Washington state collision repairers now have a dedicated trade organization, just in time for the 2020 legislative year.
“Our association went live on Friday,” Washington Independent Collision Repair Association President Jeff Butler (Seattle-based Haury’s Lake City Collision) said Monday.
WICRA already has its first public meeting scheduled for Dec. 9, and Butler said the organization plans to advocate for a bill under development. It also has filled out an application to become an SCRS affiliate.
Butler said that prior to the launch of WICRA, he watched associations in other states and the national Society of Collision Repair Specialists have a major impact on collision repairers. Such groups exist to help improve the business climate for members, he said.
“That’s what we’re out to do,” he said.
After talking to other associations and SCRS, Butler said he used a “‘Field of Dreams’ philosophy” (“If you build it, he will come.”) and funded WICRA and recruited board members. Marc Gabbard, owner of Yakima-based GSR Quality Collision and founder of the popular Collision Repair Technicians United Facebook group, is vice president.
Butler said WICRA seeks to make a difference for the state collision industry.
“The Washington Independent Collision Repair Association (WICRA) is the first Auto Body Trade Association in the state of Washington,” the group’s website states. “We represent the interests of our members — automotive professionals and businesses throughout all of Washington — and aim to support the collision repair industry in our state. Through legislative efforts, we foster the growth and improvement of the automotive collision industry. We strive to create a legal environment in which body shops and consumers can offer and access proper and safe vehicle repairs.
“The WICRA is comprised of body shops from throughout Washington state. Our members believe in building an industry-wide network and strong relationships with others to achieve greater consistency and safety in industry practices, and therefore greater trust from consumers. We encourage the support and participation of vendors to foster our mission.”
A priority here will be to push for an as-yet-unnumbered House bill being pursued by Rep. Steve Kirby, D-Tacoma. Kirby, the chairman of the the House Consumer Protection and Business Committee, held hearings Friday with an eye towards producing auto claims legislation.
Based on the documents contained on the Legislature’s website, the Automobile Insurance Reform Act of 2020 would mandate any “basic contract of automobile insurance” (a policy) to include the language: “When an automobile is deemed repairable, the automobile must be restored to its condition prior to the loss. Restoration to pre-loss condition must include repairs that follow the original equipment vehicle manufacturer’s body repair manual instructions.”
Every insurance policy would be required to contain an appraisal clause, in which either the insurer or customer can demand an appraisal if they don’t agree on the value of the loss. Each would pick a competent appraiser, and the appraisers would agree on an umpire. Any decision approved by an umpire and either of the appraisers would stand.
Both sides would have to pay their own appraisal costs and split the price of the umpire.
“However, the insurer must reimburse the insured for the costs of the appraisal when the final appraisal decision is greater than the amount of the insurer’s last offer before the appraisal process was invoked,” the draft bill states. “Appraisal costs must include reasonable attorneys’ fees and actual costs.”
The bill also would require shop choice and the insurer — not the claimant — to prove unreasonableness.
“Payment of a claim under a basic contract of automobile insurance for automotive property damage must be based upon the reasonable and necessary costs at the claimant’s chosen repair facility,” the bill draft states. “The burden shall be on the insurance company to prove unreasonableness of vehicle repair charges. The following are deemed reasonable: utilization of repair procedures or specifications that conform to the original equipment vehicle manufacturer’s documented procedures, specifications, or allowable tolerances for the vehicle’s make, model, trim level, and year. Payment of the claim must not intentionally disregard or deny documented repair procedures, specifications, and tolerances for the vehicle as established by the original equipment vehicle manufacturer.”
WICRA’s first meeting will be held Dec. 9 at Lombardi’s Italian Restaurant, 19409 Bothell-Everett Hwy., Bothell, Wash. Board members will present the organization’s goals and legislative agenda for 2020.
Doors open at 5 p.m.; meeting at 6:30 p.m. Cost: $25, with dinner included. RSVP required at email@example.com, attendees will need to show a business card and ID.
Featured image: Washington state auto body shops have launched the Washington Independent Collision Repair Association. (Provided by WICRA)