More Insurers Using Photo Estimates In 2020 And Why That May Be Bad For You


If you’ve just been in an accident, you may have been asked by your insurance company to submit a photo estimate. In order to do so, you may have had to download an app built by your insurance company, or you may have submitted photos online.


What happens next is some sci-fi technology analyzes the damage and writes an estimate, and it may even cut you a check immediately. Sounds convenient doesn’t it?


The trend towards photo damage estimates had been growing before Covid 19 brought massive changes to just about every aspect of our lives.  Collision repair industry estimating system company, CCC, has recently reported the insurers recently hit their 3 millionth photo estimated since 2019.


Body shops use CCC to write all estimates (it’s a universal platform) and because they have access to all this data, they publish trends articles in the industry.


CCC reported that the percentage of claims processed through their Quick Estimate, the company’s mobile photo estimating solution, has more than doubled from January to April of 2020 as carriers are accelerating use and adoption of digital tools in response to COVID-19.


Is this push for photo estimating good news for you, our customer?


It might not be. It is widely held by auto body shops that it is not possible to accurately estimate the total cost to repair a vehicle until it is torn down, and the photo systems cannot possibly see hidden damages.


Insurance companies want to move in this direction because it cuts their labor down.  It also cuts down on claims pay outs as many customers with small repairs are likely to just keep the check and live with the damage even though they could be entitled to much more if they would just get a proper estimate and a proper repair.


A proper estimate requires full teardown of the damaged areas to see what is behind. Photo estimates cannot detect kinks in frames. They cannot measure and check for frame or unibody straightness and they cannot measure critical components like steering columns that shops need to measure to accurately assess damages.


You could get a photo estimate, go to some cheap shop where they do not follow all the OEM procedures and end up driving an unsafe vehicle with hidden and unfixed damage


However, photo estimates and other AI systems are part of the future.

sun shining through auto repair shop


What do the Insurers say about photo estimating accuracy?


USAA auto claims Vice President Anne Warner said they have learned to allow progress over perfection even though the insurance industry tends to want to be “100 percent sure”.


Liberty Mutual claims general manager and U.S. retail markets Vice President Dean Peasley said the conditions imposed by the COVID-19 response showed that Insurance companies really can change more aggressively than expected.


He called it amazing how much Liberty Mutual changed in the few months before the May 26 webinar and estimated advancements had been pulled forward “several years.”


We will how things shape up when Covid 19 ends.