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Now browsing: Hometown News > Business Columns > Earl Stewart

Earl Stewart
This Week | Archive

Unsafe auto body repair parts mandated by your insurance company?
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Posted: 2014 Jul 11 - 08:53

Earl Stewart is the owner and general manager of Earl Stewart Toyota in North Palm Beach. The dealership is located at 1215 N. Federal Highway in Lake Park. Visit www.earlstewarttoyota.com, call (561) 358-1474, fax (561) 658-0746 or email earl@estoyota.com.

I can hardly believe that what I'm writing is true but it really is! If you damage your car in an accident, your insurance company will often specify that the body shop repairing it use crash parts (fenders, bumpers, hoods, etc.) that have never been safety tested and approved by the US government. These are cheap parts, not made by your auto's manufacturer, usually made in China referred to as "aftermarket parts". The insurance companies specify these simply to minimize their cost of repairing your car.

I've written other articles on this. I've talked about it on my radio show. I'm participating in a class action suit against insurance companies for this practice. I've contacted Jeff Atwater, the Florida CFO, who presides over the Department of Insurance and reported this practice to them. I've filed a complaint with NHTSA, the National Highway Traffic Safety Association. I've contacted reporters from the newspapers and TV. But so far, I've been unable to get anybody to do anything about it.

Federal law clearly states that all parts used for body repair of vehicles must be at least as safe as the parts made by the original equipment manufacturer. The Federal Code actually states that we may not alter or make inoperative a device or element of design that is in compliance with an applicable safety standard. My contention is that using untested, non-OEM parts is altering the design of the vehicle.

Title 49, Chapter 301 Subchapter II Sec. 30122 "Making Safety Devices and Elements Inoperative"

a.DEFINITION In this section, "motor vehicle repair business" means a person holding itself out to the public to repair for compensation a motor vehicle or motor vehicle equipment.

b. PROHIBITION A manufacturer, distributor, dealer, or motor vehicle repair business may not knowingly make inoperative any part of a device or element of design installed on or in a motor vehicle or motor vehicle equipment in compliance with an applicable motor vehicle safety standard prescribed under this chapter unless the manufacturer, distributor, dealer, or repair business reasonably believes the vehicle or equipment will not be used (except for testing or a similar purpose during maintenance or repair) when the device or element is inoperative.

A hood, fender, or bumper that has never been subjected to, and passed, federal crash tests is highly likely to make an airbag "inoperative" as one example. This is why I'm so amazed that NHTSA, the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation, the media, or SOMEBODY hasn't taken any action against any insurance company when they consistently, flagrantly are breaking the law!

All I can do is what I'm doing. I'll continue to write about it, talk about it, tell the media about it, and pursue my lawsuits. I sometimes feel like one of these crazy conspiracy theorists. I don't think I'm crazy. If I am crazy, I wish someone would address this and take the necessary steps to get me psychological help. If I'm libeling or slandering insurance companies, I invite them to sue me. If you're reading this article, I would really appreciate hearing your opinion on why no regulators, federal or state, have taken any action against the insurance companies for breaking the law and endangering the lives of millions of Americans. I also implore you to ask your federal and state legislators this question.

If you've been in an auto accident and had your collision repair paid for by an insurance company, there's a very good probability that crash parts used were not OEM and never safety tested. If you are involved in an accident in the future, I advise you to insist on OEM parts. If your insurance company refuses, ask them to show you documented evidence that the parts they are recommending have passed federal crash test standards.

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