May '16

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86 • RV PRO • MAY 2016 rv-pro.com "was aware, or should have been aware, that (its) invoice was in excess of (the insurer's) reimbursement rate. (Tradewinds) chose to perform work anyhow." The insurer argued the insurance contract contains an appraisal clause that should have been followed before Tradewinds resorted to a lawsuit. In the appraisal process, if the insured and the insurer can't agree on the amount of the loss, either one may demand an appraisal. Then, each party names an appraiser. The two appraisers meet to see if they can agree on the amount; if not, a neutral third party, often a mediator or retired judge, meets with the two. If there's still no agreement, the third party arrives at the amount the insurance company will pay. The insurer filed a motion asking for the lawsuit to be dismissed or at least halted so that an appraisal process could take place; it lost that attempt late last year. In its filings in the case, the insurer said, "it appears that Tradewinds and their counsel's true motive is not justice, but to file lawsuits and then attempt to recover unnecessary and need- lessly high attorneys' fees. Query: If Tradewinds and their counsel really wanted to resolve a nominal damage dispute quickly and efficiently why not participate in appraisal? … In the amount of time and cost it took to draft the complaint and appear at a pre- trial, this matter could have been resolved through appraisal and without need for a lawsuit." Tradewinds' response, as authored by its attorney, A. Brent Geo- hagan, said that in the appraisal process, it would be responsible for paying its own appraiser in the dispute and couldn't recover those expenses once the dispute ended. This is cost-prohibitive for both repair shops and their customers, according to Tradewinds. "Defendant knows this, and knows that if it can force the appraisal clause under these circumstances, then it will be in a very advantageous position to effectively prevent any dispute of its failure to pay," the lawsuit states. And the Tradewinds legal response says the insurer is "abso- lutely right" that Tradewinds wants to recover attorney's fees. "The only way that Tradewinds and other similarly situated auto body repair shops (and their customers) can afford and keep up with the defendant's and other insurance companies' continued short-pays … is to be made financially 'whole' upon prevailing." Challancin says he's telling his tale partly to advise other repair shops so that they can take a more aggressive tack with insurers. "Take them to court. I mean, that's what needs to happen, and then all of a sudden the insurance companies find out that they can't short pay," he says. "Well, now I no longer have to fight it in court. And nobody else has to fight it in court because the insur- ances are now doing what they are supposed to do." And part of his reasoning, he says, is to help repair shop cus- tomers, who can get stuck with the bill for some or all of the short pay if the repair shop tries to pass the bill along. "The shops sometimes will tell the customer: 'Well, I'm sorry, the insurance company is only paying this, so you've got to pay the difference.' Well, that's not the way it is." (Above) Challancin reviews the progress of a repair job on a motorhome that suffered serious interior damage when the owner mistakenly pressure washed the RV, destroying the seals and it leaked, causing $35,000 in water damage. (Left) Tradewinds employee Robert Lewandowski sands the front cap of a fifth wheel. The 12,500-square-foot shop is equipped with seven service bays.

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