Record number of ‘insurance steering’ cases in Austin, TX after hail storm.
Insurance Steering has been around for a long time but no one really knows about it until an accident, collision, or hail damages your vehicle and you get introduced to the insurance claims process. Most insurance carriers just assume that anything their insurance company or claims adjuster tells them is true and accurate information. It isn’t until an incident or that gut feeling of ‘something isn’t right here’ comes into play.
First of all, because we are a specialty Austin, TX paintless dent repair shop that deals mostly in auto hail damage repair, we will help you become more familiar with what you should do if your vehicle has been damaged in a hail storm, and then -the actual hail claims process.
What do I do if my vehicle was damaged in a hail storm?
Do a quick inspection to assess the damage. It is easier to identify hail damage on your vehicle if you move it into a shaded area like your garage or under a tree. Next, walk around the entire vehicle and notice where you can see the most damage – like the most OBVIOUS damage. Some common areas where we see damage are on the roof, hood, and trunk lid. There also might be some damage on the side panels, it all really depends on what the wind speeds were during the storm and where your vehicle was parked. Notice if there is any glass damage. Finally, is there any damage to the paint around the dented areas such as chipping, cracking, or peeling?
***Pro tip: Use your phone to take pictures of the damage. You can even shoot a video of the damage. This not only timestamps the date but also gives you proof of the damage.
File a hail damage claim with your insurance company. If the storm was severe, such as the one here in Austin in early October, it is a good idea to get your claim in as soon as possible. More than likely, the hail damage was widespread and hundreds of vehicles in your area also had damage.
You can either file your claim online, using your insurance company’s app, or you can call them directly. You will be asked to provide the date of the occurrence, your policy number, date of birth, vehicle make/model/year, and to describe the damage.
INSURANCE STEERING ALERT
Know your rights! This is just one of the times you need to know about insurance steering and what it looks like. It is within YOUR rights to take your vehicle to ANY shop that you choose. Adjusters will use wording that might lead you to assume that this is not the case but the bottom line is…they work for you, not the other way around.
Insurance adjuster assigned to estimate the hail damage. Next, you will be assigned an adjuster who will either contact you to schedule a time for them to look at the vehicle for an estimate OR they will just direct you to a shop for an estimate. Your adjuster might attempt to STEER you at this point.
What is insurance steering?
“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. In other words, your insurance adjuster might speak in a way that makes you think that you HAVE to use an auto body shop that is on their DRP list.
You can learn more about Steering here at the I-CAN: Position Statement – www.iCan2000.com website. The Insurance Consumer Advocate Network (“I-Can”) was formed in 1994 by a retired adjuster (J. D. Howard) as a Consumer Advocacy Effort local to Arizona. In 1996, this Web Site was developed to Empower Consumers Nationwide.
What is a DRP?
In the automotive repair industry, a Direct Repair Program, also known as a DRP is a relationship that is formed between an insurance company and an auto body shop. When an insurance agent is working with someone whose vehicle has been damaged, they will give suggestions of auto body shops to their clients.
**Learn more about DRP/Insurance Company relations and obligations here at the RDN Repairer Driven News website in the article, “Tex. bill discussion includes DRP repair decisions, supplements, labor rates.”
***Another great resource explaining DRPs at Stop DRP.
**** Read this article to learn WHY insurance companies subcontract with auto body shops.
Top 10 tactics used by insurance adjusters to dissuade you from using a shop not on their DPR list.
There are a number of ways your insurance adjuster might try to persuade you to use a DRP shop from their ‘preferred shops’ list.
- You may have out-of-pocket expenses if you choose that shop. That is not at all the case. Independent shops MAKE SURE that ALL OF THE DAMAGE is covered AND paid for by your insurance company. That’s why you purchased the coverage in the first place.
- We are unable to warranty repairs if you go there. Insurance companies don’t warranty repairs, the shop does.
- They won’t agree with our appraiser’s estimate. This is usually true. Almost 100% of the time, adjusters/appraisers will UNDERBID a hail-damaged car. When you take your vehicle to a non-DRP shop, NO ONE is controlling how a bid /estimate is performed – especially the insurance company. We work for the vehicle owner, no one else. We estimate all vehicles in the same way with the same goal – to locate and repair ALL hail damage. Period. If hail damage was missed by the insurance appraiser/adjuster, we write up a supplement request that describes in great detail every missed dent size, location, and cost to repair.
- We’ve had a hard time with that shop, and are unable to work with them. You should ALWAYS do your research on the shop. Check reviews, and ask friends/families/co-workers for shop referrals. This is just another way insurance companies will try to scare you into using a shop that is on their DRP list.
- They are not on our preferred list. Superior Dent Solutions is very PROUD not to be on any DRP list as are most independent, Austin locally-owned auto body repair & paintless dent repair shops.
- If you go to a non-preferred shop, your repair may be delayed while waiting for an adjuster to inspect the vehicle. This is an issue on their part AND an illegal practice. Insurance companies can’t purposely delay an estimate based on the shop YOU choose.
- If you choose our “preferred” shop we can pay them directly and it will be handled faster. This is standard practice for any shop.
- We will total your vehicle if you go to a shop not on our preferred list. Yes, we have heard this and it is 100% not OK and this behavior should be reported immediately to the Texas Department of Insurance.
- We don’t work with that shop. This is a blatant and very manipulative scare tactic that goes against your ‘right to choose.’ Superior Dent Solutions has worked with EVERY Texas insurance company, even the smaller ones.
- We can’t guarantee repairs done at a ‘3rd party’ shop. There is NO SUCH THING as a third-party shop!!!!
How can I protect myself from steering tactics by my insurance company?
The first step is to KNOW YOUR RIGHTS. Remember, you are paying them for a service – that is to cover the cost of damages to your vehicle in the event of an accident, collision, and natural weather occurrences. ‘Steering’ tactics rear their ugly heads, especially in the aftermath of a hail storm.
Always remember, your insurance company is always looking for a way to cut down on THEIR costs, and partnering with an auto body shop that is willing to negotiate their rates works in THEIR favor, not yours.
Your rights as an insurance policyholder:
- Texas state law is clear that you can choose your own repair shop.
- Texas state law also makes clear that the insurance company cannot force you to use a specific repair shop.
- The Texas Department of Insurance states that insurance companies may be in conflict with the law if they make verbal or written statements implying you may be responsible for certain repair costs if you choose a repair facility that is not on the insurance company’s list.
Report Insurance Steering to TDI
If you want to file a complaint so TDI can look into your issue, this is how it works: Call our Help Line at 800-252-3439 to talk about your issue.