem has clearly failed."
It may be clear that State Farm has failed in convincing collision repair professionals that PartsTrader will improve their businesses, but that hasn't stopped the insurer from successfully rolling out the program. In addition to four metropolitan markets - Chicago Grand Rapids, Charlotte and Birmingham- PartsTrader is live in four full states: Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. Ten more full-state implementations are"pending," according to PartsTrader as of August 19.
Mississippi is not among them, but collision shops and industry associations across the U.S. will surely continue to follow the lawsuit against PartsTrader in that state closely.
Gene Hamilton is one of the most respected and recognized people in the collision repair industry today. This is not only because of his many accomplishments, awards, and business successes; but also because in 1997 Gene helped start the Georgia Collision Industry Association that has helped local, regional and national repairers as well. From the beginning of his career he has held a passion for our industry. For Gene, it has never been enough to turn out high quality repairs in his facilities. He has always believed that anything he can do to improve the reputation and respect of the collision repair industry at large would not only make his business model sustainable but would assist his many friends, peers, and yes, even competitors provide safer and more reliable repairs for the consumer. In the end, it has always been about ensuring that friends and families can feel confident that their vehicle was repaired to pre-accident condition and by a true collision repair professional. Gene knows that collision professionals working together is the only way to make improvements in and to better our industry.
The following is only a sampling of the many accolades and accomplishments during Gene's long career in the collision repair industry.
1996, received the SCRS"Green Shop" Award for his efforts to make his Sports and Imports No. 2 an environmentally sound business.
1998, inducted into the Hall of Eagles, the industry's equivalent to the Hall of Fame.
1998, received the Body Shop Video Magazine"Collision Business of the Year" award in the multiple location division.
1999, received the SCRS"Industry Achievement Award" for his efforts to have manufacturers and vendors redirect funds traditionally used for big industry parties to non-profit organizations that serve the industry.
1999, received the"Innovator of the Year Award."
2000-01, Chairman of the Society of Collision Repair Specialists (SCRS).
2003-04, Chairman of I-Car.
I-CAR: Board Member of the I-Car Education Foundation, I-Car Gold Class Steering Committee, and the I-Car Board of Directors.
CIC: Active participant, and past Chairman of the Environmental Committee.
Hamilton is an industry innovator and owns two businesses: Sports and Imports Collision-Chamblee, GA and Sports & Imports Collision-Gwinnett, GA. These repair centers are among the finest automotive-related enterprises in the nation.
EddieQuintela, Owner and President of Collision Concepts of Delray Beach, FL has once again found it necessary to file a lawsuit against 21st Century Insurance on behalf of his customer who made a claim under their policy with the carrier.
In 2012, Eddie Quintela, on behalf of his company's customers, filed three separate lawsuits against 21st Century of which the insurer agreed to pay before the trial dates. In addition to the disputed amounts, the insurer paid all of Eddie's legal fees and costs.
In spite of recent claims whereas the insurer has provided full payments, as of late, 21st Century claims representatives have elected to once again deny payments for the repairer's posted labor rates, processes and procedures as deemed to be reasonable and necessary to properly restore their customer's vehicle. As Such, Quintela, on behalf of and with the full support of his customer, has found it necessary to once again file a lawsuit against the insurer on his customer's behalf for such denials.
"As in the past with this company", states Eddie,"they pay us only after we file suit but before they go before a judge and/or jury. Thereafter they pay in full for every needed material, process and rates for a while… then abruptly change back to their old ways. I'm puzzled; as I am confident their company share-holders would be as well, since the insurer has often paid 20 times the amounts in dispute, often paying upwards of $2,500.00 in legal fees and costs for a dispute that may be under $100.00!" "I don't care" said Eddie Quintela;"it would be much easier for their policyholder if they just paid what they owe without the need for litigation, but when they don't, I'll be helping my customer to have their ‘day in court'; As I see it, they [insurers] can either pay fairly now…or pay much more later! "It doesn't make a lot of sense and even makes less"cents"says Quintela.
Allstate provides full payment to Gunder's to settle twelve pending lawsuits for short-pays on labor rate differences plus attorney fees and costs.
In June 2013, Allstate claim's management contacted Ray Gunder and requested a meeting to discuss Allstate's interest in bringing closure to the lawsuits of which Ray had filed against the nation's second largest insurer on behalf of a dozen of his customers.
During the meeting with Allstate's Tom Travis and Greg Ashley it was agreed, based upon service and quality, that Gunder's Auto Center was indeed entitled to their labor rate, however, not all repairers deserve the same labor rate, and concern was expressed, that should the word get out, how Allstate would pay Gunder's labor rate without having to do so for other shops. Ray advised he would continue to share his journey with the industry, and regardless, if a settlement with Allstate was reached or litigation continued, others would find out as his intent was that all repairers and their technical staff would be compensated fairly for their efforts, not just Gunder'.
In July Gunder's was advised that Allstate would settle all twelve pending lawsuits by paying the full labor rate and all related attorney fees and costs. Full payments for each were received last week. Allstate makes the 44th insurer to date which has agreed to pay Gunder's full labor rates and materials.
Ray stated:"I am very appreciative of the way this was handled by Allstate. No one wants litigation, however sometimes it is needed to get disputes resolved. My hope is this is that this is truly a new way Allstate does business nationwide and they speak to the entire industry with one voice. Not all shops are the same and as such they deserve to be compensated based upon the quality of their service and offerings."
"We'll be in depositions all week with GEICO representatives and have continued lawsuits with State Farm. Perhaps the nations #2 insurer agreeing to our rates will encourage GEICO and State Farm to pay rates and allowances that are"fair and reasonable"! One can be sure that we'll continue to"pound the rock" until they do!"
In an effort to meet the immediate rehabilitative needs of wounded soldiers through Operation Comfort's AutoMotivation program, the National Auto Body Council (NABC) announced it will focus efforts on coordinating collision industry resources to re-launch AutoMotivation as soon as possible.
The AutoMotivation program has been dormant since March 2012 when its previous facility in San Antonio, Texas, was sold. This move prompted the NABC to rally industry support for a capital campaign to purchase a permanent training facility and provide an accredited job-training curriculum for the veterans.
In recent meetings, the Boards of the NAABC and Operation Comfort have jointly determined that collision industry resources would benefit disabled veterans more immediately with a priority focus to fund and support the AutoMotivation program, rather than funding the capital campaign to purchase a permanent facility.
"Our primary concern is for our wounded troops who have been without the valuable occupational therapies and rehabilitative benefits of AutoMotivation this past year," said Chuck Sulkala, NABC C Executive Director."Many disabled veterans will be better served today with industry resources re-focused on helping AutoMotivation become fully operational so they once again have the opportunity to receive the positive therapeutic benefits they deserve."
According to Sulkala, a NABC committee e will be appointed to help its members and others in the collision industry that wish to support disabled veterans through the AutoMotivation program. Committee efforts will help promote awareness for AutoMotivation as well as help procure equipment, training or financial support to meet program needs.
Funds raised to date from the industry-supported Operation Comfort Capital Campaign will be used to provide an immediate space to house the e program or kept in reserve for future use towards a permanent facility. Efforts to identify leased or donated space are underway by Operation Comfort board members.
"Whether it is simply changing a tire or working on restoring a complete vehicle, these activities are important first steps in the recovery process for many participants in AutoMotivation," said Janis Roznowski, Executive Director of Operation Comfort."We are extremely grateful to the many individuals and companies in the collision industry whose generous contributions enable us to continue supporting our wounded soldiers through AutoMotivation."
For more information on how to support Operation Comfort's AutoMotivation program, contact Chuck Sulkala at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About Operation Comfort AutoMotivation program:
Operation Comfort is a nonprofit organization founded in 2004 to serve wounded Service Members coming in from Iraq and Afghanistan. The focus has been on teaching skills in automotive body and engine repair through their AutoMotivation program, rehabilitative adaptive sport programs, and family financial assistance. For more information please visit www.operationcomfort.org, Operation Comfort's Facebook page or call 210-826-0500.
About the National Auto Body Council:
The National Auto Body Council is a non-profit organization dedicated to enhancing the image of the collision industry. Our ongoing and continued success is a direct result of the efforts and support of our sponsoring companies and membership. Please contact the National Auto Body Council directly for membership information. Call 1-888-667-7433 or go to www.autobodycouncil.org.
Michael Bradshaw, VP of Operations of Hickory North Carolina's K&M Collision was awarded claimed short-pays in a court ordered Arbitration. The binding Arbitration was the result of Bradshaw filing a lawsuit on behalf K&M Collision's customer against Nationwide Insurance for the insurer's underpayments of what was determined to be reasonable and necessary repair costs. In North Carolina every lawsuit files goes to binding arbitration and only after same can either party then seek a trial if so inclined.
The insurer's short-pays included: labor rates ($48 Body & Refinish, $80 Mechanical and $65 Frame), procedures (i.e. sand and buff, final detail, road test, color tint and collision access time), invoiced paint & materials, sublet markup, fixture usage and a $250 Damage Analysis fee which included a comprehensive part by part inspection of all components including: exterior panels, inner structure, mechanical components and SRS and seat belt systems. The award also included storage charges at a rate of $50 per day for the total amount of $2,506.98 plus accrued interest until the insurer's full payment is made.
"I'm glad the courts recognized whom the repair experts were." says Bradshaw."From the beginning I was very confident we would succeed through our legal system in proving all our charges to be both reasonable and necessary. For any insurer to expect all shops to operate by the same rates, procedures and charges regardless of training, manufacturer certifications, equipment and facilities is ludicrous. The fact is we have made a commitment to repairing vehicles properly, adhering strictly to all manufacturer repair methods and guidelines and what we're consistently finding with some insurers is they care very little about manufacturer certifications and proper repairs and only about bottom line cost and the cheapest repairs possible. My Father (CEO) and I decided if we were going to stay in business and continue to repair vehicles properly we could no longer accept insurer dictated repair costs. We found that short-pay litigation was necessary to stop insurer underpayments and provide our customers with the factory certified repairs their policy affords them."Bradshaw credited assistance and advice from Erica Eversman, Ray Gunder, Barrett Smith and many other industry experts as well as his legal team of Jason A. Orndoff and William E. Morgan for his legal victory.
"I hope our actions and results encourage other quality-minded repairers to seek similar actions against the less than ethical insurers. We learned a great deal in this initial case and I have had to embark on two more cases against Nationwide for short-pays in the amounts of $5,663.24 and $10,135.52. I'm confident we will prevail as I know we are in the right. I know such actions are necessary to stop such behavior and to best serve our community members, our employees and our company," Bradshaw said. "We'll continue to share our efforts with others so they may know that they no longer have to accept insurer dictation of repairs, rates, materials and charges."
Judge awards Mark's Body Shop of Baltimore, Maryland full damages and court costs for insurer's short-pay to their customer.
Mark Schaech, co-owner of Mark's Body shop of Baltimore Maryland filed a lawsuit against GEICO for a short-pay of $392.95 in repair costs of which the insurer refused to provide on behalf of their policyholder. The underpayments included: degreasing vehicle prior to repair, feather-prime and block repaired panels, clean vehicle for deliver, clear OBD fault codes, reset electronics (recorded settings), mask for primer, and overhaul door handle for its refinishing.
Upon learning of the court's judgment in his favor Mark stated:"We offer exceptional quality and service to our customers and to continue to do so without being properly compensated is simply unreasonable and unsustainable. While my father (partner) and I would rather avoid having to take such legal actions, something had to be done as the insurer's efforts to underpay our customers continued to increase. I felt like that guy on the movie Network where he stuck his head out the window and yelled:"I'm mad as hell and I'm not taking it anymore!"
"While Maryland does not allow the recovery of legal fees to the prevailing parties in such issues, we couldn't allow that to be a deterrent in our being able to properly serve our customers and our employees. Insurers have continued cutting their costs while our costs for labor, materials and overhead have steadily increased. The only way we could survive was to either concede to the underpayments and cut our quality of materials and labor... or push back. We found short-pay litigation necessary to stop the insurer's practice of underpaying our customers and to enable us to provide the quality repairs that earn our customer's (and their referrals) for life.
In April 2012, I had the opportunity to attend a free legal seminar in Florida where I met Barrett Smith of Auto Damage Experts (ADE) and his coaching client Ray Gunder and Ray's attorney, Brent Geohagan. This was a turning point for us. To hear Ray talk about how he knew that if he hadn't done something he would be out of business struck a chord in me and I knew then that I too needed to do something or we'd lose our business. Ray gave much credit to his success in having a great support team in Barrett as his consultant and Brent as his legal counsel."
"I met with Barrett and ask if he'd help us and he agreed, and we haven't looked back since. We made the annual consulting fees back within the first few months and continue to increase our profits while maintaining high quality for our customers. We have a ways to go to achieve our goals but we are on the right track and once again optimistic about our company's future."
Lakeland, Fl. - A judge has ruled in a fee dispute that State Farm is to provide payment to Gunder's $76,157.00 for Legal Fees relative to one of two initial lawsuits Ray Gunder levied against the nation's largest auto insurer for short-pays on behalf of two of Gunder's customers. Ray and his attorney, Brent Geohagan have reached a tentative out of court agreement in the other case for the insurer to pay legal fees in the amount of $7,250.00 plus accrued interest which brings the total amount to be paid by State Farm to an estimated $83,400.00 in these two matters alone. Efforts were initially made by the insurer to condition a non-disclosure agreement in exchange for payment but Ray refused and the court's award was not contingent upon same.
"The extensive fees were incurred due to the substantial time our attorney invested to research and combat State Farm's initial efforts to defend against the short-pay lawsuits and their efforts to discourage and stop me." said Ray Gunder. We didn't do it alone, besides having a great legal counsel; we had the ongoing financial and moral support of many repairers and friends across the country. We've hung in there because we knew we were right and to blaze a trail up that mountain so other repairers wouldn't have to make the significant investment we did. The path is now clear and easy to navigate. The heavy lifting is done and many other repairers are now following our lead and even more are looking into doing the same. I'm very proud of climbing that mountain and the view from where we sit is awesome! We're currently receiving full payment for our labor rates, procedures and materials from nearly 50 insurers and we will be adding more to that list in the weeks and months ahead. We have more lawsuits against State Farm in the courts currently, including one against an appraiser individually, and we'll continue to share our journey with the industry as we continue Pounding the Rock!"
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For the past several years, there has been a significant amount of discussion amongst industry organizations in the United States about"standards" in the collision repair industry.
The GCIA has conducted this survey for Seven (7) consecutive years. No other industry association in the U.S. has collected this amount of accurate data on collision materials and labor rates. This year, 305 shops participated across the state of Georgia and the results clearly demonstrate the actual prevailing rate in the Georgia marketplace.
Eddie Quintela, Owner and operator of Collision Concepts of Delray Beach, FL has levied a lawsuit against Bristol West Insurance Company on behalf of his customer whose vehicle was damaged due to the negligence of a Bristol West policy holder Read More
It has been over one year since State Farm began mandating the use of PartsTrader for parts procurement in certain cities in the United States. Despite public criticism and concern expressed by multiple affected industry segments, neither State Farm nor PartsTrader has provided any well-constructed explanation of how the program provides any substantial benefit to those being required to utilize it, other than to comply with the mandated programs.
Volkswagen Chattanooga announced today that the three-year Automation Mechatronics Program (AMP) and Car Mechatronic Program (CMP) offered in its Volkswagen Academy will be upgraded from a technical diploma to an Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree in Mechatronics Engineering Technology. The degree is offered through Volkswagen's on-going partnership with Chattanooga State Community College.
Alabama had gone approximately 5 years without an active association when a group of shops in the market area began to discuss the prospects of forming a new association. In March of 2011, collision repairers in the marketplace began to work together with a number of interested paint suppliers and parts vendors, as they worked towards forming an organization that could best serve the needs of the Alabama collision repair industry.Read More
Recycled Rides Program Proves to be a Great Success
With the help of Family Promise, Sports & Imports Collision a member of the National Auto Body Council (NABC), delivered a 2011 KIA Soul to Ms. Rahandice Fortune in a ceremony at Sports & Imports
Sports & Imports Collision and Family Promise of Lawrenceville
combine efforts to donate vehicle to family in need.
State Farm representative George Avery explained and took questions on the electronic parts-ordering system that has both collision shops and parts suppliers concerned about the industry's future.
Double-digit fuel economy gains possible with more substitution for steel and aluminum.