That unmistakable crunch of metal on metal as two cars collide is something no one ever wants to hear. No commute to work or drive to school is made better by that sound, and when it happens, it typically means your car will find its way to a body shop for repairs. You would expect the repairs made would be in your best interest, to keep you safe in case something similar happens again. But that might not be the case.
A recent feature in “Automotive News” highlights the manipulation and resulting deception that can occur while your vehicle is being “fixed.” The plaintiffs in the featured cases, Marcia and Matthew Seebachan, were injured when their Honda Fit hit a Toyota Tundra in a head-on collision that trapped them inside of their burning car because its roof collapsed. The car had been recently purchased and the faulty roof repair, done by John Eagle Collision Center in Dallas, wasn’t included in its history report.
Multiple lawsuits allege insurance company State Farm pressured the body shop to take a $3,000-less expensive option and glue the roof rather than weld it during repairs made before the couple bought the car. That decision caused the Seebachan’s injuries “because their roof literally separated where it had been glued with 3M 8115 adhesive rather than being welded,” legal documents allege.
The certified Honda body shop did not weld the roof as required in the Fit’s Body Repair Manual under direction from State Farm. Why is that? It’s a question best answered using an excerpt of sworn testimony from the body shop’s representative:
Rep: “Well, unfortunately we’re guided by insurance. So—the—if you brought your car into my shop, right, the insurance company’s going to dictate what—how we’re going to repair your car.”
Attorney: “I understand. But the—but you—your—as a certified body shop, you have to—you—the—the insurance company cannot trump the OEM (original equipment manufacturer) specifications, correct, sir?”
Rep: “Yes, they can.”
Attorney: “Where does it say that?”
Rep: “By not paying the bill.”
A jury in October found the body shop 75 percent at fault and the driver 25 percent at fault for the Seebachan’s injuries in a $42 million verdict. State Farm has yet to answer the complaint filed against it for negligence, deceptive trade practices and breach of warranty.
Unfortunately, insurers threatening to withhold payment or send business elsewhere in order to lessen costs is not new. Drivers should be able to rest assured their vehicles are being repaired correctly no matter where the work is done. The recent $42 million verdict highlights how those tasked with repairing vehicles can and should be held responsible when they place profits over people’s safety.
For more information about claims involving insurance companies and automobile repair policies and facilities, contact Evan Allen in our Personal Injury / Products Liability Section at Even.Allen@beasleyallen.com or 800-898-2034.
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