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Shoddy Repair of a Vehicle Traps Couple in Fiery Crash, Jury Awards $42 Million

Shoddy repair work by an auto body shop nearly cost a Texas couple their lives, and has left them with major burns and crushing injuries. It was a crash from which they otherwise should have walked away relatively unscathed. 

The Dallas Morning News reports that prior to the 2013 crash, the couple brought the vehicle into a local repair shop to address damage to the vehicle roof after a bad hail storm. But instead of welding the repair, as is recommended by the vehicle manufacturer, the body shop used an approach that was cheaper, untested and involved a glue-like adhesive. This, plaintiffs attorney argued at trial, made a huge difference in the outcome of a subsequent crash.

The message the jury sent with its $42 million verdict favoring the plaintiff is that repair shops must fix vehicles properly, or else pay the price if someone is hurt when you don’t. Plaintiffs are also suing their auto insurer, alleging agents there bullied the auto shop into using the cheaper method – something that is common practice among auto insurers seeking to bolster their bottom line. 

Plaintiff couple had been traveling to see family for Christmas in December 2013 when a pickup truck hydroplaned and struck their passenger car head-on. Plaintiff’s car caught fire and the roof collapsed. Both suffered crushing injuries to their bodies. The husband endured severe, fourth-degree burns on his lower legs and feet prior to his rescue. His wife had to be pulled from the vehicle through a passenger side window.

Although the couple survived, their injuries were severe. Initially when they filed their car accident lawsuit, they asked for $42 million in damages – 5 cents for every second that plaintiff husband is expected to live, given that with his fourth-degree burns, his nerve endings have been utterly destroyed. The pain he endures is excruciating, with one doctor at trial comparing it to the pain a woman might feel during birth – every second of every day.

The crux of the car accident lawsuit is that the auto body shop made a conscious decision to depart from the vehicle manufacturer’s specified repair manual by using glue rather than the welding technique. Plaintiff’s attorney said the vehicle manufacturer’s body repair manual is the “safety bible” of that vehicle. They violated the safety bible to bolster their bottom line – at the expense of the people who were going to be trusting their lives to this vehicle.

This is an issue that impacts everyone because there is no motor vehicle owner who hasn’t had to deal with an auto repair shop. We trust these individuals to do the job we hired them to do and to ensure their work meets reasonable standards.

The body repair shop director stated in sworn testimony that the procedures for repairing a vehicle are guided by insurance. If a vehicle is brought to the shop, it’s the insurer – not the vehicle manufacturing guide – that will dictate how the vehicle is repaired.  When asked to clarify whether an insurer could trump the vehicle manufacturer specifications, the director said yes, the insurer could supersede the manufacturing guidelines by not paying the bill.

Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights. Now serving Orlando, West Palm Beach, Port St. Lucie and Fort Lauderdale.

Additional Resources:

John Eagle Collision Center Must Pay $31.5 Million in Damages to Dallas Couple for Negligent Repair, Oct. 3, 2018, By Josh Cable, Body Shop Business

More Blog Entries:

Establishing Vicarious Liability in Truck Accident Lawsuit Filed by Injured Trucker, Feb. 4, 2018, Orlando Car Accident Attorney Blog

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