by Robert L. McDorman
Dear Mr. McDorman,
I own and operate a collision facility in Texas. A few months ago in several trade association publications, I read articles concerning the Collins vs State Farm jury verdict which awarded Mr. Collins $277,000 in damages and penalties. What came of this? Did State Farm appeal the verdict, or did they pay up? What other fallouts could come from this verdict? I assume Mr. Collins was pleased with the outcome. Will he be coming to the Capitol this next legislative session to tell his story?
Thank you for your questions. State Farm did not appeal the verdict. Only Mr. Collins can answer some of your questions. It is my understanding that Mr. Collins was pleased with the jury finding and the message it sent. It is also my understanding Mr. Collins will be featured in the January 2024 edition of Texas Automotive concerning a special development that affects us all.
From the very first time Mr. Collins came to me for help with his sensitive situation, he was concerned that what happened to him could happen to others as well. I distinctly remember him saying to me, “You know Robert, I am not a wealthy man, but this small amount of money that State Farm cheated me out of will not break me; however, for many people in our community, it would be devastating. For this reason, will you help me move forward with my loss recovery? I want to make a difference and possibly make a change in the current claim handling process, so maybe one day, this will not happen to the single mom working two jobs living paycheck to paycheck.” Of course, he didn’t have to ask me twice. This was music to my ears. My immediate answer was “yes.”
From day one, the message Mr. Collins gave the jury presiding over his loss was the same as he gave me. “I am not doing this for the money; I am doing it to help the individuals who either can’t stand up for their rights or don’t know how.” The three-year journey Mr. Collins, his lawyer Mr. Phenix, many others and I traveled was well worth it. This verdict is now final and set in concrete as a precedent to help us all. In my eyes, Mr. Collins is a true defender of consumer rights and a hero. Until legislators step up and pass laws to make the Right to Appraisal mandatory in Texas, we will continue to see similar situations. It is my position any limiting or removal of the Right to Appraisal concerning a repair procedure dispute will be the nail in the coffin for safe roadways for us all.
I know I am repeating myself on this, but I cannot stress enough how critical this mandatory Right to Appraisal issue is for us all. Appraisal is the guardrail for indemnification of the loss when a dispute over the loss arises between the insurer and the insured. Without legislation requiring mandatory time-sensitive appraisal rights, we can expect to see continued efforts by all insurers to limit or remove economic relief for the insured.
Over the years, as stark consumer advocates, Auto Claim Specialists has gone to agencies armed with well-documented facts to seek help and relief for our clients who have been harmed by their insurance carriers and to bring awareness to these systematic atrocities. At each turn, we were told the only help was to seek legislation or a finder of fact. Until legislators pass laws to make the Right to Appraisal mandatory in Texas for all motor vehicle policies, we will continue referring clients to legal teams as necessary to help them be made whole for their loss. In my professional opinion, the more times these systematic under-indemnification schemes are exposed, and monetary punishment is levied, the quicker change will come about to help us all. I thank Mr. Collins for being part of this change.
The under-indemnification in total loss and repair procedure claims in Texas is rampant. Besides the higher settlements for total loss clients averaging 28 percent above the carrier’s undisputed loss statement, we have also reduced clients’ out-of-pocket expenses on repair procedure disputes such as the above example. These under-indemnification percentages are staggering and harmful to Texas citizens.
The spirit of the Appraisal Clause is to resolve loss disputes fairly and to do so in a timely and cost-effective manner. The invoking of the Appraisal Clause removes inexperienced and biased carrier appraisers and claims handlers from the process, undermining their management’s many tricks to undervalue the loss settlement and under-indemnify the insured. Through the Appraisal Clause, loss disputes can be resolved relatively quickly, economically, equitably and amicably by unbiased, experienced independent third-party appraisers as opposed to more costly and time-consuming methods such as mediation, arbitration and litigation.
In today’s world regarding motor vehicle insurance policies, frequent changes in claim management and claim handling policies and non-standardized GAP Addendums, we have found it is always in the best interest of the insured or claimant to have their proposed insurance settlement reviewed by an expert before accepting. There is never an upfront fee for Auto Claim Specialists to review a motor vehicle claim or proposed settlement and give their professional opinion as to the fairness of the offer.
Please call me should you have any questions relating to the policy or covered loss. We have most insurance policies in our library. Always keep in mind a safe repair is a quality repair, and quality equates to value. I thank you for your question and look forward to any follow-up questions that may arise.
Robert L. McDorman
Want more? Check out the December 2023 issue of Texas Automotive!