Jeff Williams, AMBRA chairman, reviews the aftermath of the John Eagle Collision case in the US.
"When the story broke I’m sure we all had the 'could that have been me moment'. There is nothing like the fear of the unknown that provides a reality check on our processes, our ethics and the culture we implement in our workshops .
It was found that not adhering to OEM procedures was 75% to blame leading to consumers horrific injuries some four years after the repairs were performed.The jury thought OEM procedures were 'absolutely paramount,'.
Having a three year guarantee on workmanship will not remove the responsibility if applying incorrect repair methods . It’s for the service life of the vehicle
Putting your head in the sand and pretending you didn’t know or blaming the insurer for not advising you will not protect you. The repairer is considered the expert and must obtain OEM procedures to validate your estimated method.
(Todd Tracy law firm had plans to sue State Farm for allegedly encouraging the shop to glue on the Fit roof, but shop and insurer estimates shared by Tracy’s firm do not appear to indicate a direction or suggestion by State Farm to use adhesive.)
The future belongs to those that are prepared and you have a duty of care to protect the consumer. The insurer authorising repairs has a duty of care to the consumer that correct method, equipment and training is available, any insurer or representative requesting a method outside of OE Manufacturer requirements there is a form for this under 7.4 of the MVIRI code which the insurer/representative needs to sign.
Insurers are focussing heavily on repair costs and some are using cash settling to avoid further liabilities, with some consumers being short changed on adequate funds needed for repairing to a standard. Any deviation from OEM repair methods to save a few dollars is not worth it, John Eagle can offer 31.5 million reasons not to do it.
Being the cheapest or subscribing to a practice of “paint it black and put it back”, when the proverbial hits the fan, the insurer will be more than happy to throw you under the bus.
In Australia we have known the potential risk for repairers, for the lawyers a case of neglect only needed to be highlighted. We now have the case, allbeit in the USA it still holds relevance. Repairers and insurers need to be concerned that just having a OEM repair procedure alone is not sufficient, do you have the correct equipment and are your technicians trained in how to use the equipment and are they applying the procedures?
For John Eagle Collision I didn’t read where they were asked what equipment they had nor if they were paid correctly. The insurer accepted their incomplete offer to repair, a process the repair facility chose to apply, having disregarded the correct OEM procedures. Ignorance or stupidity are not an excuse.
Being paid the correct fee to repair a car is essential. If you don’t know what your break even, shop or recovery rate are and accept the insurer or the assessor’s assertion of what they think you need - you are destined to fail. Saying no to a repair if it's not utlising the correct method or you’re not going to achieve your required rate is essential. Seeing the vehicle moved to another shop means that you won’t be the next media headline about incorrect repairs.
We can and must help the consumer to make informed choices, not just about which insurers to use but which repairers are prepared to invest in protecting the consumer's right to safe efficient repairs.
Any repairer who thinks putting money into theirs or the insurer shareholders' back pocket is more important than consumers' rights to safety is a ‘dead man walking’
Attorney Todd Tracy, Speaking at a Society of Collision Repair Specialists meeting said the John Eagle Lawsuit ‘Was over before It began’.
Tracy, called the $42 million verdict 'a defining moment in your industry'. He offered a number of lessons learned from the case.
- Always follow the OEM repair specifications.
- Always follow the I-CAR repair guidelines.
- If there are no OEM repair specifications, research how to perform proper repairs and keep accurate records of what you did during the repair process.
"If you take away one thing, never put your company’s profits ahead of your customers’ safety. That’s how you get your ass whipped,” Tracy said.