BodyShop Business
Do Shops Have a Legal Obligation to Check Related Systems for Damage?
Charlie Barone
3/27/2012 9:48:11 AM

In a front-end accident where there is front bumper and frame damage visible, are body shops required to check the radiator for leaks with a pressure test? If they didn't, what problems can occur afterward? Are body shops required to have certified mechanics on site to guarantee the work for auto insurance company claims?

Asked by L.U., Garden Grove, Calif.

In answer to your question involving a body shop's liability to its customer, the answer is in two parts, ethical and legal. That is, a body shop would not be found legally negligent for not checking a related system (in this case cooling) for damage. Most estimate forms have boilerplate that contains a disclaimer stating that the estimate is subject to change, supplement and additions as one gets into a job. An estimate is just that, as opposed to an invoice.

If frame damage is visible, any number of issues may arise, such as mechanical, steering, or suspension damage. However, in the legal sense one cannot be reasonably expected to anticipate or alert a customer of the possible consequences of damage, particularly in the case where a car is there for an estimate. It is a matter of ethics and professionalism, not to mention a good business practice to cover the possible systems when presenting the estimate to a customer.

Mechanical damage is very often found along with body damage. However, I am not aware of any state laws or regulations which requiring a body shop to have a certified mechanic on site. Some DRP contracts can have such a requirement, but one would have to review the contract in order to make that determination.

Certified can mean a number of things, such as ASE certified, factory certified, or certified by an equipment manufacturer such as Car-O-Liner. And then there are licenses in various states, such as an inspection license.

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Charlie Barone has  over 36 years of experience in collision repair and is an ASE Master Certified technician and a licensed damage appraiser.

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