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Seminar Focuses on Legislation; Communication between Shops and Insurers

Posted 11/01/2006
By Michael Freeze

Insurers and repair shops both face several issues that affect the way they conduct business. State legislation plays a vital role within the auto body repair industry to confront those challenges.

Legislative Database Manager Robert Hurns and Senior Director John Eager of Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI) gave an overview of the latest legislation and regulatory action of the past year. PCI is an insurer trade association that lobbies on behalf of the property/casualty insurance industry on the federal and state legislative levels.

It is composed of more than 1,000 member companies, representing a broad cross-section of insurers of various national trade associations. PCI's member companies write policies for more than 50 percent of the U.S. automobile insurance market.

"The goal of this seminar is to keep having a dialogue with auto repair community. We are not here to preach," says Hurns. "(The independent insurers and repair shops) have their opinions. What John and I try to do is stick with the straight facts."

Some of the topics touched upon were some of the "crossover" issues that influence both sides of the industry like anti-steering and salvage title legislation. As described by Hurns, some proposed state anti-steering legislation would prohibit insurers from even suggesting a particular body shop to insured motorists. Also, the salvage title issue has been pushed to the forefront of the regulatory spectrum. Hurns explained that it has become a hot issue because it stems from other related concerns like totaled, water-damaged and contaminated vehicles.

Hurns predicted that both issues will be in the forefront of many states' legislation agendas for next year. In addition, the duo stated that PCI has "an attorney in every state capital."

"We asked [the legislators] what they think will come up in your state legislators for 2007 pertaining to auto repair," says Hurns. "So, we can have a 'crystal ball' and see what's ahead in the future."

Other than the issues on the legislative side, another key factor for both the insurers and repairer is technology. According to Hurns, the advancements made in vehicles such as cameras installed in the front and rear bumpers, automatic steering control and black box data recorders will provide some unique challenges.

"The prime issue for a lot of the technology out there is that it's causing more totaled vehicles because of the expense involved with the technology," says Hurns. "That is why we are talking to the OEMs to see if they can install these cameras into a place where a simple fender bender will not result in a $3-4,000 camera being broken."

Hurns stated that his company has been in dialogues with the automobile manufacturers for less than a year and will resume discussions in late November. The group wanted the attendees to know overall, there should be consistent communication between the insurer and the repair shop.

"Our goal is to keep claims costs down by working with the repair shop," says Hurns. "We have been doing [these seminars] for awhile and we think it is a good way to keep the dialogue between the entities."

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