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Storms boost business at state auto repair businesses, insurers

Published: Friday, Feb. 7, 2014 1:15 a.m. CST

SPRINGFIELD (AP) – This season’s unrelenting winter is proving to be big business for auto repair businesses and insurers, who say they’re seeing a sharp increase in claims.

There’s a 3-week wait for work at Springfield Collision Center, where mechanics are logging 12-hour shifts to keep up with demand, according to a report in The Springfield State Journal-Register. At Zara’s Collision Center, owner Brad Zara had to change how snow is removed to make room for more cars needing work.

Many of the repairs involve dented fenders and buckled hoods, along with damaged undercarriages.

“A lot of them are sliding into ditches and sometimes hitting the curb and taking out the suspension,” Zara said. “It can do a lot of damage under a car.”

Meanwhile, insurers say they’re sorting through a marked increase in claims compared to previous years.

Bloomington-based Country Financial has received more than 14,600 auto and property claims in December and January. That’s up 30 percent from the same period last year, when the company got 11,237 claims.

“This means adjusters are working 12-hour days, especially in hard hit states like Illinois and Georgia,” spokesman Chris Stroisch said.

Claims were up 21 percent in December at State Farm, which is also headquartered in Bloomington. Spokeswoman Missy Dundov says January’s claims are also expected to be higher.

And Illinois Insurance Association executive Kevin Martin said members are also reporting increases in property claims because of frozen pipes.

So far this winter, the Chicago area has received almost 60 inches of snow, making it among the snowiest on record in the city.

The National Weather Service reports Springfield has received more than 34 inches and Peoria has recorded almost 36.

In the southern Illinois town of Effingham, snowfall totals from December through Feb. 5 topped 31 inches. The community typically receives about 8 inches during that period.

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Information from: The State Journal-Register, http://www.sj-r.com

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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