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The risk management battle for balance wages on

Tuesday, March 26, 2019 - 06:00
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Speaking as a repairer and a student of the industry, I see us experiencing a tug-of-war regarding Advanced Driver-Assistance System (ADAS) repairs, as well as some other vehicle manufacturer repair procedures and position statements. We are caught between the vehicle manufacturers who are telling us (with increasing specificity) how and when to perform diagnostic and repair operations and insurers who often question the validity and necessity of these operations.

Many of us experience this friction constantly with our daily interactions with insurers. I work with a number of insurers who have set their own policies regarding repair methodologies. Some of these are determined by local people and may be different in other parts of the country. Some examples include deciding under what circumstances they see the validity in scanning and calibrations that are contrary to OEMs; use of salvage parts such as quarter panels that are contrary to OEM policies; demanding use of reconditioned and aftermarket parts that are of questionable nature; not replacing front-wheel bearings when replacing surrounding components (instructing shops that they will pay for a replacement if the bearing fails afterward, a potential safety issue); and deciding upon whether or not to pay for calibrations regardless of vehicle manufacturer direction.

State legislative efforts on the part of insurers to equate factory repair standards to industry standards are further evidence. The term “industry standard” is an oxymoron, since it lacks precise definition and therefore is not a standard at all.

Assessing risk
At the root of this issue lies the willingness of the decision makers — repairers and insurers — to determine what risks they are willing to take. Insurers are in the risk management business and in many cases know how often failures (from specific repair methodology to ignoring some potential risk items) occur. Areas that don’t produce many failures or complaints are often ones that insurers are reluctant to embrace. Especially after high-profile litigation cases, repairers are increasingly reluctant to take such risks. Though the frequency of failure is low, the consequences to a repairer can be catastrophic, including significant financial loss potentially devastating to a business as well as personal injury or loss of life of a consumer.

At a recent Collision Industry Conference (CIC), an association executive director stated that she often has repairers expressing concerns over insurers who in the interest of conserving expense want them to either deviate from or ignore vehicle manufacturer repair procedures, directives or suggestions. She stated that a common phrase is “on a case-by-case basis” they will support or deny payment for specific procedures, regardless of the manufacturer’s position. She publicly asked how to address their concerns and what advice she should give them.

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