A Lakeland car crash victim says she trusted the insurance company to steer her to a quality repair shop. Now Sheila New says she's scared to get behind the wheel of her own vehicle. Experts say she has a good reason to fear for her family’s safety.
Our I-Team has looked at this issue before: Insurance companies accused of steering car crash victims to their preferred shops. One major lawsuit says the practice leads to dangerous repairs.
A buckle in the roof, another in the rear frame and gaps where parts should be aligned. All point to a dangerous repair, according to Ray Gunder of Gunder's Auto in Lakeland and two other experts we spoke with who examined the 2012 Dodge Challenger.
A compromised frame could lead to injury or worse. These experts say with a hard enough hit, another car would come into the passenger compartment. That is why New says she and her daughter will never get behind the wheel again.
After another car rammed the Dodge in the right rear side last year, New says Geico steered her to one of their preferred shops. Post repair, New noticed the buckling in the roof.
Geico told us it is not related to their shop's repair. The company suggested the vehicle had been in another accident. In an email a spokesperson stated, "Regarding the claims of additional damage to the frame rail, floor, quarter panel and the nonaligned parts, these items are consistent with a rear end impact to the vehicle.....in fact, the shop that completed the repairs has photos of the vehicle during the course of repairs showing no buckles in the quarter panel or dents in the rear body panel.”
New insists she has not been in a second accident.
Two of three auto experts we consulted with for this story including Gunder's Auto are part of a lawsuit filed against Geico and other big name insurance companies. In all, 500 body shops in 36 states have filed suit over the steering of crash victims to preferred shops.
Now New has no choice but to file a claim with her own insurance or file a complaint with the state for mediation.