An auto repair business is responsible for repairing the car to the highest of safety standards. Compliance with OEM procedures is the norm when it comes to collision repair. Anything less and you not only lessen the overall safety of the vehicle, but you could also significantly increase the risk of the car getting involved in a collision without the necessary safety features. The results could be costly and deadly.
As it currently stands, a rule for collision repair states that wherever a vehicle was last repaired, that facility is liable for any additional damage that may come as a result of the repair. This rule was inspired by what happened at the John Eagle Collision Center in Dallas, Texas. A couple bought their 2010 Honda Fit used from a dealership in Denton, Texas. The previous owner had taken the car to John Eagle Collision Center have a repair done after a hailstorm. Despite the collision center claiming they follow the Honda Fit body repair manual as if it’s a “safety bible,” its technicians failed to follow the OEM procedures for the car. The manual specifically called for a replacement roof to be welded in place. Instead of following these exact OEM procedures, the shop listened to what the insurance company guided them to do: glue the new steel roof on with 3M 8115 adhesive.
This is a voluntary dismissal of the OEM procedures for the Honda Fit, and it is a major problem. This has been an ongoing issue in the industry because some insurance companies are not willing to pay the cost for the more expensive [yet safer] repair. If a shop follows OEM procedures and ignores what the insurance companies tell them to do, then insurance companies won’t pay the repair bill. It’s a horrible problem that can cost the lives of drivers, and that’s what almost happened to the second owners of this same Honda Fit.
When Mr. and Mrs. Seebachan purchased the Honda Fit, there was no record on the CARFAX of the roof repair. It was December of 2013, and the couple was on the way to their Christmas holiday when a Toyota Tundra collided with their car. Due to the force of the collision, the improperly repaired roof bucked which set an entire chain reaction to the vehicle. The car’s safety cage collapsed, and the fuel tank under the driver’s seat exploded. The couple was trapped in the burning vehicle before nearby motorists rescued them from the car. All of this could have been avoided had the John Eagle Collision Center follow OEM procedures when fixing the roof for the original owner.
So how can you make sure you’re protected from this ever happening at your dealership or auto repair business? Of course, you want to make sure you’re following OEM procedures and performing the repairs precisely as instructed. But whether you’re on the road or an established fixed location facility, you will want to look into something called an “umbrella insurance plan.” This is a coverage plan that provides additional security to those “who are at risk of being sued for damages to other people’s property or injuries caused to others in an accident” (Investopedia). Even if you think you are exempt from that ever happening to you and you’ve never had an issue in all the years you’ve been in business…never say never.
The greatest thing we can learn from this horrific accident is to protect your business and your customers by performing repairs exactly as the manufacturer tells you. If insurance guidance disagrees with OEM guidelines, complying could expose you to unwanted risk. Either get the customer to pay the difference for the correct repair, or get a record of the discrepancy in writing, and have both the insurance and the customer sign to acknowledge. Every 16 minutes, a car accident occurs that ends up in fatality. Don’t let a negligent repair be the cause.