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Garages accuse insurance companies of pushing cheap or faulty parts

On Behalf of | Feb 13, 2015 | General |

Auto repair shops are up in arms about being pressured to use cheap parts and practices by insurance companies, according to a report by CNN.

More than 500 repair shops from 36 states are joining in a lawsuit against top insurance companies. And the attorney general of Louisiana has filed suit against State Farm Insurance, saying its low-cost program for repairs could be a danger for drivers of vehicles that have not been repaired properly.

At issue is the alleged practice of “steering.” Repair-shop owners say insurance companies steer their policy holders to body shops that are willing do shoddy work. If a shop refuses to make inferior repairs, they say, insurers steer the client to a different shop.

The CNN report lists examples of bad parts garage owners complained about: headlights put back together by glue, cracked headlights, rusty parts, dented rims, a new hood that’s already coming apart, and an aftermarket hood that crumpled improperly in a wreck.

Many times over the years I have see insurers push aftermarket and even salvaged parts, and unfortunately N.C. law permits them to do this unless the car owner is willing to pay “betterment.” Their argument is that they have increased the value of your car.

But you can protect yourself. If you can indeed select your repair shop and know one you trust, do it. If you use a garage from a “preferred-shop” program, you can ask to know where the parts came from, and you should be able to make arrangements to look at the parts before they are put on your car.

For more information about the insurers’ obligation under the law, visit the N.C. Department of Insurance website.

One body shop owner in Louisiana said he has plenty of examples of shoddy parts foisted on him by insurers. Of one cracked and glued headlight, he said, “This is refurbished junk, is what it is.”

You don’t want to risk your life on a piece of “refurbished junk.”

State Farm said that their customers choose where their vehicles are repaired but have the option of using a “Select Service” program. The company referred CNN to the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies for a statement.

Spokesman Neil Alldredge said, “The notion that somehow this is meant to … do shoddy work or to encourage the idea that we have to get it done quickly and move on to the next one really isn’t in the insurance company’s economic interest.”

Alldredge also said “most companies” don’t require or recommend used, fixed or aftermarket parts. But he said aftermarket parts may be used on cosmetic repairs, but not mechanical ones.

He stated flatly that he did not believe “steering” is going on, and that using “preferred-shop programs” is a customer’s choice.

John Eaves, the lead attorney in the 36-state lawsuit had a different opinion, saying the problem is nationwide.

“It involves people from Maine to Mississippi to California. Every state in the Union has experienced the same sort of struggle here between the body shops trying to do the work the right way, and the insurance companies trying to cut corners and force them to use unsafe parts and unsafe methods on their cars,” he said.

Surely not all insurers are engaging in “steering.” But 500 garages and 36 states are a lot of garages and a lot of states. That’s a lot of smoke to indicate there is a fire here – that steering is going on as is claimed by so many people.