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Texas Watch Exec. Expects Open Records Request to be Granted

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July 24, 2019—Ware Wendell is leading a mission. 

The executive director of Texas Watch, a citizen advocacy organization, is leading a push via a recent public records request for auto insurers’ prevailing rate information. Wendell is on a mission to get more information about how insurers define the rate with which they compensate facilities for repair work. 

The Austin, Texas-based nonprofit, which was formed in 1998, recently filed the open records request with the Texas Department of Insurance (TDI), essentially to see the language that auto insurers are using to allegedly limit the amount they pay for repairs. Texas Watch’s main concern: inadequate payments can lead to cut corners, which obviously doesn’t benefit the safety of body shop customers. 

“If the shops aren’t able to invest in their people, invest in their equipment, and if you’re not able to put the time in to doing the job the right way, that’s where mistakes are made … and that’s where lives are threatened,” Wendell told FenderBender on Thursday. “That’s why we filed the open records request.” 

The Texas group has analyzed the prevailing rate issue for nearly 2 years, and recently requested documents, communications, and other public information within the TDI’s possession pertaining to private passenger and commercial auto policies and endorsements submitted for approval, or disapproved by TDI over the last decade containing the terms “prevailing rate” or similar language. 

Wendell said he doesn’t anticipate any issue with the TDI releasing the requested information and expects to learn if the open records request is granted within “a few weeks’ time.”  

Wendell’s group has cited past legal precedent in noting that such insurance information has previously been viewed as part of open records. 

Texas Watch feels the prevailing rate issue is, ultimately, an important safety concern. 

“Consumers have no one to speak for them, other than groups like us,” Wendell said. “We give consumers a voice. We need to make sure that our cars are being repaired and returned to pre-accident condition, like they should be.” 

 

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