The Auto Body Association of Texas, the Houston Auto Body Association, Texas Watch and attorney Todd Tracy recently met to discuss insurer steering and other repair topics.
Texas Watch, a nonpartisan citizen advocacy organization, said the Oct. 24 meeting centered on “how the insurance industry illegally steers consumers to insurance-friendly ‘repair’ facilities, underestimates damage, refuses to pay for important safety scans and other necessary procedures, and suppresses labor rates all in the name of padding their bottom line.”
The goal is “to develop a plan for consumer education in choosing a body shop that will safely and properly restore their vehicles after a collision,” the Auto Body Association of Texas said in a Facebook post.
Texas Watch called the meeting “a major step forward” for safety.
“The consumer has a right to a car that has been repaired properly and is safe for them and those around them on the road,” Texas Watch said in a news release. “But the end result of these insurance-industry pressure tactics is a steady stream of vehicles that are ticking time bombs and even rolling coffins. With the shoddy repairs buried under metal and paint, you and your family may not know that the job wasn’t done right until you are in a wreck and it is too late.”
The recent verdict against John Eagle Collision Center has put the spotlight on how insurers exert influence over repair procedures, and how body shops still bear the brunt of the liability if those repairs are proven faulty. Matthew and Marcia Seebachan sued John Eagle Collision Center and won $42 million in damages, convincing a jury that the shop’s shoddy repair of their Honda Fit compromised the vehicle’s structural integrity and exacerbated their injuries during a fiery crash.
“The message is clear to auto insurance carriers in Texas: Get out of the repair business and quit bullying body shops into using unsafe repairs that don’t meet manufacturer standards,” Tracy said. “I believe that collision repair businesses that choose to do it right by following the original equipment manufacturer standards should receive immunity.”
Texas Watch said the coalition that met Oct. 24 is “committed to fighting for as long as it takes to see that insurance companies aren’t able to dictate dangerous repairs any longer.”
“Money is on the line for the insurance industry, but lives hang in the balance for all of the rest of us,” the advocacy group said. “The stakes couldn’t be higher, and we expect the insurance industry will fight us tooth and nail. However, we are all committed to the fight.“