I think body shop is scamming me... help please?


#1

I am hoping someone can help me – I have already lost $1,100 and am afraid it could be much more. Here’s the deal: I got into a car accident. My insurance coverage has a $500 deductible and a short-term car rental. I took it to this body shop that had great reviews and a great reputation in town (I had just moved here and am not from here.) FYI, it turned out this place is under new management now but continues to use the name of the former owner and people don’t even realize it’s a new guy.

So basically, this place has my car and has been dragging their feet. A job that the insurance adjuster said should take 5 days has now taken 4 weeks. They have taken so long, that my insurance company’s rental car coverage ended and I had to keep paying out of pocket for a rental. I have paid $600 in car renting alone already. I’ve told the body shop this – they don’t seem to care. The body shop made it clear they expected to find hidden damage and would need to do extra work beyond the estimate my insurance company’s adjuster agreed to. The problem is, the guy is CLAIMING the car could be ready in 4 days. I asked him if he got additional work approved by the insurance company and he said he just needed to send them the paper work. But I contacted my insurance company and they said an adjuster hasn’t looked at it – they said if additional work is needed, the body shop will have the adjuster come back to look at it and the adjuster will send its findings directly to the insurance company, but that hasn’t happened. No one has looked at my car. The body shop is lying to me. So:

  1. either they have gone ahead and done extra work that my insurance company hasn’t even agreed to pay for (and may not) or they are lying to me and aren’t even close to done and are planning to work on my car for several more weeks.

  2. even if the car was done in a few days, I wouldn’t yet have payment for the car authorized by my insurance company and unless I used my own money, I’d have to pay more to rent a car until the check from the insurance company arrives.

I am scared I am getting scammed and screwed. They already have my car. What are my rights? What can I do? Is this behavior suspicious or will it be OK? I don’t know if the fact that I’m an out-of-towner (yankee in the south) and a young female without any guys to help me are playing a part. I’m so scared I’m gonna lose another $1,100, if not more. Please help if you can! Thank you.


#2

It may be time to tow the car so long as it is still together, to another body shop of your choice. Second possibility is to set up an appointment at the body shop and get the claims adjuster and owner together to discuss any further additional damage that may have been found.

To me, waiting one month for a body repair is too long unless parts are not available. If what you say about the owner not looking at the car or not processing an additional claim inquiry for the claims adjuster to evaluate is true, then you are certainly not getting any customer service I expect.

My trusted body shop processes and gets additional damage claims back in a matter of a couple of days, by comparison.

It is up to you and your pocket book on the rental car. You may want to find a cheaper, more reasonable rental while you sort this out, and present the additional costs of inconvenience of the month-plus in small claims court to the body shop owner, if he is the one at fault. Otherwise, you may be able to negotiate with the insurance company, but that is unlikely if the owner has not resolved or presented additional damage issues to the insurance company.


#3

Wow - I’m sorry you are in this situation. Although I can understand why you feel vulnerable, it may be that these folks aren’t really all that bad just because you are a yankee female - they might just be bad (OK, bad joke).

But, it’s possible they are just busy - did you see a lot of activity going on there when you visited? If they are busy, I can imagine a couple of things that are contributing to the delay. They may be waiting for parts - that can take a long time, especially if they need to come from Japan… And, they may not be making your car a priority because it isn’t the most lucrative job they have. Just some ideas - not necessarily gonna mean that things won’t work out well.

If you don’t have the check from the insurance company, what is your hurry? How long does the insurance company take to settle with you?

Is your car driveable at all? If so, get it back and use it - turn the rental car back in. If you need to stay with this shop, tell them you will bring your car back for repairs only when they have all the parts on site and can tell you that they will actually be working on the car. Their response to this action will tell you a lot.

Body shop repairs often take a long time - hope this works out OK for you in the end.


#4

Contact Your Trusted Insurance Agent (Probably Still At Your Former Location) And Have Her / Him Go To Work For You. That’s What Agents Do.

My agent / owner Suzanne has helped me with accidents, total losses, equitable settlements, rental car extensions, and the like. This is where a quality insurance company with dedicated agents, in a local brick and mortar building, come into play. It’s possible that your agent can communicate with your closest office to get things expedited.

What is the name of the insurance company ?

CSA


#5

Thank you all so much for your input.

When I talk to the body shop and ask what’s taking so long, he keeps saying they have other customers on the schedule and they are trying to devote as much time as they can to my car. It is a body shop with a lot of activity, but my concern is he keeps giving me false dates. Yesterday, he told me Wednesday and after more questions, he said Wednesday “in a perfect world” and “that’ll be a stretch.” I pushed until he admitted we we’re looking at Friday. Before that, he had said two weeks and, I feel, with no intention of actually being anywhere near done after two weeks. He said what’s left is putting the doors back on and painting. I don’t understand how that could take another week.

Anyway, I have a check for the original estimate. My concern about the additional work is this: it took a couple days to get an adjuster to see my car the first time. Then, it took time for my insurance company to process. And then it took several days for the check to show up in the mail. I am strongly envisioning a scenario where, if this guy isn’t lying and the car is done, I can’t pay for it because I’m still waiting on the check for another week.

Another, scarier scenario is my insurance company says they won’t pay for extra work, but the work is already done, and somehow I end up contractually obligated to pay for it. Sigh.

The problem is the claim agent at my insurance company (New York Central insurance) isn’t helpful at all. Honestly, through this entire process, she has been a nightmare. I’ve never been in a car accident and she didn’t explain anything to me and treated me like I was annoying/dumb for asking questions about the process. Lack of communication had me waste a week of my rental coverage without my car even being in the shop. I asked if she could contact the body shop about this and she said it’s up to them and the adjuster to work out. As far as my insurance company is concerned, they have done what they needed to do and I don’t see how they have any interest in helping me.

The car rental I have is the cheapest I could find. I’m renting a Chevy Aveo, blech. I even used a coupon. :frowning:

My boss graciously offered to come with me to the body shop to ask them what is going on and make sure everything is being handled. I don’t know if there’s anything specific I should try to get from them, other than making sure the additional work is approved immediately. It seems like I am at their mercy and have no way to do anything about their constant pushing my ready date back, right?


#6

I think your first step would be to talk with your claim adjuster’s supervisor. You might also talk with the agent who sold you the policy and let him/her know that if you don’t get some satisfaction, you will not be renewing your insurance with them.

Next, talk with your local Better Business Bureau and put in a complaint against the body shop. Next, if your boss is willing to step in and help, by all means, use him.


#7

My insurance company dropped me because of the accident, which is also why I think they don’t intend on helping me at all. I am still covered for several more months, but they have no interest in making me a satisfied customer. I will see about going directly to adjuster if the shop keeps stonewalling me. I’m hoping that since my boss knows more about cars and is a man he can help show the body shop that I’m not fine to just be taken advantage of and hopefully get some concrete answers from them. I wish I could take it somewhere else, but the guy CLAIMED the car was not drivable and the doors weren’t on.

I have already planned on contacting BBB and leaving reviews on consumer sites. I think that’s my only recourse short of suing or getting the Attorney General or someone to probe.

None of you said this sounded like a scam, so that’s comforting. My boss told me that body shops usually scam by using used parts and charging for new. To me it seems like taking longer than necessary and doing extra work without approval is its own type of scam, but I’ve never dealt with car repairs before.


#8

What insurance company is this? It is lousy that they are dropping you just because you made them make good on what you paid for.


#9

New York Central, as stated above.
If it were me, I’d just tell the guy to put the car on the flat bed tow truck that you’re having come pick it up. If they can’t see to it that they get the car fixed in such a long time, you’re gonna take it to someone who CAN fix it.
Call local dealerships of the brand of car you drive(you didn’t say what it was) and see if they have a body shop attached to their dealership. If the new body shop is looking to make a good name for itself, it might even offer to pay to have the car towed to their shop.


#10

In My State, The Shop Would Put A Mechanic’s Lein On The Car If The Owner Authorized The Work, They Started Working On It And Ordered Parts, And Then The Owner Took It.

I’d bet that there is nothing in writing about when the car is going to be completed and we have an AWOL insurance company. This is just one example of when bargain insurance isn’t.

One might catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. I think I’d go in there with a smile and donuts or brownies and see what’s going on.

CSA


#11

I always take surveys and polls with a large grain of salt but by the survey the insurance company does not look too good.


#12

I am not surprised by that survey. My claim agent, like I said, has been horribly rude and lacked even a little sympathy or empathy for how overwhelmed, clueless and worried I was about dealing with everything. I was actually on this insurance through my mom, who has been with them for like 20+ years. Getting dropped is almost a silver lining. Turns out, NYCM is overpriced too. Looks like we are going to get the same coverage with lower premiums, even after this accident, from a different provider (Travelers).

Anyway, I appreciate the suggestions, but I worry that moving the car at this point (after 4 weeks!) will only force me to pay another extra cost (towing) but won’t help me get my biggest concern (getting the extra work cleared) resolved. I just don’t know what to do… if the body shop doesn’t initiate the process of approving the extra work, I don’t think the insurance company or the adjuster care…

Shouldn’t body shops get the extra work approved by insurance companies BEFORE they do it? If the timeline they are claiming is remotely accurate, they had to have already done the extra work, right? I asked him what extra work it entailed and he mentioned replacing an entire rocker panel or something instead of only part of it, so I think they ordered more parts for it. (My car is a 2007 Ford Focus if that helps anyone.) This is extremely confusing and concerning to me. Is there a protocol?

A picture of my car just for reference: http://img97.imageshack.us/img97/4464/dsc0258p.jpg


#13

I had assumed that the body shop was just giving extremely bad service, that happens. They may be waiting for a deal to come up on a back door and rocker panel so they can pocket some extra profit.

But looking at your car, I will say that it is starting to look like a scam. Unfortunately, when you get in an accident, especially if it is your fault, you get treated like a criminal. If your area is like mine, you probably didn’t have a choice about who towed your vehicle. The cops call someone in their pool and you are forced to use them.

If this is the case, and the body shop is in anyway connected to the tow company, then you have a case against the law enforcement agency that called the tow truck. Your first step in this case would be to call the law enforcement agency and put in a complaint. This puts them in a precarious position and they will often use their influence to get this resolved correctly.


#14

If you did not authorize the extra work and the insurance company did not authorize the work, you may have reason to avoid paying for whatever the body shop did.


#15

No, I was able to drive the car myself and choose this body shop based on a good reputation and positive reviews. Like I said, the shop recently changed owners, but they still use the former owner’s name. I think the taking a long time is its own possible scam but I’ve already trapped myself into that problem – I’m really worried about the extra not being approved by the time the car is ready or at all. :-/


#16

i still say call them and tell them you’re gonna have the car moved within a few days if it isn’t ready by then. Even if they flub some BS at you, tell them you’re going to get your car with a police escort if needed. This might put them in a position to actually do something about the car.


#17

I’m realizing now, what has probably happened is my car has sat on their back lot for the past three weeks and they probably didn’t even tear it down until yesterday, because they have finally contacted an adjuster to approve additional work. (The adjuster is going to take another two days to come out and look at it… perfect.) This is insane and I am going to sue them for the cost of my rental car – my car was drivable; I could’ve had it instead of letting it sit on a lot and collect dust. I’m going there with my boss today. Will update in case anyone is following the thread.


#18

The body shop was probably overbooked, but didn’t want to lose the business. They should have let you know about the backlog and made an appointment when they could start the work.
A year ago, my new car was bumped in a parking lot and the bumper assembly was damaged. The woman that hit me was a frequent customer at the body shop that is part of the Buick dealer. She didn’t want to turn it into her insurance, so she said she would pay any amount up to $2500. Well, the estimate was $275. I went to this shop and they made an appointment for 2 weeks later. The car was to be ready at 3 in the afternoon 2 days later. They called me when it was to be ready and said that they needed another hour. When I went to pick up the car an hour later I found out why they wanted another hour. They completely cleaned the car inside and out–it looked brand new. I am relaying this to you, because I think this is how a good shop should operate.


#19

Triedaq lucked out. Everyone, myself included, that ever let someone not report it to their insurance got screwed. They never want to pay after they get away from the accident scene and have time to think about it. I had a girl back into me and said her parents would pay and beg me to not to call the police. When I called her dad that evening, he called me a liar and said I hit her in the rear.


#20

I have been hit twice before by drivers that did not have insurance and in both cases they did the right thing. This last time, the woman who hit me had a Lexus. She showed me sections of the car that the body shop had done and I could not tell her car had been hit. When I took the car to the body shop, they knew her well. Apparently she bangs into things rather often. She is on a first name basis with everyone in the shop.