In most cases, an insurance company is generally required to provide its policyholders with access to automobile repairs in the event of a car accident. Alternatively, the owner of a motor vehicle that was damaged in a car accident may also schedule a separate appointment with their own mechanic to make repairs.
Regardless of whether it is an insurance company or a motor vehicle owner who is requesting the appointment, vehicle repairers have a duty to restore the vehicle to its original condition. This means that the vehicle should appear and operate in the same manner that it did prior to the damage caused by an accident.
On the other hand, repairs that do not restore a motor vehicle back to its original condition (i.e., prior to an accident) are known as, “substandard repairs.” Substandard repairs may also refer to repairs that damage a car even more so than its condition before and after the accident. In other words, a vehicle that receives substandard repairs will neither be fixed as if it were brand new nor close to acceptable car repair industry standards.
When such a situation arises, an insurance policyholder or a vehicle owner may be able to sue either the insurance company or the repair shop for any losses they suffered as a result of the damages caused by the substandard repairs. In order to prove that a vehicle received substandard automobile repairs, the policyholder or owner may need to demonstrate one of the following two factors:
- Quality of the mechanic work: First, if the plaintiff can prove that the mechanic work fell below car repair industry standards, then they may be able to recover damages for the substandard work performed on their vehicle.
- Quality of the repair parts: Second, a plaintiff may also be able to recover damages if the repair shop used faulty materials or car parts that were of substandard quality. To prevent this issue from happening, a person should ask a mechanic before they begin repairs whether they will be using new parts from the original manufacturer or refurbished parts from a third party.
- It should be noted that it is very important that you get the mechanic’s response in writing. This can be used as evidence to not only recover damages in the event of a lawsuit, but also to submit a claim to have the substandard car parts replaced with new ones from the original manufacturer.
Additionally, even if a vehicle owner is not bringing a legal claim, it is good practice to almost always have some sort of written agreement in place between the repair shop and the vehicle owner who is requesting repairs. The agreement should contain provisions, such as the types of repairs that need to be made and the quality of parts being used to make those repairs.
Again, it will be easier for the vehicle owner to prove that a substandard repair was made when the repair shop promises a certain level of repairs and car parts in writing, as opposed to having an oral agreement. In this way, the repair shop’s failure to adhere to the terms of the parties’ agreement will be as if their actions had breached a formal contract.
In some instances, a vehicle owner may even want to consider creating a formal contract to ensure that their car is properly repaired. This is especially true when a vehicle has customized parts or is an extremely expensive car to repair.
Therefore, if you need help with drafting a formal contract agreement or believe that your vehicle has received substandard repairs, then it may be in your best interest to contact a local personal injury lawyer for further assistance.
How Can I Prove Automobile Repairs Were Substandard?
As mentioned, the best way to ensure that automobile repairs will not fall below car repair industry standards is to get a mechanic’s promises regarding the repairs in writing. The written statement is a solid form of proof that can be used to support a claim that automobile repairs were substandard.
Some other types of evidence that may be useful in demonstrating that automobile repairs were substandard include:
- Photos or videos of the vehicle from both before and after the repairs were made;
- Written notes of how a vehicle may have been performing prior to and after the repairs;
- Copies of a policyholder’s insurance policy;
- Copies of the mechanic’s repair shop policy; and/or
- Witness testimony (e.g., if the repair shop has a reputation for using flawed or old car parts).
In addition, there are also some federal and state business regulations that prohibit insurance and repair companies from engaging in deceptive trade practices like using false advertising as a tactic to lure in customers. Patrons who believe that such mechanisms were used to convince them to hire a certain company should preserve a copy of the advertisement. This may be submitted as evidence during a lawsuit for substandard repairs as well.
How Can I Avoid Substandard Repairs?
It can be very difficult to completely avoid or prevent a vehicle from receiving substandard repairs. The reason as to why this might be is because there is always some sort of gap where the vehicle will not be under the control of its owner. For instance, when the vehicle is in the repair shop awaiting repairs, the vehicle will be under the control of either the repair shop or the individual mechanic who is responsible for making the repairs.
However, there are some things that a vehicle owner can do to avoid substandard repairs on their vehicle as much as possible. This can include:
- Make sure to ask questions before handing over a vehicle in need of repairs. Both a repair shop and an insurance company should provide honest answers to questions concerning the actual repair work as well as those regarding monetary charges.
- It is important to refrain from using the services of a repair shop or insurance company that is not able to provide a solid answer for the price of repairs or a reasonable estimate of how long it will take to do the repairs. Look online for reviews of companies and general industry standards for specific repair times and prices.
- Get any promises made in writing. As previously discussed, a vehicle owner should require the repair shop to enter into a written agreement that provides the types of repairs being made and the quality of parts being used. This statement can essentially serve as a legally enforceable contract if any disputes should arise over the repairs in the future.
- Do not grant permission to others to authorize repairs. In most cases, usually only the car owner is allowed to consent to make repairs after a motor vehicle accident. Unless there is an emergency situation wherein the owner is incapacitated, no one else should be able to authorize a mechanic or insurance company to make repairs on a damaged vehicle.
Finally, a lot of the tactics in the above list will apply to all repairs, not just those repairs made after a car collision. If a vehicle owner has an issue concerning substandard repairs, then they should contact a personal injury lawyer for further advice since the laws regarding substandard vehicle repairs will often vary by jurisdiction.
How Can a Lawyer Help With Substandard Repairs After a Car Accident?
It may be necessary to hire a local car accident lawyer if you are faced with an issue involving substandard repairs made to a vehicle after a car accident. An experienced car accident lawyer will already be familiar with the laws and industry standards in your particular state and thus will be able to provide you with valuable legal advice.
Your lawyer can also determine whether you have a viable claim, and if so, can help you file a lawsuit against a repair shop or your insurance company in court.
Additionally, your lawyer can assist you with filing a claim to exchange substandard car parts for new ones and can negotiate with an insurance company on your behalf. If a repair shop or insurance company refuses to honor the claim for new vehicle parts, then your lawyer can help you to recover damages.
Finally, should you need to appear in court due to a dispute over substandard vehicle repairs, your lawyer will be able to provide representation during any related legal proceedings as well.