A Comedy of Under-Indemnification: Starring Progressive Insurance

by Chasidy Rae Sisk

“Ill deeds is doubled with an evil word.” 

The Comedy of Errors by William Shakespeare, Act 3, Scene 2

Art imitates life, and sometimes, life imitates art. When William Shakespeare penned The Comedy of Errors toward the end of the 16th century, it’s highly unlikely that even the Bard could have imagined a connection between his first tragicomedy and the interactions between collision repair shops and certain insurers in 2023. 

Yet, it’s common for insurers to treat the topic of under-indemnification as comedic when it is, in fact, quite a tragedy for the shops contending with the challenges it poses as well as the consumers who are harmed by their insurers’ refusal to compensate for necessary items. The most recent volume of this ongoing battle stars Progressive as the villain who not only refuses to pay for necessary processes but who also mocks those who stand up for the under-indemnified consumer…

Act I: A dispute between Progressive Insurance and ABAT President Burl Richards (Burl’s Collision Center; Henderson) over compensation owed for work performed, similar to what many other shops have experienced when dealing with insurers. In this scene, Progressive refuses to compensate Burl’s Collision (and many other Texas shops) for nib/polish/buff and feather/prime/block – procedures that all major paint manufacturers require when a panel is painted.

Adding insult to injury, the adjuster, Christopher Hirsch, suggested the shop clean its paint booth filters. Escalating the matter to Progressive Supervisor Amy Hall, Richards wrote in an email, “This is a common response from Progressive, and although I agree dirty filters can contribute to dirt, I can also tell you that I personally have had some of the cleanest paint jobs with dirty filters. Why? Because the air flow is reduced when dirty filters restrict air movement, therefore you have less air movement over and around a vehicle. I’m not here to defend dirty filters because they cause other issues, but the point is that you nor your staff have probably NEVER worked in a paint shop environment [and don’t understand] how truly ignorant it sounds when one of your employees comes to a shop, never looks in a booth, and makes such an asinine statement, and if they did look inside, they wouldn’t know what the hell they were looking at anyway!”

During a phone call with Hall, Richards asked if she expects shops to put the color directly on top of body filler or the bare metal. She answered, “No,” yet when he asked if Progressive pays for primer, she again told him, “No, nobody gets paid for that unless it’s in some other country.”

“And then she laughed,” Richards recalls. He followed up their phone conversation with an email providing close to 100 claims on which Progressive paid for nib/polish/buff and over 250 examples of Progressive paying for feather/prime/block…in America. But the insurer actually paying for these procedures is a rarity, Richards acknowledges.

“Progressive rarely reimburses shops for these processes…I’d guess they actually compensate for nib/polish/buff and feather/prime/block something like one percent of the time. They insist that each claim is handled on its own merits, that they make the decision on a case-by-case basis, but that’s BS. How can you do that when this operation is required on every repair? Primer is required on every single job that involves body filler! They use Mitchell’s estimating platform, and it specifically calls these operations out as refinish operations. So, the work needs to be performed, but they don’t want to compensate the shops for doing it. They are stealing from their customers and the facilities that must pay for these materials.

“It’s ludicrous how Progressive handles their business; this is an ongoing issue,” Richards laments. “There’s a layer of ignorance in this situation because they don’t truly understand the repair process, but there’s also a decision to disregard what they do know. Texas consumers need to know that Progressive is under-indemnifying them for repairs and refusing to pay for procedures that the entire collision industry knows are necessary. People pay their premiums, and they deserve a premium repair.”

Over the course of several emails, Richards provided documentation, definitions and explanation upon explanation to Hall and other Progressive employees, requesting their feedback…and never receiving a response. Texas Automotive also reached out to Hall to ask about these under-indemnification issues, but she declined to respond to our inquiries; that silence speaks volumes. On the other hand, Richards stressed to Progressive, “I will not be silent on this under-indemnification issue!

“At the end of the day, you know these procedures are necessary and required to restore a damaged vehicle as close as possible to its pre-accident condition,” he emailed. “Although your policy doesn’t say specifically that you must restore back to pre-accident condition, an insurance lobbyist, Jay Thompson, testified in front of the Texas State Insurance Commission that it doesn’t have to state it because it is considered implied/industry standard. Feather/prime/block and nib/polish/buff are indemnification issues!”

A Nacogdoches shop recently encountered a similar issue with another Progressive adjuster and the same supervisor when Hall responded to a supplement submitted by Nacogdoches Collision Center by mocking their inclusion of “welder setup” as a line item:

“Welder set up, LOL!! Next, y’all will start putting ‘turn on lights’ and ‘make coffee’ on there too. Hahahahaha! Could not help it.”

“Welder set up is taught by I-CAR, and their welding certification says it must be done,” Richards points out. “If you are a DRP for Progressive, I’m assuming that you have to be I-CAR welding certified, so does Progressive expect you to do it for free or not do it at all? It seems like they think welder setup – and consumer safety – is a laughing matter, but I don’t find it funny at all.”

ABAT Executive Director Jill Tuggle agrees. “I have done a bit of research, and I am finding that this is a common problem with Progressive while most other carriers are properly indemnifying their insureds for these operations,” she weighed in. “Moreover, I took a quick poll, and over 100 shops said that they believe feather/prime/block is a necessary operation that is not included in refinish or body time, while only two shops said it was included, and three shops said they paint directly on damaged or welded metal.”

Tuggle offered to gather more information from collision repair professionals who “spend hours and tens of thousands of dollars training in their field of expertise,” but expressing doubt that her and Richards’ concerns had been addressed to “people who have the knowledge and/or authority to speak on this topic,” she requested contact information for the Progressive authorities who are able to help get these issues resolved “on behalf of the 1,000-plus auto body professionals we represent across the state of Texas.”

“Consumers purchase insurance policies to ensure that they’re made whole after an accident,” Richards stresses. “That’s the insurer’s job. But if they’re not paying for processes and procedures to restore the vehicle to its pre-accident condition, they’re not making them whole. They’re not living up to their end of the contract. And Progressive may think it’s funny, but I just see it as tragic and believe that Texas consumers deserve better.”

Does Progressive pay your shop for nib/polish/buff and feather/prime/block? Or are they under-indemnifying your customers on these procedures (or others)? Texas Automotive invites YOU to chime in and tell your story. Share it via email with chasidy@grecopublishing.com to help ABAT fight for your industry and your right to receive fair compensation for ALL the work you perform!

Want more? Check out the November 2023 issue of Texas Automotive!