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[POLL] Should Auto Body Shops Be Able To Sue Insurance Companies?

The bill, which has passed the General Assembly, was opposed by local legislators Rep. Robert Watson and Sen. Dawson Hodgson, argued that the bill would increase costs for R.I. car owners, who are legally required to carry insurance on their vehicles.


In the now-traditional flurry of activity to end the 2011-12 General Assembly session, a bill was passed by both chambers of the legislature that allows auto body shops to sue insurance companies over the cost of repairs.

The bill, sponsored in the House by Rep. Stephen R. Ucci (D-Johnston), now goes to Gov. Lincoln Chafee for his signature.

Ucci told the House on June 11 that the bill would "level the playing field" in allowing local shops a legal recourse for disputing repair estimates, the Journal reported.

Other legislators, including Rep. Robert Watson (R-East Greenwich) and Sen. Dawson Hodgson (R-North Kingstown), argued that the bill would increase costs for Rhode Island car owners, who are legally required to carry insurance on their vehicles.

Dawson estimated that the average driver in Rhode Island would pay an additional $164 in insurance premiums, the Journal reported.

What do you think?

Should auto body shops have the right to sue insurance companies to protect their interests?

Or will it increases costs for Rhode Island drivers?

Let us know by voting in our poll and posting your comments below.

Mike Bottaro June 15, 2012 at 12:44 AM
Consider that without this bill, auto insurers are free to completely bully consumers into accepting repairs that cut corners and low ball independent auto body shops. The only current recourse is to file a complaint with a state agency that has no authority to force insurance companies to uphold the policies (contracts), is understaffed, and typically takes no action against big insurance. Insurers would like to wipe out the independent shops so that they can control shops on their preferred list (i.e. who will work for lower rates and use inferior parts for cheap).
Jim Iezzi June 15, 2012 at 11:30 AM
Consider that WITH this bill our insurance rates will increase.
Elizabeth McNamara (Editor) June 15, 2012 at 12:56 PM
Jim, can you explain why insurance rates will increase? Thanks ...
Mike Bottaro June 19, 2012 at 11:56 PM
Jim: Don't be so easily fooled. Once again, we hear the standard pr mantra from the insurance industry that "your rates will increase." The funny thing about insurance rates: (1) They seem to increase regardless of legislation; and, (2) insurers don't share the basis for rate increases anyway - that is a trade secret and a highly complex formula based on this factor and that factor.
John Taylor June 27, 2012 at 08:12 PM
I don't think Jim is easily fooled. There's nothing magical or mysterious about insurance rates. Most of the premium goes to pay the costs associated with the claim (like auto repair) and when those costs go up, insurance rates go up. Repair costs in Rhode Island are already 26% above the national average, and auto insurance premiums are, consequently, almost as high. This legislation would have given shops the leverage to force insurers to pay even more, to avoid the expense of defending meritless litigation, and risk of the trial lawyer fees provided for in the Bill. This would drive auto insurance rates even higher. It also would have forced consumers to repair badly damaged vehicles, even when the consumer and insurer wanted to declare the vehicles total losses. The Insurance Division can, and does, regulate insurers to ensure that Rhode Island consumers, and body shops, get a fair shake. They do that quite effectively, without the intervention of private trial lawyers into the process.
Mike Bottaro June 27, 2012 at 08:38 PM
Hi John: I appreciate your comments, but respectfully disagree. To your last point, agencies like the insurance division have narrow powers. In my experience, agencies do not act efficiently nor do they routinely order insurers to pay money damages. Auto insurers know this and use this leverage accordingly to pay consumers as little as possible. Additionally, the current system of whether to "total" a car or repair it seems rather subjective (though I am not an auto body expert, nor do I represent them). Finally, while there is some public information available cocnerning rates (as you cite), the real meat and potatoes of why individual insurers raise rates on policies are shrouded in secrecy. At any rate, since the Governor vetoed the bill, it is certainly a good day for you to voice your opinion!
Jim Iezzi June 28, 2012 at 01:45 AM
Mike, when was the last time insurance companies absorbed increased costs? They never do, they only pass them down to the consumer. And I don't want to offend you Mike but, I think that too often legislators who are lawyers create laws that create litigation. They should recuse themselves from these votes. It is a conflict of interest.
Mike Bottaro June 28, 2012 at 02:04 AM
No offense. I agree that we have too many laws in general and too many lawyers in the assembly.

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