Local news stories affecting the auto body industry in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Connecticut, Maryland, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine
New Jersey saw an increase in the number of new insurance companies doing business in the state, and in carriers writing new lines, in 2010, according to state officials.
The state insurance department said that last year it admitted 27 new insurers and extended new business lines to 28 carriers. That number is up nearly eight percent from 2009 when the department approved 51 new admissions and business extensions, and up 25 percent from 2008 when the department approved 44, according to officials.
Department of Banking and Insurance (DOBI) Commissioner Tom Considine said that included in the 2010 admissions were 10 new commercial insurance carriers, six new workers’ compensation carriers and three new homeowners and auto insurance companies. Extensions were granted in the commercial lines, homeowners and workers’ compensation markets.
In addition, DOBI regulators reported that in 2010 they recovered more than $11.3 million from insurance companies for consumers and returned nearly $9.4 million to medical providers, including doctors and hospitals. Consumers and providers received the payments for claims processing delays, improper handling, and denials of claims, and premium refunds due to improper ratings or failures to return unearned premiums. Insurers made the payments resulting from probes into consumer complaints against licensees, enforcement investigations and errors found during market conduct examinations.
Delaware Insurance Commissioner Karen Weldin Stewart announced that the Department of Insurance was successful in a variety of actions resulting in over two millions dollars being returned to Delawareans. They include the prosecuting of complaints on behalf of consumers, providing dispute resolution through arbitration, agency exams and refunds to policyholders who had completed an approved defensive driving course from a major insurer.
The Commissioner said, “During the past two years, I have tried to re-engineer the Department of Insurance into a consumer driven agency. The success we have had in getting returned to business and individual consumers a total of over two million dollars in 2010 is a first step among a number of enduring initiatives and actions we are taking to better serve the citizens of our state. In addition to new ideas and initiatives, any success in serving our consumers involves maintaining our success in responding and sustaining our level of vigilance.”
Three former Chrysler and General Motors automobile dealers in Western Pennsylvania have joined about 125 others nationwide in suing the federal government on the grounds that their property -- their franchises -- was taken from them without compensation or due process, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review on February 23, 2011.
Verona Motor Sales, formerly Verona Jeep, is one of five dealerships in Pennsylvania and 59 nationwide that claim they are owed $130 million in damages because the federal government did not pay them when their franchises were eliminated, according to the lawsuit filed last week in U.S. Court of Federal Claims in Washington.
The lawsuit contends that when the Treasury Department forced Chrysler Group LLC to reduce its dealership network in 2009, it was done without due process under the Constitution and protection of state dealer franchise laws.
"Our property was taken illegally. We lost untold thousands of dollars," said Bert Molitierno, owner of Verona Motor Sales, now a used-vehicle dealer with sites in Verona and Penn Hills.
The Treasury became involved in the automakers’ restructuring when the government gave Chrysler and its financial arm $14 billion and General Motors Co. $50 billion in bailout money.
They are accused of taking money from the shop in exchange for sending the shop cars that had been damaged in roadside accidents. The practice dates back to 2009, according to an affidavit. A criminal complaint also was filed against the owners of the shop, according to the Associated Press (AP).
The Baltimore Police Department and the FBI conducted the investigation, according to Baltimore Police Commissioner Frederick Bealefeld III.
Officers are expected to allow the vehicle’s owner to arrange for a tow on their own, or if they decline, to use police communication channels to contact an authorized towing company, according to AP. The officers charged said in reports that the owners arranged for their own tow or would leave that portion of the form blank, according to the complaint.
However, these officers allegedly told vehicle owners that Majestic could help with the insurance claim and waive the deductible, advising them not to call the insurance company before talking with the repair shop owner, the complaint alleges.
The U.S. Attorney's Office in Maryland says the officers allegedly would be on the scene of car accidents and direct the owners of the cars involved to have Majestic Auto Repair Shop in Baltimore County tow their vehicle, repair it and they could handle the insurance claim.
Prosecutors allege the officers would get $300 for each car they directed to Majestic.
U.S. Attorney for Maryland Rod Rosenstein expects there will be more arrests in the case.
Read more about the arrests from the U.S. Attorney's Office: