The $1 million lawsuit against John Eagle Collision Center in Dallas seems to have hit a nerve with the auto body industry.
The lawsuit, filed by Matthew and Marcia Seebachan, highlights the tension between insurers that are trying to minimize claims costs and body shops that are trying to perform proper repairs. It also shows what can happen when shops kowtow to insurers’ pressure to cut corners.
“The case sheds light on common insurer-repairer relations, and people across the nation have been keeping an eye on the effects this case will have on the collision repair industry,” the Alliance of Automotive Service Providers of New Jersey (AASP-NJ) said.
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The lawsuit includes some unflattering testimony from Boyce Willis, John Eagle’s body shop director, who asserted that the shop’s repair procedures are “guided by insurance.”
“So … if you brought your car into my shop, right, the insurance company’s going to dictate what – how we’re going to repair your car,” Willis said in a deposition.
Attorney Todd Tracy responded by asking: “[A]s a certified body shop … the insurance company cannot trump the OEM specifications, correct, sir?”
“Yes, they can,” Willis answered. “By not paying the bill.”
AASP/NJ said the case “speaks to a number of concerns collision repairers face every day.”
“This is bringing a ton of attention to body shops regarding insurance companies, and what they will and won’t pay for,” AASP/NJ Executive Director Charles Bryant said. “The shops should be the ones deciding what it takes to repair the car, and they should be getting paid to do it. Insurance companies come in, and they’ll only pay for certain things, and it really is causing people to have unsafe cars.
“I think it’s very important someone addresses situations of insurance companies dictating how cars get repaired and limiting payment to what they want to pay for. That’s a job for qualified collision repair shops. The job of the insurer is to insure, but also to pay for these cars to be repaired correctly and safely – not to come out and dictate. They’re shifting what their position is and acting as if they have rights they just don’t have. Hopefully this case brings out these kinds of concerns throughout the industry.”
According to the lawsuit, John Eagle used an adhesive to bond the replacement roof of the Seebachans’ 2010 Honda Fit rather than using the welds, as per the Honda repair specifications. The couple was trapped inside the burning Honda after crashing into a hydroplaning 2010 Toyota Tacoma in 2013.
“As far as the facts of the case go, nobody’s going to know what the real truths are until this gets to court,” AASP/NJ President Jeff McDowell said. “This is definitely a big wake-up call to the industry as a whole – not just to the collision repairers, but to the insurance industry as well.”