Maine Lawyers Voice Concern over “Steering” by Insurance Companies
The Maine car accident attorneys at Hardy, Wolf & Downing are troubled by reports of “steering” by insurance companies that may result in shoddy and potentially dangerous repairs done on damaged vehicles.
We believe this constitutes rampant recklessness on the part of auto insurers that may be putting profit over driver safety by pressuring body shops to perform inadequate repairs or use broken, recycled parts. Drivers injured by this scheme may be eligible to file an auto repair fraud lawsuit to pursue damages for medical bills, property damage and other non-economic losses.
Multiple states involved in lawsuit
CNN recently reported on accusations by auto body shops that insurance companies are putting pressure on them to cut corners when it comes to auto repairs after accidents. More than 500 of those businesses are now joining together across 36 states to file a lawsuit including these allegations against major insurance companies. Other states are also getting involved in their own legal action involving similar allegations.
“It involves people from Maine to Mississippi to California,” an attorney involved with the national lawsuit told CNN. “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.”
Owners of auto body shops are claiming insurance companies are coercing customers into using “preferred” shops where repairs can be done quickly and for less money. Unfortunately, those repairs may also be less safe in some circumstances. These shops are also encouraged by insurance companies to use recycled parts or parts not made by the original car manufacturer in the interest of saving money.
Violation of federal law
In 1963, the federal government made the practice of “steering” customers illegal as part of the Federal Consent Decree. However, while customers are legally allowed to choose the body shop that makes the repairs on their vehicles, insurance companies can make the process much more complicated for those that do not choose to work with the body shops on the insurance company’s list.
This poses serious problems for shops that do not work within the specific guidelines of an insurance company. Some business owners allege that insurance companies will steer business away from their shops if they do not agree to cut corners as the insurance company asks. Insurers can also make the reimbursement process more difficult for those shops when they do get business, such as asking them to send in numerous estimates on the same vehicle.
Owners of the auto body shops are not the only ones to call out this practice; some attorney generals in different states are also calling for changes to the system in the interest of vehicle safety. Buddy Caldwell, the Attorney General of Louisiana, filed a lawsuit against State Farm insurance, claiming the practices of this company could result in potentially dangerous vehicles on the road after low-cost repairs. Jim Hood, attorney general of Mississippi is also preparing a lawsuit.
Filing a Maine auto repair fraud lawsuit
When vehicles are damaged as a result of an accident, motorists rely on their insurance companies to foot the bill for the repairs. When those companies guide customers to body shops that do sub-par repairs, the result can be a dangerous situation for that driver and others on the road. If inadequate repairs or recycled parts cause another accident, or worse, injure the driver in some way, legal action may be the next logical step.
At Hardy, Wolf & Downing, we believe motorists should be able to freely choose the body shop that makes their repairs, with full confidence that those repairs will be covered by their insurance company. When that does not happen, the insurance company and the repair shop could be liable for vehicle damage, injuries and other costs associated with the faulty repairs.
If you have been involved in a crash due to faulty repairs on your vehicle, you may be eligible to recover damages in a personal injury lawsuit in Maine. Contact the attorneys at Hardy, Wolf & Downing at 1-800-INJURED for a free case evaluation and to discuss your legal options.
- CNN, Auto Insurers Accused of Pushing Cheap and Sometimes Dangerous Repairs, http://www.cnn.com/2015/02/11/us/auto-repair-investigation/
- USA Today, Auto Body Shops Say They, Not Insurers, Should Set Costs, http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/money/perfi/insurance/story/2011-12-06/car-repair-insurance-companies/51684640/1
- KSWO, Attorney General Warns Against Steering, http://www.kswo.com/story/27432903/attorney-general-warns-against-steering
- NBC 12, AGs, Auto Shops Allege Car Insurance Companies Push for Unsafe Repairs, http://www.nbc12.com/story/28103069/ags-auto-shops-allege-car-insurance-companies-push-for-unsafe-repairs