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Del. DOI Commissioner Stewart taking comments on proposed photo-only appraisal bill

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Though the agency doesn’t plan to hold a hearing, the Delaware Department of Insurance has called for public comment on a proposal to allow photo-only auto damage appraisals.

The move follows similar Pennsylvania and Virginia legislative attempts to lift bans on insurers performing anything than an in-person examination of a claimant’s vehicle.

Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe signed Virginia Senate Bill 193 on March 1, and it takes effect July 1. The repairer-insurer compromise measure allows insurer “desk reviews” but requires adjustors to visit a body shop in person if there’s a dispute about the amount of work needed.

Pennsylvania House Bill 1683 passed the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee on Monday, 10-3, despite a hearing in January which featured a collision repairer’s video of damage invisible to the naked eye. However, it still must be voted on by the full Senate, which means repairers in opposition still have a chance to sway legislative opinion.

That bill allows photo-only appraisals for the first time in 40 years but as of now has no measure compelling insurers to physically appear in the case of a dispute.

The Delaware measure now mirrors the Virginia legislation — though it originally looked more like Pennsylvania’s when it debuted in January.

“The intent of the proposed amended regulation is to streamline the appraisal process for consumers and insurers by allowing the use of digital imaging by appraisers,” DOI communications director Jerry Grant wrote in an email last week. “The Department included a fallback provision at the end of section 4.1 to allow consumers dissatisfied with a digital appraisal to have the option of a personal appraisal.”

The proposal by Democratic Insurance Commissioner Karen Stewart throws out language that “No appraiser shall secure or use repair estimates that have been obtained by the use of photographs, telephone calls or in any manner other than a personal inspection.”

In its place, state regulations would hold:

An appraiser may prepare an appraisal or a repair estimate on a motor vehicle that has been damaged as a result of a covered loss either from the appraiser’s personal inspection of the vehicle or from photographs, videos or electronically transmitted digital imagery of the motor vehicle; provided, however, that no insurer may require an owner of a motor vehicle to submit photographs, videos, or electronically transmitted digital imagery as a condition of an appraisal. If the owner of a motor vehicle is not satisfied with an appraisal based upon photographs, videos, or electronically transmitted digital imagery of the motor vehicle, the owner of the motor vehicle may require an insurer to obtain an appraisal based on a personal inspection.

While she’s revising regulations, Stewart might want to take a look at adding some pedestrian- and driver-protecting parts into the list of which parts are “vitally important” to safety.

Right now, Delaware (like Pennsylvania) holds, “Because an appraiser is charged with a high degree of regard for the public safety, the operational safety of the vehicle shall be paramount in considering the specification of new parts. This consideration is vitally important where the parts involved pertain to the drive train, steering gear, suspension units, brake system or tires.”

Maybe add an airbag or an autobraking sensor or a frame rail to that list. Just saying.

The agency set a 4:30 p.m. EST March 31 deadline for comments. Call, fax, mail or email them to:

Rhonda West, regulatory specialist

Delaware Department of Insurance

841 Silver Lake Blvd.

Dover, DE 19904


Fax: 302-739-5566

Featured image: Delaware Democratic Insurance Commissioner Karen Stewart. (Provided by Delaware Department of Insurance)

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