What happened to Will Dunn and other Florida drivers is now part of a legal battle pitting Florida body shop owners against insurance companies.
Dunn's insurer guaranteed to return his vehicle to its pre-loss condition, he said, after an adjuster steered him to the company's preferred body shop.
Gaps in the seams in his Nissan's rear raised his suspicions about the repair.
The wide gaps were a dead give away something was wrong, according to Ray Gunder, who owns Gunder’s Auto Center. Gunder found an entire area of the frame smashed and kinked.
Gunder's Auto Center is one of 20 Florida collision repair facilities that have filed suit against 30 insurance companies. The complaint alleges a pattern of coercion to force these shops to take short cuts on repairs to keep costs low. Plaintiffs argue the practice puts the drivers of these cars at risk.
Gunder said the insurance companies' preferred shops and other businesses are cutting corners in order to make a profit and keep the insurance companies happy.
How can you protect yourself?
After an accident, ask your mechanic for referrals. Examine a shop's finished work and find out about ties to insurance companies. And the shop should offer a lifetime warranty on its work.
A collision sent David Black and his 2013 Nissan to a body shop that regularly deals with his insurance company.
Ray Gunder showed us the short cuts he said could have put Black and his family at risk. A wiring harness that controls the power steering was taped together. And part of the front right frame was cut and welded together when it should have been replaced, according to Gunder.
The Insurance Information Institute defends direct repair programs as a tool to manage repair costs. In an email a spokesperson pointed out, "When the insurance industry takes steps to manage repair costs, it is a consumer benefit. Savings are passed on....using a DRP is a consumer choice...."
Will Dunn said his insurer totaled the car and towed it away after he mentioned he'd contacted the I-Team.
Meanwhile, four similar lawsuits are pending in four other states.