Volume 14, Issue 6 - November/December 2012

Insurance Talk
Policy brief

Alpine Glass Receives $137,000 Arbitration Award Against USAA Insurance

Alpine Glass of Minneapolis, Minn., has won an arbitration award against the United Services Automobile Association (USAA) in the amount of $137,019. This decision, awarded on August 27, is the most recent win in a string of arbitration victories Alpine has had against several third-party administrators alleging short pay (see September/October 2012 AGRR magazine, page 16).

The dispute arose between the two companies when, according to the memorandum from the amended arbitration, USAA “refused to pay the full amount of [an] invoice, asserting that the price of the glass part [windshield] was ‘grossly inflated.’”

Mike Reid, president of Alpine Glass, says, “We made every attempt to work something out with USAA but they are one of the most uncooperative insurers I have run across in my 20 years in business.

“[The] USAA [award] is important because we won 100 percent of what we were seeking,” Reid continues. “When we go into these cases, the burden of proof is on us to prove that our price is fair. In every instance we have proved that and therefore we have won in every single instance.”

Reid considers this another validation for not only his company, but also the auto glass industry as a whole. He hopes Alpine’s consistent push against short pays helps other members of the industry see that they do not have to accept unreasonable payments from insurance third parties.

Alpine’s attorney, Chuck Lloyd of Livgard & Lloyd, says, “Alpine is not the exception; glass companies have had success in pursuing short pay claims. Although not uniformly across the board, the vast majority of claims asserted by companies, certainly in Minnesota, have resulted in additional payments.” “What helps is [other industry members] knowing that there is a remedy to get paid what’s fair and reasonable and to recoup what the short pay is,” says Reid. “That’s my end goal; so the glass industry is aware that because you bill out $1,000 and the insurance company pays you $400, you don’t have to eat that $600 short pay.” Reid says Alpine will continue to bring legal action for fair payments. “We will continue to collect what is owed to Alpine even if that means more arbitration,” states Reid. “Our first goal is to work out a deal that is fair to us and the insurers but when insurers such as USAA don’t respond it leaves us no choice but to go through arbitration.” USAA officials declined to comment on the decision.

industry news
IIHS Introduces New Small Overlap Crash Testing
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has developed a new form of crash testing intended to help consumers determine the safest vehicle to purchase. In the past IIHS has used frontal crash testing to determine the safest vehicle in an accident. However, after noting the inability for frontal crash testing to accurately depict the safety of the vehicle in all crash situations, the IIHS has introduced overlap crash testing.

In the small overlap front test the IIHS measures what happens when the front corner of a car collides with another vehicle or object.

“Twenty-five percent of the vehicle’s front end strikes a 5-foot tall rigid barrier at 40 mph,” says IIHS in a status report on the testing. “To provide effective protection in small overlap crashes, the safety cage needs to resist crash forces that aren’t tempered by crush-zone structures.” The report tells the story of Hollyn Mangione, who was injured in a small overlap front crash.

“The driver’s space was compromised by intruding structure. The A-pillar, hinge pillar and forward portion of the window frame were driver rearward and inboard as the wheel and tire were forced rearward,” reads the report.

IIHS’ status report stresses the importance of the airbag and movement of the surrounding structure during an overlap front crash.

“Safety belts and airbags are important in any crash configuration, and they are especially taxed in small overlap frontal crashes,” reads the report. “When cars strike the test barrier they tend to move sideways away from it, and the interior structures including the driver door, side window and A-pillar move in the same direction. The test dummy, however, keeps moving forward into the path of the sideways-moving interior structures.”

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