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Menefee: The Rise of the Virtual Adjuster

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The title sounds like the next Star Wars spinoff, but with a twist. Instead of the evil Empire we have the big insurance companies trying to demoralize and keep the Rebels, aka the body shops, under their control. Yes, I know that sounds dramatic but try to tell me that it doesn't hit home just a little bit.

In all seriousness, the virtual adjuster is here and not going anywhere. You can make all the complaints you want, I feel the same way, but continuing to complain will get us nowhere. The virtual adjuster, for the most part, knows less than a field adjuster. Most virtual adjusters are not state licensed, either. (There’s a loophole, which we can talk about later) The shops are doing all the work for the virtual adjusters and continue to have to jump through hoops set forth by the insurance company. The complaints can go on forever. We can continue to wallow in our sorrows as the poor body shop that is getting taken advantage of or we can fight back and see how we can use the virtual adjuster to our advantage.

One of the biggest complaints I hear is that the virtual adjuster knows nothing. I actually think that is a benefit. I have found that the virtual adjuster, especially the third-party contracted ones, have not been schooled in the thought of denying everything that’s absent in their estimating software. Items on estimates that field adjusters would give a hard time over are being paid by the virtual adjuster. Field adjusters are notorious for denying payment for some of the most basic things, like prime and block, denib and polish, body filler, feather and edge, prefit and all of the other things we do that are not pre-caulculated on software. 

The key is you have to ask for what you want and you have to educate, notate, and document what you want to be paid for. I want to reiterate: You have to ask for what you want. If the insurance companies have beaten you down and you no longer ask to be paid on items and procedures you actually do, then you have already let the insurance company win.  


Educate

Often, the virtual adjusters or third-party virtual adjusters have never been in a shop. They have basic training on vehicle repairs and are using estimating software to help. It is up to us to educate them on how a proper repair should be done, but please talk to them and explain things to them as if it was their first time. Use terms that anyone can understand and relate to. If you are asking for something, tell them why you need it or why it needs to be done. Give them the benefit of the doubt that if you explain yourself in a manner they can understand then more than likely they will pay for what you are requesting.


Notate

A good best practice strategy when requesting items or procedures that are not generally seen on initial estimates is to list it in the repair group it goes with and notate it. On the line item, notate why the procedure is necessary or why the part or supply is needed. Then add a line note for each item explaining why that step was needed in the repair process. An example of a line note on body filler is “item needed to repair damage, item is a direct repair cost.” Don’t assume the virtual adjuster or even a field adjuster understand the steps of repair.  

Creating a quick word document with template line notes for items that are commonly requested on repairs is a great way to help your estimators. They can copy and paste the line notes quickly and easily onto the estimate.


Document

Documentation is key when you are requesting items that the virtual adjuster may not know or understand. I know you shouldn’t have to do this, but that is neither here nor there. If you want better chances of getting paid for what you do, then you need to send in documentation. Invoicing for body filler. Pictures of parts in primer. Pictures of the vehicle masked up and ready to be blended. PDF’s from the manufacturer showing a required procedure or documentation showing how the repair is supposed to be done. All are examples of documentation.  

Use the virtual adjusters lack of knowledge to your advantage. Educate them and lead them down the path of paying for a safe and proper repair. Train them on the steps that are taken to repair a vehicle. Eventually, if shops across the country continuously request to be paid for everyday items and repairs we do, it will become standard practice for the adjusters to include those items in their initial estimates.

I challenge you to think outside the box. Take what I have said and shape it into a best practice for your shop. It doesn’t have to be done exactly as I described, each shop is different in their own ways, find what works best for your shop. If you don’t continuously ask the Insurance Company to pay the true cost of the repairs you are doing then how will they ever know what we are actually doing and how will we ever get anything to change. 

Take all of your complaints about the big insurance companies and the virtual adjuster and see how you can twist it to your advantage. Find what works for your shop in the here and now and on the back end support your local, state, or federal auto collision association as they fight to have legislation changed in our favor.


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