Monday, May 05, 2014

Demand Genuine Factory Parts From Your Insurance Company

This is not the first article I’ve written for my blog and Hometown News on this subject. Thanks to my body shop manager, Alan Napier, a few years ago I was made aware of a very dangerous and common practice by virtually all auto collision insurance companies. This practice is the use of cheaper collision parts, like hoods, fenders and doors which are not proven to be as safe as the original factory parts that your car was manufactured with.

The law on this is very clear, “An insurer may not require the use of replacement parts in the repair of a motor vehicle which are not at least equivalent in kind and quality to the damaged parts prior to the loss in terms of fit, appearance, and performance.” For many years my body shop manager and I have asked all insurance companies who specified aftermarket parts (parts not made by the car’s manufacturer) to provide proof that they were compliant with federal crash test regulations. Not once has an insurance company agreed to do so. To my knowledge our federal government has never approved any aftermarket part as being equivalent in kind and quality to the original manufactures’ part.

Nevertheless, insurance companies continue to insist on the use of aftermarket parts because they cost them much less. That hood, door, or fender that your insurance company specified to repair your wrecked car was never tested and proven safe by any federal mandated crash test. Not only do the insurance companies save money by this practice but the body shop that repairs your car makes more money because they have a wider profit margin between the cost of the part and what the insurance company allows them to charge.

As I’ve said in previous columns, insurance companies usually have a list of “approved” body shops. They tell you that their shops are approved because they do high quality work and will guarantee the repair. The truth is they approve those shops that agree to “play ball” with them. The “approved” shops will agree to use non-manufacturer aftermarket parts unproven in U.S. government crash tests. Approved shops also agree to charge a lower price to the insurance company than other shops which can lead to short cuts on the repair. This can also lead to not paying the body repair technicians a wage high enough to employ those that are higher skilled.

My company and a large number of other body shops have filed a class action suit against the insurance companies because of this dangerous practice of specifying untested aftermarket parts. We have also pursued this with the National Highway Transportation Safety Association, NHTSA, and the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation. I have also reported this to the media. All have expressed interest and are “cautiously” investigating my allegations. I say “cautiously” because Big Insurance is the proverbial 800 pound gorilla. They have huge political clout with virtually unlimited lobbying resources. Nobody wants Big Insurance for an enemy. I will keep you posted on any progress I make with the state or federal regulators as well as the media.

My advice to you if you have a wrecked car that needs repairing is to insist that the insurance company and the body shop use only original manufacturer’s parts. If they balk at this or tell you that you will have to pay more money, show them this link You can click on this if you’re reading my blog or cut and paste it in your browser if you’re reading this in Hometown News. This is the complete Florida law specifying that insurance companies use only parts that are at least equivalent in kind and quality. To qualify, the parts must have been successfully crash tested on a car by our federal government. If they still refuse, tell the body shop that, under protest, you will pay extra for the original manufacturer parts, and that you will then sue the insurance company for the difference. My company sues the insurance company on behalf of our customers whenever necessary. We ask our customers to assign their right of litigation against their insurance company to us. Our customer pays only the lower amount and we recover the difference from the insurance company. We have never lost a case and the insurance companies prefer to settle these before they go to trial because they know they are wrong and know they will lose.

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