Given the number of lawsuits that have been filed against insurers in 2014 alone, this isn’t anything new, but the collaboration of a group of industry professionals in order to combat this issue has led to the creation of SafeCars, an organization dedicated to the premise that “every vehicle owner deserves a safe and complete repair.”
As such, SafeCars has organized a series of meetings across the country to engage other collision repair professionals in the discussion to determine the best way to combat insurer interference in their industry. Ron Perretta, owner of Professionals Auto Body in Altoona, PA and one of SafeCars’ organizers, took time to explain their goals and what they have next on the agenda. “The purpose of these meetings is to discuss the issue of insurer interference in general, but it is also about bringing shops together to answer any questions they have on the current litigation.”
SafeCars hopes to explain the differences between several national lawsuits that are currently pending. The first is a class action lawsuit. The second, the complaint Attorney John Eaves Jr filed against multiple insurers on behalf of 21 shops in January 2014, is the pending MDL litigation which Perretta hopes shops will be inspired to participate in. Perretta and other members of SafeCars believe that the collision repair industry has been badly suppressed over the years. Some of the issues they hope to address are static labor rates, the improper use of procedure pages in estimating systems, the prevalence of insurer steering, and the overall influence of the insurance industry in collision repair businesses across the country.
On September 20, SafeCars hosted a meeting at the Holiday Inn in Fort Washington, PA, and Perretta says, “the meeting went extremely well. At this point, PA has more people involved with this litigation than any other state.”
SafeCars also held a meeting in San Diego, CA on October 11, and they have scheduled a meeting for October 18 at the DoubleTree Hotel in Linthicum Heights, MD to run from noon until 4PM. Speakers for the MD meeting include Perretta, Attorney John Eaves Jr and Tony Passwater of the Indiana Auto Body Association. These are only a few of the meetings that SafeCars intends to hold around the U.S. as they travel “up the East Coast and down the West Coast to inform industry professionals of these issues and collaborate to find a solution,” Perretta states, adding “these efforts are way past due.”
These free meetings are open to collision repairers and OEM industry vendors. Pre-registration is required, and attendees must provide a business card and photo ID to verify their identify as SafeCars has prohibited insurers from attending these meetings in order to encourage honest dialogue amongst collision repairers and to prevent retaliation against attendees. Explaining why this level of security is necessary, Perretta shares, “I received a phone call from a woman who runs a shop and wants to attend our MD meeting, but she asked if any insurance people will be there because she’s worried they’ll find out she was there getting information. It’s sad when collision repair professionals are so scared that you can’t go where you want to go, be with the people you want to be with, and talk about the things you want to talk about… The last time people acted like this was before Lincoln freed the slaves. This is America, not the Mafia, yet it’s almost like the insurance industry is the Mafia offering their protection to shops but only if we do what they say. We all rely on insurers for business, but if we continue to be scared, our businesses will just get worse. It’s ridiculous for our industry to be at this point, but it’s exactly where the insurers want us.”
Ironically enough, Perretta suggests it was “actually a good thing when State Farm tried to jam PartsTrader down people’s throats. It was the straw that nearly broke the camel’s back, and it got a lot of shops up in arms, so State Farm kind of did us a favor by introducing PartsTrader.”SafeCars has also released a video on YouTube, featuring Perretta, to address the “pressing industry issues dramatically affecting you, your technicians, your business, and the safety of your customers.”
He explains how both the class action and MDL lawsuits will have a positive effect on the industry and how business is done in the near future. Claiming that collision repair professionals across the country are faced with the same issues, Perretta lists these concerns as follows: suppression of labor rates, steering, manipulation of databases, not using procedure pages as designed, refusals to pay for required procedures, refusals to follow manufacturer guidelines, pressure from insurers to cut corners and use inferior parts that could jeopardize consumers’ safety, intervention into collision repair businesses, interference with agreements shops have with their customers and their vendors, and insurers’ efforts to use intimidation to force shops to comply with their demands lest they be blackballed and targeted.In the imminent future, SafeCars plans to host webinars and teleconferences to explain the benefits to a wider audience of collision repairers, but in the meantime, Perretta encourages anyone who is interested to contact him so he can explain how you can help in more detail.
In closing, Perretta pleads, “Please don’t sit on the sidelines and do nothing! Help us take back our industry so we’re able to fix vehicles properly and safely for our customers.”
Perretta can be reached on his cell phone at 814-931-7669 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information on SafeCars, visit www.safecars.us.