Repair after accident taking forever

My mom’s 2005 Chevy Impala was in an accident Thanksgiving morning when she lost control while swerving to avoid a deer. She wound up in a small depression sort of like a ditch, narrowly missing a stand of trees - she was unhurt.

The car was not in good shape, although I didn’t see it. The passenger side front wheel broke off the axle (I think the repair shop told my mom it is designed to break easily to prevent further damage?), the frame was seriously tweaked, and there was damage to the front bumper and paint. The doors on both sides (particularly the right) didn’t open properly, the trunk was nearly impossible to open, and the fold-down back seats had a 2-inch gap between the backs and bottom cushion.

The collision shop my mom had it towed to told her it was fixable. I had her ask about the frame damage, and he said he doesn’t use a computerized system but that he is very careful to ensure it’s safe to drive afterward. The insurance company authorized repairs (no mention of totaling it), and the collision shop has had it ever since.

It’s been more than 3 full months now, and the collision shop keeps giving her excuses. Recently it’s been that they’re painting it soon or there’s just a few things left to tweak. It’s been 2 months of “just a few more days.” Luckily she was drive my good old 1996 Dodge Neon in the meantime, because I can’t imagine what 3 months of rental car fees would cost. As it is, they’ve had to insure a car they couldn’t drive for 3 months.

I think the car was damaged worse than the shop and insurance adjuster realized, and I’m worried it won’t be completely fixed or safe to drive after all this time. Does she have any options at this point? Is there anything she should ask the guy at the collision shop? My family doesn’t have much experience with accidents, so we’re kind of at a loss here. Thanks

This is a rock and a hard place situation. The only reasonable excuse for a delay should be parts, not for painting or other shop work. I would call the insurance adjuster/claims rep and suggest a meeting with the owner of the body shop to set up established timelines, and to confirm that the insurance company has not yet paid the body shop proprietor. If the proprietor has been paid, then all sorts of leverage went out the window.

This is a situation where insurance company leverage is far more effective than merely the one consumer. They could go so far as to pay and have it towed to be finished at another shop, but that would be highly unusual.

I will be interested to see if anyone else has better suggestions…

Glad to hear no one was hurt.

I agree with your conclusion regarding the amount of damage. It’s a shame your mother didn’t get several estimates before agreeing to have the car repaired.

I’ve never heard of an axle designed to break off on impact. If that’s what they told her it’s BOGUS. It sounds to me like the car suffered serious suspension and body damage all around, not just in one area. The fact that repairs are taking so long does not speak well for the shop doing the work.

I don’t think there’s much you, or she, can do at this point except to wait it out, but I’d give serious consideration to selling or trading the car as soon as it comes out of the body shop. Others may disagree with me, but my experience with crash-damaged cars is that once they suffer sufficient damage, and your description qualifies as far as I’m concerned, the vehicle will never be “right.”

The car may not track straight, the doors and trunk may not line up correctly, and the structural integrity of the unibody (there is no separate “frame”) is going to be questional. Even if it “looks” fine there may be problems down the road.

I have decided that I will never again attempt to keep a car that has taken a significant hit. I’ve tried it twice, and it was trouble both times. No more.

I wish you and your mom the best of luck.

Contact your insurance company and tell them about the delays. They are the real customer, since they are paying for it. Mom is the insurer’s customer. Make sure that the insurance company knows when delays occur, even newer ones, immediately. If there are problems with this shop, they may not give them business in the future.

I was hoping it’d be totaled from the beginning so this wouldn’t be an issue. I do think selling it is a good idea, but I’m not sure my parents will go for it. I guess we’ll have to see what it’s like once she gets it back.

I’ll definitely pass that advice on. Thanks!

Time to call your insurance company. You should check your policy, it may cover the cost of a loaner car. You might want to check your own insurance as well. Cheap insurance can be expensive at times.

Good Luck

he said he doesn’t use a computerized system but that he is very careful to ensure it’s safe to drive afterward.

If it were my car and I heard this- there would have been a vacuum created as I had my car removed from that shop ASAP…

From your discription it sounds as if it should have been totaled. I have inspected over 6,000 vehicles and if this was a ft end hit and you could not open the trunk…OH BOY!
the shop has no computer measuring system but he is very careful…those are empty words, they mean nothing.

Get the ins. comp involved

could it be the shop is stalling because he cannot buy the parts? as in, he cannot get a charge account with a parts dept. Just a thought.
Get your local TV station involved also.

My mom actually got to pick the car up at the beginning of last week. She says it looks great and is driving straight, so it sounds like 3+ months may have been worth the wait after all.

Mom says they ended up replacing the driver’s seat and the back seat because they were broken in the accident. She’s coming into town tonight for a visit, so I’m going to have to poke around. I’m not sure I’ll be able to tell if anything’s amiss, though! :smiley:

Thanks for all the advice, even if I waited too long to ask for it.

Thanks for keeping us up to date.

Make sure all body gaps are consistently spaced. They won’t be perfect but make sure /for example, the lt hood to fender gap is the same as the rt and also does not go wide to narrow. Make sure any engine compartment labels are not missing, I always search for labels, if they are missing I suspect someone has been into the car. Get on your back under the car and look at the frame rails, see if there is any unrepaired damaged or any bare metal exposed from a repair that needs painted. Drive the car for pulling and listen for a growling noise that could possibly be a flattened wheel bearing. Check for overspray. Also check to see if the color is consistent, BUT keep in mind the bumper covers might be slightly off color than the metal.
It’s late and I am tired, that’s all I can think of now. Hope this helps.

I agree with the other posters that this car sounds like it should have been declared a total and also agree with Twin Turbo about their being a red flag here.

You should keep in mind that just because the car looks good and appears to drive straight, etc. does not mean a serious problem, or two, does not exist.

A dealer I worked for took in trade one time a very slick looking Pontiac Grand Prix which he resold very quickly.
About 2 weeks later the people who bought this car brought it in to get a checkout because “it was driving funny”.
A quick jaunt down the street and my heart was in my throat within a block. Two blocks and I turned this deathtrap right around.

Putting it on the rack for an inspection revealed the entire right front floor pan and subframe had been welded (and welded very badly). These welds had promptly cracked and the “driving funny” was caused by the entire right front suspension wallowing around several inches in each direction.

You might consider getting another shop to look this car over even if involves a small fee. If the fee reveals a problem that could lead to the car going in several directions at once it would be a price worth paying.