In Delray Beach, FL, Eddie Quintela, 42, owner and operator of Collision Concepts, recently spent $10,450 on filing fees for 53 separate lawsuits against insurers for short pays. Quintela says he’s not worried about the money. He will recoup court costs and attorney’s fees when he wins his cases, plus recover the compensation he should have received in the first place for properly repairing the vehicles. To date, he and his customers have won every single case they’ve filed against insurers.
According to Quintela, his plan to get insurers to pay for underpayments is pretty simple and easy to do.
“If we cannot get an agreed price with an insurance company to properly repair a vehicle, we engage the customer,” said Quintela. “We give our customers a couple of options: 1) they can pay the difference, or 2) the customer can sign an Assignment of Benefits or Assignment of Proceeds and I will go after the insurance company on their behalf. I’ll step into their shoes. Every customer I’ve discussed this with agrees to take the second option.”
Currently, Quintela has 80 customers he is representing in court. In one week alone, he filed 53 cases. The insurance companies he’s currently in litigation with include State Farm, GEICO, USAA, Travelers, Bristol West, Infinity and others.
Collision Concepts, a 10,000-square-foot shop, currently has seven DRPs. Quintela and his staff of 11 work on 80–100 vehicles per month. He’s been in business since 2002. Prior to owning his shop, Quintela was an estimator for State Farm from 1994–2002. His family owned body shops while he was growing up.
Over the past year, Quintela—inspired by shop owner Ray Gunder of Lakeland, FL—has been taking action against insurance companies on behalf of his customers.
“The insurance companies always try to steer my customers away from me anyway, no matter what, even if I wasn’t doing this. Now that I have to fight to keep my customer to begin with, I feel like I don’t have any reason why I shouldn’t go after the insurance companies for everything they owe,” said Quintela.
The business of making insurers pay what body shops feel they are owed is well worth the effort, time and expense, said Quintela.
“If you were to look at this effort just as a business itself, the return on investment is great because not only am I recovering the money I should have been paid in the beginning (for properly repairing a vehicle), I’m recovering my court costs and my attorney’s fees as well. At the end of the day, I’ve recovered my investment, plus I got paid what I should have got paid to begin with.”
All he said he’s spending is time, and after one or two cases, the legal steps became easy and are hardly time consuming.
“Once you do one or two cases, it becomes really easy because you know how it works. It’s very routine,” said Quintela. “The file gets put on my desk once the work begins on the car and I scan the file over to my attorney and that’s it. If it takes me more than 15 minutes, it takes a lot of time. And the best thing about it is, we fix the car right away. We write our estimate, and we don’t care what the insurance writes. Whatever the difference is is what we are suing for.”
For example, Quintela and his legal counsel, Brent Geohagan of Lakeland, FL, (also Ray Gunder’s legal counsel), recently levied a lawsuit against Infinity Insurance Company on behalf of a customer for the insurer’s short pays of “reasonable and necessary” repair costs. The lawsuit claims an underpayment of $611 for the insurer’s arbitrary discount on parts, failure to provide ample consideration for numerous necessary repair processes, related materials, labor rates and quality replacement parts.
Recently, Quintela received a State Farm estimate sheet that states the shop is responsible for conducting safety inspections and checks.
“How can State Farm tell us that we’re responsible for conducting any necessary inspection and safety checks, but refuse to reimburse their customers for the cost of us doing them?”
Quintela and Geohagan have already settled numerous short-pay cases and have won them all.
What Quintela finds somewhat amusing is that the insurance companies will settle one day and the very next day, refuse to pay for the same things they just settled in a previous lawsuit.
“We just settled with State Farm. They just paid me, plus my attorney fees and their attorney fees and court costs, and the next day they come back and do the same thing. They are still fighting it. And, I just got a check from another insurance company and the next day I am suing them for the same exact things. These insurance companies go to court, they lose, they settle, but the next day they are out doing the same exact thing. They won’t give up. They try to wear you out, hoping that one day you just go away, or they make it so hard to discourage other shops from doing it,” Quintela said.
However, Quintela believes it is important for body shops to stand up for themselves and feels his efforts are helping the collision repair industry move in the right direction.