Thousands of drivers all over the country were forced to use cheap and sometimes shoddy parts in repairs by insurance companies – that’s the charge being made by CNN, a U.S. Senator, garage and auto body shop owners, and state attorney generals.
“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,” attorney John Eaves told CNN. Eaves is the lead attorney in a class action lawsuit against insurers filed on behalf of 500 garages in 36 states.
Eaves and Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell contend that several insurers, including State Farm, forced garages and body shops to use substandard parts in an effort to reduce costs. Caldwell labeled some of the material used “junkyard parts.”
The junkyard parts included headlights that were glued together, dented rims, and a hood that fell apart, CNN reported. The parts were installed because of a practice called steering.
In steering, an insurance company directs persons to specific garages or auto body shops when they make a claim for repair, U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut) charged. Blumenthal thinks that steering is actually a safety risk.
“Safety concerns are raised by this practice of steering because often it involves the use of parts that may be salvaged or inferior or even counterfeit,” Blumenthal told CNN.
The Senator wants to see the U.S. Justice Department investigate steering and the insurance industry’s use of it. He alleged that insurers use networks of repair shops that use recycled parts or parts not approved by the manufacturer. Some insurers select preferred shops based on the low rates they charge, rather than the quality of work they do.
“And the way these shops’ performance are measured is by the amount that it costs to repair cars at that particular shop,” Blumenthal said. “Just get the car in, make it look like it’s fixed, and get it out the door.”
Insurance companies have denied this practice. It often occurs because insurers simply use shops on a list provided by the insurance company. In many cases, the customer is not required to use those shops, but will do so because the insurer recommends it.
Something to remember is that most insurance companies will cover repairs at most shops. You should be able to choose which shops you use.
Judging by this story, it sounds like it would be a good idea for you to choose your own mechanic or body shop the next time you need repairs. It might also be a good idea to be skeptical of everything that your insurance company says.