How to take good photos for the insurance claims process

user-gravatar Headshot
Updated Apr 20, 2023
Insurance photo panel discussion
Dan Risley (left) with the HD Repair Forum moderates a panel on best practices in the insurance claims process Wednesday at the 2023 HD Repair Forum in Fort Worth, Texas.

Filing, evaluating and approving an insurance claim can be a major bottleneck during a truck repair. Though a slow claim approval process doesn’t benefit anyone, poor communication and data transfer between insurance companies and service shops in getting an estimate submitted and accepted can generate delays that cost end users money and frustrate everyone involved.

Possibly the most annoying aspect of these delays are where they originate. During a panel discussion Wednesday at the 2023 HD Repair Forum, insurance professionals shared how service providers failing to take and submit high-quality images to an insurance company can drive large delays into the claims process. Though photographic technology has never been better, the insurance professionals say far too many garages continue to struggle to submit photos that can quickly confirm a vehicle’s damage and move a claim forward.

[RELATED: Connectivity and technical innovations in equipment will force aftermarket shops to evolve]

Below are five tips from the panelists on how service shops and their technicians can reduce photo-related claim delays.

The more the merrier

The insurance professionals say far too often they see estimates delayed on arrival because a shop will not send enough images to move the claim along in their system. Michael Brown with Great American Insurance Group says his business has a standard set of photos it requests from service partners for all repairs events and a slightly larger set of images for vehicles being totaled. He says the lists were created specifically to speed up the claims process. Each requirement addresses a need from the insurer’s side.

Tom Farney with National General, an Allstate Company, admits estimates completed through photos aren’t as thorough as an on-site inspections but says photo-based estimates are the future of the industry. Kelly Reich with Federated Insurance also notes shops shouldn’t only submit close-up or zoomed pics. Insurers want wide-shot and straight on images as well.   

Check your photos for clarity

Farney says blurry, out of focus images is another far too common problem. He says some technicians will take scores of photos of a unit and submit their entire camera roll to the insurance company without checking to make sure the images are clear. Farney says it’s a “hurry up, slow down” situation. Technicians are in such a hurry to complete an estimate they don’t take a minute after capturing images to ensure what they have captured shows the extent of vehicle’s damage.

Reich sees the same. He says technicians who pause briefly to make sure their camera settings and lighting are correct before taking images are more likely to avoid longer delays once their estimate is submitted. “Bad photos or not enough photos impact cycle time,” he says.

“Do your photos support your estimate?”

This question from Farney was a major point of emphasis during Wednesday’s discussion. All three panelists said they have issues with service shops that will claim a component is damaged on an estimate but will not provide photographic evidence of that damage with their submission. Brown says insurers cannot push a claim forward “when photos don’t support what we see on an estimate,” even if the estimate is true and the damage is severe. “If it’s damaged, we want to see a photo of it,” adds Reich.

Farney also acknowledges estimates without supporting photos can create “friction points” where shops grow frustrated with insurers. He understands that feeling but notes it is very hard for insurers to validate and approve an estimate without images.

[RELATED: How to make the collision claims adjusting process easier]

Send them in the right format

Another area of frustrating delays for the panelists. When a shop takes all the photos the insurer requires but sends them as thumbnails — which Reich calls “worthless” — or embeds them into a Word document, or with a resolution that makes them unusable for the insurer on arrival. Brown says his company prefers images as JPEGs because that works best for their internal system. He adds pics taken on an iPhone, while generally high-resolution, have a unique file type and must be converted before being used.

The panelists admit many of these file type and dimension issues can be resolved quickly when both sides communicate but also can create agonizingly long delays if either side is slow to address any additional requests. And requests for more information are common in the claims process.

Be prepared to follow up

When asked, Wednesday’s panelists say even some of their best service shop partners only have a 75% success rate in providing all the photos necessary to approve an estimate on their first try. With more unknown shop partners, they peg the “success” rate close to 50%. The panelists note that doesn’t mean they think shops are bad at taking and submitting photos but that their validation processes require total clarity. Even a shop with an established photo workflow is still going to be receive requests for additional photos from time to time, the panelists say.

The trio say their participation Wednesday, coupled with the HD Repair Forum’s plans to develop an industry standard for image collection and submission, will make shops across the industry more understanding of photo needs and open to supplemental photo requests.

“A loss of efficiency impacts all of us,” says Farney. “Have your people recognize the importance of this step in the process.”

Reich agrees, stressing the importance of open communication lines at all times. “Your customer is my customer. We need to get them back on the road,” he says.

Learn how to move your used trucks faster
With unsold used inventory depreciating at a rate of more than 2% monthly, efficient inventory turnover is a must for dealers. Download this eBook to access proven strategies for selling used trucks faster.
Used Truck Guide Cover