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Is your insurance company guilty of using cheap repair?

| Jun 29, 2015 | Personal Injury

With the Illinois Department of Transportation reporting 845 car crashes on Illinois roadways last year alone, state motorists are increasingly seeking affordable methods of automotive repair following accidents. Often, the accident victims are encouraged to go through a member of his or her insurance company’s “preferred network,” but a recent report published on CNN suggests that doing so may be a dangerous and costly practice.

More than 500 auto body shops in 36 states have filed lawsuits against auto insurance companies. The lawsuits allege that the body shops have been pushed to use cheap parts and dangerous practices when fixing the cars of accident victims. A Northbrook car accident lawyers knows that doing so can not only hinder the body shop’s reputation, but it can also prove highly dangerous for the owner of the car.

Complaint details

While complaint content varies, many of the auto body shops filing lawsuits against insurance companies allege that they are being encouraged to use faulty or inadequate parts when performing repairs. Headlights held together with only glue, misshapen rims and old, repurposed products being labeled as “new” are just a few examples used by body shops in their complaints.

Parker Auto Body in Monroe, Louisiana was among the companies filing suit against insurance companies. A representative of the shop shared several examples with CNN. One of these examples involved a clearly cracked replacement headlight they were given by an insurance company and told to place in a customer’s car. He explained his hesitation at using the defective part, citing that the crack would fill with water as soon as it rained, ultimately rendering it useless.

Trouble for small businesses

Many of the auto bodies participating in suits against auto insurance companies allege that the credibility of their businesses is suffering due to the push to use inadequate parts and repair methods. The representative from Parker Auto Body expressed that while they do not want to perform customer repairs using deficient parts or labor, they are hesitant to refuse doing so. They fear that if they fail to behave in accordance with the insurance company’s wishes, the provider will steer its customers to another body shop that will work with them. A Northbrook car accident lawyer recognizes the catch-22 faced by body shops. Many are forced to either perform inadequate work, alienating customers, or refuse to do so, and lose insurance company referrals. Either way, small businesses suffer and experience loss of income as a result.

Safety concerns for consumers

U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal believes that in addition to causing trouble for small business, cars that are repaired through “preferred networks” pose a considerable safety risk to the public. He asked that the issue be investigated by the U.S. Department of Justice, alleging that the practice of steering customers toward shops that use faulty parts is highly concerning for all motorists. He noted the fact that customers rarely have any idea where the parts placed in their cars actually come from or whether they have been installed properly prior to use.

Insurance company responses

State Farm was among the insurance companies named in the lawsuits. John Eaves, the lead attorney for the lawsuits filed against State Farm in Louisiana, expressed concern over how widespread this issue has become. He noted that every state in the U.S. is in danger when body shops are encouraged to cut corners when it comes to parts and repair methods.  State Farm was contacted by CNN for an interview about these alleged practices, and while the company refused the interview, it did release a statement. The statement said that it was ultimately up to the customers where they choose to have their repairs performed. State Farm did confirm that it recommends that its clients use body shops that are a part of its Select Service program. However, the company noted that whether repairs are actually conducted there or elsewhere is ultimately at the will of the consumer.

For additional details, State Farm directed CNN toward Neil Alldredge, a representative of the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies. In response, Alldredge explained that having a job done right the first time was in the best economic interest of insurance companies, rather than having to perform the same repair two, three or more times. He also said that whether auto body shops use new or refurbished parts is also generally up to the consumer, but that consumers frequently choose this option because it is generally more affordable. He also echoed State Farm’s sentiments about how whether to use body shops within an insurer’s preferred network is solely at the will of the consumer.

Consumer research is necessary

When it comes to blindly following the recommendations of an insurance company, a Northbrook car accident lawyer advises using caution. Just as a particular body shop should not be chosen based solely on an insurer’s recommendation, the shop shouldn’t immediately be discounted if it isn’t part of a preferred network, either. An article released by ABC News recommends that consumers perform background research before choosing a body shop. Local Better Business Bureaus or consumer affairs offices are good places to check out potential automotive repair shops.

Shoddy workmanship and the use of insufficient repair parts can lead to accidents on Illinois roadways. Those who believe the injuries they suffered after an accident or collision were the result of inadequate repair, damaged parts or cheap labor are urged to contact an attorney.