J.D. Power and Associates recently released their AutoClaims Satisfaction Survey and the results in Virginia and the rest of the country are fascinating. Overall satisfaction with the claims process declined, settlements paid to customers are taking longer than expected and out of pocket repair costs have increased. Surprisingly, the winter months may be to blame, and more help may not be on the way.
J.D. Power found that satisfaction dipped to 850 on a 1000-point scale from 861 in Wave 1 which took place over the first six months of 2012. While a number of factors contributed to the decline, the majority of it can be attributed to a seasonal trend according to a J.D. Power spokesperson. As you may expect, colder months tend to bring more accidents and claims, especially from inexperienced drivers. Also, when smaller local communities must ration salt because of higher snowfall amounts, it does impact driving conditions.
Claimant satisfaction tends to decline significantly over the winter. Getting a vehicle repaired during the busy holiday season is both inconvenient and frustrating. Poor road conditions often lead to multiple accidents which can increase repair times as body shops are booked up. There can also be delays in ordering parts, which keeps vehicles in the repair shop longer. And often, these parts are no longer manufactured or the supply is limited.
Studies have also shown that mild winters, as expected, lead to fewer claims and higher customer satisfaction. Recently, certain portions of the US have had a few seasons with very few major snowstorms. Of course, safety tips for your vehicles will help you stay on the road and out of drive-in claims centers! But the increased ice fall is unpredictable and makes driving very hazardous. "Black Ice" can be especially hazardous during night driving.
Additionally, drivers are often reaching into holiday savings to cover the cost of their deductible and satisfaction ratings are going down. And of course, the combination of holiday spending and the out of pocket cost of the deductible can ruin everyone's holiday spirit! With higher deductibles more common with higher-priced vehicles on the road, it's not unusual to have a $500 or $1,000 deductible on your collision coverage.
The satisfaction survey also found that appraisal and settlement times had increased. Appraisals were taking an average of 3.3 days compared to 2.9 in Wave 1. Settlements were also up, going from 5.8 days to 6.6 days. Consumers were also waiting an extra day for their settlement checks. Obviously, this is a trend that will hopefully be reversed. In 2015, we were already seeing some positive changes, and it is expected that in 2016, the positive trend will continue. Safercar.gov is an additional website resource that provides unbiased crash test safety ratings for consumers. Most models and manufacturers are listed.
The Repair Process
Since there are occasions when a body shop will not begin work until money is received, the delay can be frustrating for both the insured and place of repair. However, it is anticipated that these numbers will also improve with more experienced workers and increased automation of certain tasks. Taking your car or truck to an establishment you are familiar with, will also reduce the average wait time.
The repair process is also getting more expensive for consumers. Claimants were paying an average of $499 out of pocket compared to $469 in early 2012. These figures included both the deductible and the cost of a rental vehicle. Certainly inflation is partly to blame, but vehicle repair and hourly labor charges seem to be rising faster than anticipated. It's never a bad idea to compare prices from different body shops.
Claimants would be wise to use a body shop in their insurer's repair network if they need their vehicle back quickly. An in-network repair shop fixed the car 1.3 days faster (on average) than an out of network shop. Dealerships took 11.9 days to fix a car while an independent shop was slightly quicker at 11 days. The concept is similar to using a network provider in your health insurance carrier's network. You'll probably get a reduction in cost for the services you receive. However, if a manufacturer recall is involved, the dealership should always be utilized.
J.D. Power and Associates offers the following tips for drivers making a claim after an accident:
Police Report – Always get a copy of the police report, especially in the case of multi-vehicle accidents. While an accident report is best, if that is not an option, request an incident report so you have something to show your insurer. But if another person’s car hits you, take pictures before the vehicle is moved. If you see any witnesses, get a statement from them. Also, write down the license plate of any potential witnesses.
Call Your Insurer – Contact your agent or broker as soon as possible. Many insurance companies have 24-hour operators, so calling from the accident site is possible. Regardless of who is at fault, contact your company first so they can advise you on the best way to proceed. Emailing or texting after-hours may be needed to speak to a live person. But try to speak to an actual representative of your carrier within 24 hours of the incident. If they can not be reached, email, text or leave a message on their voicemail.
Detailed Notes – You should write down details of the accident as soon as possible. Diagram the accident on paper and take photos of the accident scene and the damage to your vehicle. Log all phone calls related to the accident and your claim. Also, take note of any personal property or vehicles that are moved. Of course, document all damage that you see with pictures and notes.
Take pictures from multiple angles and try to be as descriptive as possible with your observations. One extra picture might be the difference in saving yourself or the insurer hundreds of dollars. Also, save your notes, pictures and any of your written personal accounts of the incident for at least three years. Although unlikely, you may need them for litigation.
Unhappy with Adjuster – If you are unsatisfied with the adjuster or feel you are being treated unfairly, contact your agent. He/she should be willing to make certain you are properly taken care of and can act as a friendly liaison between yourself and the adjuster if there is a problem. You may be surprised to learn the influence an experienced broker my have on the claims process. Although an adjuster is unlikely to be replaced, you may see a more cooperative attitude.
The Auto Claims Satisfaction Study was based on more than 2,500 responses from claimants who had settled a claim within the last six months. We will continue to update the results.
Edward Harris is the owner and founder of this website. Since 1980, he has been helping individuals and families with their car insurance needs. During that time, he has handled more than 10,000 applications and continues to provide service for thousands of clients.
Ed is married with two children and enjoys tennis, golf, and international politics. Reluctantly, he bowls once every 10 years.