A conversation with a friend at the Nevada Democratic Party Headquarters about the state of the collision repair industry led him to seek out State of Nevada, Clark County Assemblywoman, District No. 28 Vonne Stout Chowning. A small business owner herself, Chowning is the chairperson of the Nevada Assembly Transportation Committee.
The end result of this conversation is Assembly Bill #367, enacted into Nevada state law March 17, 2003, effective on October 1, 2003.
"An act relating to motor vehicles; expanding the definition of "rebuilt vehicle" for the purposes of licensing and registration of motor vehicles; authorizing an insured to select a body shop for repairs to a motor vehicle; and providing other matters properly relating thereto."
The law ensures that "an insured or a claimant under a policy of insurance may have repairs to a motor vehicle made at the licensed body shop of his choice. An insurer of motor vehicles shall notify the insured or the claimant of this right when the insurer is first contacted concerning a claim for damage to a motor vehicle."
Further protection to the consumer is provided by prohibiting insurers from "knowingly recommending to an insured or a claimant or to direct an insured or a claimant to, a body shop in this state [Nevada] which is not licensed pursuant to NRS 487.630 or require an insured or a claimant to patronize any licensed shop in this state in preference to another such business, except in accordance with the regulations adopted pursuant to paragraph (c) of subsection 7 of NRS 487.002."
A provision pertaining to the insurance companies states that this law does not require "an insurer to pay more than the reasonable rate required pursuant to a policy of insurance for repairs to a motor vehicle."
Bill is "good business"
Assemblywoman Chowning believes this bill is good business, legislating the right of consumers to choose where their car will be repaired. "It is better for all consumers," Chowning declared.
The legislative process can be cumbersome, tedious and very expensive. AB # 367 was enacted due solely to the efforts of Michael Spears and the Assemblywoman. Asked about this successful effort, Chowning explained, "We were most proud to do this without a lobbyist. Michael [Spears] gave me the information, I drafted the bill, we took it to committee and passed the legislation."
Chowning is a consumer advocate - her platform stressing consumer protection. Spears advocacy focuses like a laser beam on the collision repair industry. Having shared this victory together, Spears and Chowning speak admirably of one another. "She taught me that you can do this alone," says Spears. And Chowning glows, "It is a privilege to serve with Michael."
Both Chowning and Spears believe this law will go through many changes, but it is "now in fact the law. Amendments can be made to this law over time to strengthen and adapt it," stated Chowning.
While it appears that Spears was singularly responsible for this legislative coup, he attributes his success to the people he works with at The Auto Body Group. "I couldn't do this by myself. This success is due to a good partner Bill Falls and a great staff," stated Spears."
Spears is a student of the legislative process, staying apprised of legislation that affects the collision repair industry throughout the United States. He plans to continue his efforts by proposing aftermarket parts legislation.
"Insurance companies in Nevada are writing aftermarket parts on cars that are only six months old," said Spears, and he does have documentation to prove it. This is a major concern to Spears and to the entire collision repair industry. There is concern about the legitimacy and safety of aftermarket parts, including such basic issues as whether the factory warranty will be null and void if aftermarket parts are installed on a new car.
Enforcement of statute
How will this new legislation be enforced? Assemblywoman Chowning stated that there is an enforcement tool already in place for AB 367 - the Nevada Department of Insurance. She strongly recommends that collision repair shops "not sit back quietly," but become proactive -- go to the Insurance Division and even the Governor with issues that need to be resolved.
Spears is working on the industry in Nevada to be proactive together, being instrumental in the establishment of the brand new Nevada Collision Industry Association. Even after only one meeting, the membership is showing itself to be small, but strong. The foundation is set for an effective association to benefit Nevada's collision repairers.
During the committee hearings for AB #367, "the insurance companies testified in front of the committee that they would be fair,"noted Chowning. The check and balance to seek that fairness is the State Insurance Division in Nevada. Also the watchful eyes of Vonne Chowning and Michael Spears.
Janet Chaney has served in many facets of the collision repair industry. She is now looking after the best interests of her clients from Cave Creek, Arizona. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.