Consequences of the accident: Seeking damage with a motor vehicle expert

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Looking for damage with a motor vehicle expert

Consequences of the accident: Seeking damage with a motor vehicle expert-consequences

Olaf Denz basically records everything he looks at under the car with the digital camera

Source: Christian Hahn / Christian Hahn

A delivery truck was parked on a slope. Because neither a gear is engaged nor the handbrake is applied, the car starts rolling and rushes into a family house. Such and similar cases occupy the experts of the insurance companies. WELT ONLINE accompanied you in everyday life.

E.r is big. Intimidatingly big even. "Two meters smooth", says Olaf Denz and: Yes, of course he also played basketball once. The 46-year-old now plays in a different league. Denz is a vehicle expert at Allianz Insurance and calculates the cost of repairing damaged cars. He is also on the trail of fraudsters.

When Denz rings the doorbell, sometimes it’s all about hundreds. More often, however, the damage exceeds the 1,000 euro limit. Damaged people hang on Denz’s lips as if he could speak words of redemption. "What do you think, roughly how much I will get from your insurance company for my damage?" Anyone who asks this lives in Berlin-Pankow, drives the subway and bus for work, privately a Golf that has scratches on the left rear. Denz roughly estimates a sum in the hundreds, chats in a friendly manner about the danger a bus driver is in as opposed to a subway driver.

While his interlocutor nods eagerly and grumbles at the company, "that leaves us drivers alone with the dangers", the expert has long since taken a few photos with the digital camera and said goodbye with a handshake. No discussion about the possible price for the repair – Denz takes care of everything with friendliness and competence. Certainly his size doesn’t hurt him in the endeavor not to let arguments arise in the first place.

The appraiser comes for free

An expert comes to the house if the two parties to an accident cannot easily agree on the amount of damage. The expert is commissioned by the insurance of the person who caused the accident – there are no costs for the person concerned whose car is being examined. But there is also no way of discussing things with the motor vehicle expert. His judgment applies. Anyone who does not want to accept this must obtain a counter-opinion at their own expense or take the matter to a court right away.

Allianz alone has 450 motor vehicle experts nationwide, and the industry is booming: a further 30 of these specialists are to be employed by the insurer. To show customer friendliness, but also to protect against fraud. "The industry assumes a volume of up to ten percent of claims payments across Europe in all areas", says Michael Wagner, head of vehicle claims at Allianz.

That is why the experts must have a lot of practical experience. Until 2000, Olaf Denz was customer service foreman at a Nissan dealership in Berlin. But a championship title alone is not enough to assess damage. Rather, detective instinct is required.

Like the Toyota RAV4, which is on the lift of a car dealership. The car has already been inspected once, but the workshop discovered an axle damage in addition to the dented fender. The left wishbone would have to be replaced. But does the damage actually come from the accident? Or has the car just touched down in the field?

The thing about hourly wages

A horse’s head made of plastic is stuck on the trailer hitch, and an equestrian sticker is emblazoned on the rear window. Evidence that the Toyota is also used next to paved roads. Tufts of grass hang out from below, the case seems clear. But Denz wants to speak to the first reviewer again. After all, it could be that the car was pushed over a center island in the accident and picked up grass and dirt. A lot of research for a case where small additional costs are involved. "Maybe 200 euros", says Denz.

Denz spends almost as much time explaining the calculations as he is tracking down the damage. Because not all working hours are the same. The average price for an hour of bodywork is estimated at 78 euros, for a painter it is 85 euros.

In the case of minor damage, however, it may well be that the services of Denz & Co. do not have to be called upon. In the case of parking bumps and other minor damage, many customers do not want the repair costs to be covered, but rather the money for the expected repair costs. This calculation process is called fictitious billing and can also be done over the phone.

"We have developed a system that – based on around a million reports, invoices and other information – enables our employees to use some data from the damaged car to make a very precise prediction of the amount of damage", says claims chief Wagner.

Insurance low offer

However, this procedure is only recommended for injured parties who would like to forego various correspondence and an appointment with an expert. Insurers know about the seductiveness of such solutions, which is why people tend to make a rather low offer over the phone. In a self-experiment by WELT ONLINE, 250 euros was offered by telephone for grazing damage to the rear of an eight-year-old Renault Twingo, while the expert sent by the insurance company estimated the damage at a good 500 euros.

So it can be good business to have the appraiser come. In any case, someone like Denz tries to make sure that both sides are satisfied. He only appeared in court four times in his almost ten years to explain his report.

At the end of his working day, Olaf Denz meets a Mercedes driver from Suhl, whose seven-year-old E-Class probably the best workshop can no longer help. At an intersection, the Benz was promoted into the car sky. A look at the odometer reading elicits a smile from the expert, 339,000 kilometers are displayed there. "Well, he’s happy about the accident", says Denz.

There is not much left to look at here: the whole front is a single piece of mud. After all, the trailer hitch protrudes from the lump of sheet metal – like a handle to throw away. Maybe it still has some residual value.

Such a thing is no joke for a motor vehicle expert. A freelance appraiser recently estimated a detachable trailer hitch at 800 euros, says Denz. When he took a closer look at the car, he found that it was a rigid coupling that generally costs far less, around 100 euros. "It can be removed", said the other appraiser, "there are two screws." A fraud attempt? Could be, but you would have to prove it. Finally, one can also say: not all experts have the same amount of expertise.

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