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. Contact him at www.earlstewarttoyota.com, call (561) 358-1474, fax (561) 658-0746 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article was written by Alan Napier, my Body Shop manager. I've owned and operated body shops for over four decades...at one time I owned five! I've never had a body shop manager as qualified as Alan and never had one that put the customer first 100 percent of the time the way Alan does. By putting the customer first, I mean considering the customers' needs above those of the insurance company that pays us for repairing the customer's car. Please read what Alan has to say carefully:
So, you had an accident and called your insurance company to report it and things seemed to be going pretty smoothly..... Then you told them you were taking your car to Earl Stewart and everything started getting weird.... The claims adjusters' demeanor inexplicably just changed.... And not for the better!! Suddenly they're telling you they that have a perfect shop in mind for you that will get your car in and out in a hurry and the whole process will be effortless for you. Yep, it'll be such a great experience, you'll be glad you had an accident. You thank them politely and tell them you're just more comfortable repairing your vehicle at Earl Stewart, where you bought the car and know and trust the people.
Now it seems like the adjuster is downright angry with you and the real pressure tactics start!! They start making vague yet ominous sounding statements about Earl Stewart Toyota, almost as if they're letting you in on a dirty little secret..... "We can't guarantee their work...." "We've had problems with that shop...." "They charge more than we allow for repairs and you will have to pay out of pocket..." "If you take it to our shop, you won't have to wait for an adjuster..." "They ignore our estimates..." The list goes on and on, but, they're planting their seeds of doubt... And now you're concerned and thinking "Earl Stewart Toyota must have done something to cause this hostility by my insurance company...", after all, your insurance company only has your best interest in mind...
Well, you're right, we did do something to cause your insurance company to hate us and I'd like to tell you what... We actually had the audacity to tell your insurance company something that they're not used to hearing.... "No!!" and they reacted like any spoiled three- year old would who's never heard the word before.
But wait, you're still "in good hands" right? Wrong! Your insurance company will instruct "their" repair facility to install untested aftermarket crash parts on your vehicle, even knowing that these parts can absorb crash energy differently and affect the timing of your air bag deployment, resulting in possible death and serious injury.
Here's the really crazy thing.... The insurance company's "approved" repair shop will do it! Do you see what's going on here? Everybody's making out like Jesse James! The insurance company is saving money, the body shop is making money, and you? You're getting scammed! Your insurance company has been provided with countless documents, provided by the vehicle manufacturers that state that these "cosmetic crash parts" are actually "designed and tested as part of the overall vehicle and may help send impact energy to the SRS sensors. In addition, some of these parts may help GM, Chrysler, Ford, Toyota, for Nissan vehicles comply with several Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards including hood intrusion in the passenger cabin, preservation of proper door operation following a collision and proper airbag function.
You may be thinking, "Well, if these parts are that bad, surely there's a law against using them without my permission..." You're right again!! Florida statute 626.9743 states "An insurer may not require the use of replacement parts in the repair of a motor vehicle which are not at least equivalent in kind and quality to the damaged parts prior to the loss in terms of fit, appearance, and performance." Sounds like an open and shut case, eh? The law doesn't say "if the insurance company believes they're the equivalent." It doesn't say anything about "if the insurance company hopes they're the equivalent."
The insurance companies need to prove these cheap parts are the exact equivalent to the original factory parts to be in compliance with the law or stop mandating their use. Right? I thought so too... So, I wrote a letter to the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation! Went right to the top, straight to Commissioner Kevin McCarty (well, his office anyway.... he's got "people" for that...). After much arm twisting via the Florida CFO's office, the FL OIR begrudging agreed to "investigate" our concerns. After a couple of months, we received their response "We have concluded our investigation and found no violation of the Florida Insurance Code.", and my favorite part.... "Generally speaking, the burden of proof that an aftermarket part is not of like kind and quality or as safe as an OEM part rests with the one making that assertion, as opposed to one having to prove that the aftermarket part is of like kind and quality and as safe as OEM." Huh?? That one left me scratching my head. Why have a consumer protection law at all then? Your insurance company can mandate the usage of any part they desire, so long as it looks the same. Nobody really complains though because, as they say, "dead men tell no tales..."The jury's still out on this one, but rest assured we will not use aftermarket parts to repair your vehicle (p.s. Also check out Title 49, Chapter 301 Subchapter II Sec. 30122 "Making Safety Devices and Elements Inoperative" in the Federal Code-you can Google it).
How about used crash parts then?? Your insurance estimator will tell you "they're factory original parts taken off of a car that's just like yours". Really? Was your car damaged so severely that it was deemed a total loss and ended up in a junk yard? The car they want to cannibalize to get your replacement parts was. We won't even know if the donor car was damaged in an accident, a flood or even a fire and quite frankly, we don't care-we're not going to use these parts either.
Tune in next week for the rest of 'Your car insurance company hates Earl Stewart Toyota's body shop'