Your guide to understanding store liability

What we talk about fenders or fences, bumpers or basketballs, there is one constant in every industry: change. The best and brightest in any given industry are those who stay ahead, even when they fall behind as individuals. Lawyer William Ferreira told one such story from his law school days.

“I will never forget, my mentor, when I was in law school, I would come and he would hand me these research projects or whatever,” says Ferreira, whose firm Automotive Defense Specialists is suitable for the auto repair industry. . “And he was like, ‘Look, when I was going to law school, we didn’t have computers, we didn’t have the internet, we didn’t have all these resources available to us. And yes, I know how to use some of them. But new graduates are on the cutting edge of technology. And they know how to access things that I don’t know how to access or access as quickly and efficiently as you new kids.

The analogy here with collision repair is that there’s more for owners to keep up to date than ever before. From OEM procedures to managing electric vehicles, stores face a lot. Staying up to date is not only important for performing quality repairs, it’s absolutely vital to prevent your shop from being exposed to liability. There are more than ever too.

“There’s no one knocking on your door saying, ‘Hey man, you gotta find out about this,’ you gotta be proactive with it, do it on your own and take initiative,” says Justin Fisher, which operates several CARSTAR stores in the Chicagoland area. “…If you don’t know you’re responsible for this, then that’s already a problem or a problem, isn’t it? So the first step would be to be aware, self-aware, knowing that you are responsible for it. And then, okay, how do we implement a process or procedure to make sure we’re doing it right? And are you going far enough?

Many liability issues for stores are evident. If a repair is not carried out correctly and this vehicle has another accident, this workshop is exposed to liability. Then there are other things that are not so obvious. As shops accept more and more work, some are more inclined to sublet work, such as calibrations, as is the case at Fisher shops.

But even if a store employee isn’t the one completing the job, the store can still be held liable if something goes wrong. And with calibrations, the stakes are high. Fisher cited an example of a bumper loaded with blind-spot sensors, which, if only a few degrees away, could equal 15 feet of road misalignment.

“That’s a particular area that I tell my body shops, I know you have to sublet the work, I know you can’t do everything,” says Ferreira. “No one is master of all trades. But when you sublet the job you want to build a relationship with the shop and you want to make sure they’re insured, you know they have some kind of policy if something should happen, or if one of their mechanics were negligent in some and that’s like saying there’s a policy that will cover the damage because you don’t want to be bankrupted or bankrupted by a subleased auto repair shop that did a bad job.

There are, of course, other factors that present obstacles for workshops doing their best to perform safe and quality repairs. Shops need access to the latest OE procedures and how to find them, as Ferreira noted. Stores must also negotiate the repair process with insurers, which can lead to delays and put pressure on all parties.

And if a shop feels compelled to perform repairs on anything other than its own schedule, that opens the door to mistakes. The antidote to this, according to Ferreira, is a combination of thoroughness, patience and determination. Shops just need to take the time to properly research repairs. They must have the patience to tell the insurers that they will do the repair correctly or that they will not do it at all. And they must have the resolve to stick to that message.

“The insurance company is going to come in and give you a terrible first estimate, you’re going to be like, ‘OK, I see what they’re saying, I’m going to go do my own research and see what I need to do to fix it. this vehicle,” Ferreira says. “And you’re going to take pictures, you’re going to print out copies of the manufacturer-specific repairs, where it says you need to fix this, like this, and you’re going to put it all together in an estimate, and you go send it to the adjuster and the insurance company.

Ferreira acknowledges that refoulement is possible, even probable. But he advises stores to do everything possible to avoid anything that exposes them to liability. And this is especially true when there are more and more exhibitions.

There are the aforementioned benchmarks and the infrastructure requirements that come with them. There are strict temperature requirements for the storage of electric vehicles. There are special procedures for safely handling their high voltage systems. There are the environmental requirements for working with aluminum and so on.

“It looks super fun. It’s going to be awesome,” Fisher says with a laugh. everyone can be an expert in fixing them. Electric vehicles are so new that everyone is going to have something different about it, I think in terms of OE. So I’m curious to see how this evolution unfolds.

This raises the stakes for insurers as they are forced into more complicated and expensive repairs. And just as stores need to do their due diligence to stay up-to-date, so do adjusters. Fitters may not yet have the training they need to make an informed estimate, and that’s where the shop comes in again.

“It’s definitely on the shop,” Ferreira says, “or at least the shop foreman, or the senior estimate writer or the teardown specialist, to make sure they’re on their training, make sure make sure that they take as many courses as possible, and make sure that they go to I-CAR, updates and certifications, and that they learn these new systems, and that they learn what repairs will be necessary to restore the vehicle to its pre-accident condition, as that is what the policy allows.”