Featured in Autobody News
Monday, 08 July 2019 21:16
Written by Chasidy Rae Sisk
Attorney Erica Eversman is well-known in the collision repair world for her work geared at educating shops about proper documentation as well as their responsibilities to the vehicle owners whose cars they repair.
Earlier this year, Eversman was accepted as a consumer liaison for the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) and she graciously agreed to share her thoughts and goals with Autobody News readers.
Q: How did you obtain the role of consumer liaison with the NAIC?
A: I applied for the position. I’m not the only consumer liaison; there are around 30 of us compared to about 1000 insurance reps. As a result, we have a smaller voice and a bigger job to do. We have the opportunity to provide state insurance commissioners and their staffs with information they don’t hear constantly. We want to help them understand how regulations impact consumers—both positively and negatively—and what insurers do well compared to what they could improve upon.
This program has been around for a while and it’s open to people who can demonstrate they have a consumer focus. The NAIC vets’ candidates to ensure they are advocates for the consumer and not the insurance industry, since they already have that perspective available to them. I applied and was accepted for 2019, but NAIC consumer liaisons have to reapply each year.
Q: Why did you apply to become a consumer liaison for the NAIC?
A: I saw an opportunity to provide education to the insurance industry at a level we’ve previously been unable to reach on a grand scale. This role allows me to bring the consumer perspective to the attention of various insurance commissioners and their departments as it pertains to automotive insurance issues; I’m able to share the consumers’ voice with insurance regulators. Although I’m still new to this, it seems like most of the regulators are willing to hear what we [consumer liaisons] have to say.
Q: How receptive do the insurance commissioners seem to be when it comes to collision repair industry concerns?
A: I was surprised to find that a number of insurance commissioners with whom I spoke to directly were interested [in learning about issues impacting the collision repair industry]. I expected less interest and concern, but they were actually quite receptive. The insurance commissioner from California was interested in discussing the impact current insurance industry practices have on small businesses. A New York regulator asked for more information about the potential of insurers promoting bad repairs as a result of their active interference in the repair process.
North Carolina’s Mike Causey was likely the most knowledgeable insurance commissioner I spoke with because he has a real-world understanding of what collision repairers go through. Jim Beck from Georgia is interested in helping consumers and the collision repair industry, as well.
Q: How did your first NAIC meeting go?
A: During the NAIC’s April consumer meeting, I was afforded the opportunity to deliver a presentation to the entire group which focused on outlining the
problem with insurer interference. I provided an overview of the Seebachan and John Eagle lawsuit and I talked about how insurers’ refusal to pay for scans is a problem for everyone—these are important tests to identify the repairs needed and then confirm that the issue has been resolved.
I explained that this is just one small way in which insurance companies interfere and withhold payment – they don’t adequately pay for all repairs and diagnostic procedures to ensure consumers’ vehicles are properly and safety repaired. [Some of the regulators I spoke to] were horrified by what I shared in my presentation. While my goal wasn’t to frighten them, this is a frightening situation and they need to be aware of it to reduce the likelihood of similar tragedies, like the Seebachans’, from occurring in the future.
Q: How can collision repair professionals help educate and engage the insurance commissioners in their states?
A: Shops can appeal to their regulators to seek meetings. Talking to them does help because it helps the insurance commissioners become more knowledgeable and receptive to repairers’ concerns.
With my presence [at the NAIC], I’m able to give the commissioners information that local repairers can elaborate on. For example, the Kansas insurance commissioner had spoken with a shop before the April meeting, and after my presentation, she later told the shop that she now better understood what the repairer was trying to explain.
I want to help by opening the eyes of the insurance commissioners and then the repairers can provide them with the real education. With the connections I’m making through the NAIC, I’m in a much better position to refer repairers to the right person—someone with the authority to explore their concerns and further the interests of the repairers and their clients.
Q: Do insurance commissioners accept complaints from collision repair facilities?
A: Each regulator I spoke with appeared baffled by the idea that many collision repairers have been told only consumers can file complaints. The NAIC and the individual insurance commissioners confirmed that repairers can file complaints.
Since the meeting, I’ve received emails from shops that were prevented [from filing complaints] and with their permission, I’m sharing this information with the insurance commissioners to demonstrate the response repairers receive from their departments, so we can determine if this is a miscommunication or if it’s a department practice about which the commissioner does not have information.
Q: Should collision repairers file complaints with their insurance commissioners then?
A: Yes, they should absolutely continue to file complaints—even if they aren’t accepted today, I believe they will be in the near future once we clear up any lingering confusion.
Shops should also help customers file complaints since the consumer cannot sufficiently explain the need for the repair. Whenever expertise is involved, it’s easiest to hear from the experts. Shops can email me if they’re having issues with getting their complaints accepted and provide permission for me to share with the insurance commissioner in their area. I’m compiling a physical record of shops unable to file complaints—so yes, continue to file if you have complaint-worthy issues.
Q: When is the next NAIC meeting and what are your priorities?
A: The next NAIC meeting will be on August 3-6 in New York City. I plan to follow up with the insurance commissioners I met in April and get to know some others. I’m setting up meetings with certain regulators to discuss specific issues. I’ll be attending the consumer liaison and property casualty meetings. A huge portion of the NAIC consumer liaisons are focused on healthcare and I’m the only one specifically focused on addressing automotive insurance issues.
I’m very much looking forward to the meeting. I’ll get to know some fascinating people and identify opportunities to further the industry’s interests to make things better for consumers and the collision repair industry.
Eversman can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.