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My car was damage in the body shop lot, totaled, and then untotalled when the new damage was discovered. How to best proceed?

I will try to keep this short but will be happy to answer any questions. This happened in Denmark and I am learning the hard way that the car laws are quite “special” here…

Basically, my car had extremely minor cosmetic damage caused by a drunk while it was parked. The drunk’s insurance took 100% of the fault, offering to pay for the cost. I was living in Finland at the time, and this was just before I left for Denmark. I took it into a shop there to get an estimate and they estimated something like 500-700 Euro. I didn’t have time to fix it there before moving to Denmark. When I moved and took it into a Danish shop, the next day I was told that the damage was assessed at 30,000 Danish Kroner (roughly 4,000 Euro). This is about eight times more expensive than the Finnish estimate was and while Denmark is more expensive than Finland, especially when it comes to cars, it seemed crazy to me that the difference would be that much and it blew my mind.

Denmark has extremely strict laws that do not favor the individual in these situations. I was unable to withdraw my claim and the car was declared totaled and basically seized by the state. It was not possible to buy it back as it would be in most other countries. It was also not possible to get a second estimate, even though I was sure there had to be an error. So, I got in touch with a automobile lobbying group called FDM (basically the Danish Motorists’ Association) and the guy who handled my case discovered that the damage in the phots I sent him was far less severe than the damage in the photos the insurance company had on file. Which proves that this damage happened in the body shop lot. This happily untotalled my car since the damage from the photos I have was only assessed at 11,000 DKK (~1,500E). So that is very good and I am happy about that.

However, I am of course upset that the shop damaged my car and didn’t tell me about it and got it totaled. In Denmark there are apparently no laws about the shop being responsible. You left it, they damaged it, you are usually SOL. So the FDM guy has told me that the first and best course of action is to talk to the shop and try to get them to do the decent thing and fix it for free or at cost. There might be legal routes to pursue after that, but he said this was best.

My questions are:

  1. In Denmark, it is customary for a body shop to call a customer and inform them if they think the car will be totaled. I was not called. It is my suspicion that I was not called (which is weird, according to most Danes I have talked to) because the shop was trying to get the car totaled so it would not have to take responsibility. Is this insurance fraud on their part if so?

  2. Is it even worth my time to try to get them to do the right thing? My thought is that if it’s a couple of guys acting without input from management, then it might be if management is decent. But is that a likely scenario or not? I have no idea how body shops work.

  3. Is there some reason for which this damage may have been inflicted intentionally? The mind blowing thing about it is that it is literally on the same rear side panel that had the original small dent. It’s just an order of magnitude worse.

  4. Should I just take the car elsewhere to get fixed? I have a hard time feeling like I can trust this shop. However, my mother has a great relationship with a mechanic that started in a similar way (accidental damage) and that guy made it right and now they’ve worked together for decades so I am not sure…

  5. Any other advice?

Sorry, this did get long. I will be happy to answer any questions since I feel like I left some info out trying to keep it even this short. This has been a heart wrenching ordeal since I love my car and It’s been going on for over two months now.

There is only one regular poster here from Denmark and you have a legal problem so what ever I might think is worthless. I guess you need to talk to a lawyer or whatever it is called there and your insurance.

I guess what I am hoping for is advice for how to try to get the workshop manager / owner to make things right BEFORE I try to litigate or pursue other avenues. Like what to say to this person?

I live in the U.S. I’ve had four insurance claims. Each time I had very little interaction with the repair facility; and those were just about scheduling, not so much the kind of repair. Most of the “important” interaction was done with the insurance company as they were largely responsible for the repair and/or totaling of the car. If it was shown that the car was damaged at the facility, the insurance company would most likely have lots of leverage to get the facility to do the right thing.

It sounds like your country’s laws don’t really allow you a fair chance to get your money or your car back. And it sounds like the lobbying group isn’t lobbying for your benefit. I really am not a believer in the goodness of mankind, so I wouldn’t expect the shop to do the right thing - after all, they had the opportunity to do so already. Your remaining avenue may only be a legal one.

And get over the relationship aspect, regardless of what they did for mom. Their actions thusfar are those of an impersonal business, not a personal friend.