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The Insurance Adjuster that didn’t know

’ll call him “Pete.” That’s not his real name, but we do want to 'protect the innocent'… as they say.

We all go through life learning and cannot know all the answers to everything. But, then, some people just never learn, because they refuse to.

I phoned Pete to let him know I was preparing a collision repair estimate on his policy holders’ vehicle, but it would require a teardown to fully determine the frame damage. I asked if he would like to inspect the vehicle before teardown.

“Don’t touch a D-- - thing until I get there,” he yelled over the phone. “I’m sick and tired of you always claiming frame damage no one else sees. I already inspected the vehicle at the tow yard and there is no frame damage.”

I was shocked and answered, “I have the vehicle on the frame rack and the gauges placed ready for you to inspect. When can you get here?” “I’ll be there in 15 minutes.” Then he added the final insult. “It’s sure funny how you find more frame damage than anyone I know.”

My blood was boiling. How dare he question my integrity when I had invited him to inspect the vehicle before I even started a teardown. I decided not to argue but to prove my point as politely as possible. Then I went to get a cup of coffee and tried to calm down.

I had tried to do a thorough inspection of my customer’s vehicle and instead of being complimented, I was being accused of falsifying an Insurance Claim. The collision had been an unusual one. It involved a ranch vehicle and a bull. The ranch owner told me the vehicle was being driven across a field road when the bull decided to attack. The vehicle hit the bull on the front right side causing surprisingly minor damage to the vehicle. The impact carried the bull over the hood of the vehicle. It landed just ahead of the windshield area. The visible damage was a crushed right rear of the hood, the top of the right fender and a shattered windshield. The bull walked away, seemingly unhurt.

The rancher told me the bull weighed about a thousand pounds. The area it landed in has the main body support connecting the roof to the floor. It also is the pillar (door jamb) the door is bolted to. The door was not damaged, but if it is out of alignment when opened, it would be a good indicator of frame damage. I opened the door and the alignment was off by about a ¼ inch.

Pete stomped into the shop as mad as could be, his face as red as a beet. He grabbed a creeper and rolled under the vehicle. He then started measuring the underside of the vehicle. I could see he didn’t know what he was doing because he did not follow the blueprint I had set out for him. I took a sip of coffee and felt my blood pressure go down.

He then rolled out from under the vehicle and started to sight down the frame gauges. I took another sip of coffee and held back a smile, I could see he did not know how to read frame gauges. He was making a mistake that was taught in the early 1970’s.

“There’s nothing wrong with this frame he said loudly.” I took another sip of coffee.

In my friendliest voice I said, “Pete, It is obvious to me you do not know how to read frame gauges.” His face turned redder than I thought was possible. “I am willing to teach you if you are willing to learn. Then you and I will never have a problem again.”

I saw the red leaving his face. He said “OK.” I described that early instructions taught were incorrect and many technicians still believed them. This was also my defense to his comment about finding more frame damage than anyone he knows.

After a brief lesson and demonstration I placed Pete in a proper position to read the gauges. “Now describe to me what you see starting at the #1 and #4 gauge.” “They are perfect” he said.

“Yes”, I replied. “Now compare #1 and #2” (#2 is the area the bull landed on.) I saw his face turn red again.

“It’s down by ½ inch” on the right side, he said.”

“Perfect” I replied. “Now how about a cup of coffee.”

This took place in the 1970’s, but is still relevant. Technology keeps on changing and the good technicians keep learning all their lives.

Oh yes, Pete and I got along very well in the years that followed and it was always a pleasure to work with him.

Coachmaster Collision repair* is a full service collision repair facility. We have repaired thousands of frames and vehicle bodies. Our staff and associates include certified technicians and a California State certified instructor. We are consulted by Insurance companies regularly. Contact Allan Gordon for an estimate on your collision repair needs. Call 530-243- 1310 or visit the business at 6851 Eastside Road, in Redding California. *Click here if you are using a smart phone or other mobile device.

More columns by Don Stec


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