One of the many important steps in the claims handling process, according to Mike Cassata, owner of Hammer Insights, is proper photo and file documentation.
During NACE Automechanika in July, Cassata explained how to capture useful and relevant photographs that show the vehicle’s damage, or lack thereof.
“Photos are a real and necessary part of the complete claim file,” said Cassata. “DRP managers will tell you that poor photos and documentation can be a bigger problem than the quality of the repairs.”
He shared insight with attendees about the correct process that the majority of carriers want to see, although the rules may vary from carrier to carrier.
While working through the inspection process, Cassata said there are two important photos to capture in addition to a legible one of the license plate: the VIN sticker on the door and the dash instrument gauges with the car running. This will not only identify any Malfunction Indicator Lamps (MIL), but also other systems, mileage and fuel level.
Cassata shared 10 tips for optimum photo documentation:
1) Observe the direct and indirect damages, then walk around the vehicle once or twice before beginning to take photos and writing the estimate.
2) Use the catcher’s position to take photos and refrain from kneeling to protect your knees.
3) If you can’t squat, find an alternative method that is comfortable for you.
4) Take the majority of photos from the height of the impact along the body of the vehicle whenever possible. A yard stick can be helpful to show the height of the impact.
5) Use sunlight and shop lighting to your advantage and remove excess snow from the vehicle.
6) Fill the entire frame with the vehicle.
7) Parking lot lines can help accentuate damages in the images.
8) Include worn or trashed interior photos
9) Take your time, and make sure you aren’t including the vehicle owner, family members, pets or your own reflection in the photos. Review the photos prior to uploading them.
10) Don’t upload excess photos and carefully follow each carrier’s guidelines.
Regardless of the extent of the damage, Cassata said there are five angles required for all front-end claims: the front of the vehicle straight on, the right-front corner, left-front corner, and both sides. Photos of the rear damage are captured in a similar way and include the right rear, right center, left rear and both rear sides. Side damage photos should be taken using a panoramic view with multiple angles from front to rear. After panorama and prior damage photos are taken, Cassata said it is often necessary to take photos of specific damage.
In the event of a comprehensive loss, also known as “other than collision” (OTC), there are additional photos to take such as animal hair or remains in the event of an animal loss. If there was a fire, Cassata said to try and locate the origin and include your remarks in the comment section.
“The cause of the fire is not covered, but the ensuing damage is,” he explained.
In cases of vandalism or theft, Cassata said the damage is often random and not specific to one area of the vehicle.
“Regardless of the damages, photograph both sides of the steering wheel and all possible points of entry such as door locks, door frames and glass,” he advised. “Remember, lack of damage in these areas can be just as important to the investigation as actual damages.”
Photos are also required of the electronic equipment and console area. Cassata said to take time to note if the sound equipment was removed surgically or in a hurry, causing damage to the dash. He recommended taking a wider view of the front occupant compartment since it will often show additional damage to the dash, seats or removed parts left behind by those who vandalized the vehicle.
Cassata discussed fresh water losses as well as salt water losses for vehicles that have been in floods. When working with fresh water losses, he said to check with the carrier on its total loss guidelines.
“Most will tell you that it’s usually up to the dash before they will total a vehicle,” said Cassata.
In addition to removing the interior and trunk trim and carpets, he said to dry out the interior before mold and mildew appear.
Salt water losses, according to Cassata, are usually deemed a total loss by a carrier if the water is over the rocker.
“It’s much worse than a fresh water loss due to the corrosion,” he said.
However, he said the water line could be higher than what shows on the interior on both salt water and fresh water losses.