When people take their cars to an auto body shop, it’s only reasonable for them to expect a certain quality and workmanship level. After all, they have a vehicle with a damaged body, and they’re about to spend their hard-earned money to make it right. Plus, they’ve chosen that particular auto body shop because it claims to be able to cater to the car owner’s needs.
But what do you do if you’re caught in a case of auto body work gone wrong?
Unfortunately, there are a few bad apples even it comes to finding the best auto body shop. Instead of providing the quality auto body repair that they claim, customers might end up with a no-better vehicle. In a worst-case scenario, the car might come out worse than it was when it went in.
In this article, we’re going to explore this issue to help you understand what rights you have as an Australian consumer and what kind of action you can take if you’re ever faced with an ‘auto bodywork gone wrong’ situation.
In auto bodywork gone bad situations, some customers may escalate it into a legal matter. So let's be clear about one thing about moving on: this article is not providing any kind of legal advice. The only person who is qualified to give legal advice is a lawyer. So, if you feel like taking that route, you'll want to consult with a qualified expert.
Reducing the Risk of Auto Body Repair Going Wrong
Suppose you’re reading this article as a precaution before taking your car to an auto body shop. If that’s the case, then there are a few steps you can take to reduce the risk of anything going wrong.
Here are a few.
Find a Reputable Auto Body Shop
Always go with a reputable auto body shop even if it costs a bit more. That way, you can enjoy a little more peace of mind knowing that the shop has treated other customers well.
Check with Your Insurer
Auto insurance companies typically have recommended or approved auto body shops. Even if you're not filing an insurance claim for the repairs you'd like to get, you can at least trust a body shop that you know your insurer approves of.
It’s always a good idea to compare two or more body shops for the same repairs. That way, you’ll get a sense of the average costs, and you’ll be able to tell if a shop is trying to overcharge you.
Get everything in black and white. That includes an itemised bill, any payment invoices and receipts, and so on. Documentation makes disputes much easier to resolve if and when they happen.
What to Do If a Car Body Repair Goes Wrong
Perhaps you’ve picked up your car from the body shop, and you realise that it has new problems. Or, your vehicle is worse off, and you can’t drive it at all.
In those cases, here are a few things you can do.
Is the Problem Related to the Auto Body Work?
Firstly, you have to ask yourself a crucial question: Is the problem related to the auto body repair that your vehicle just received?
Sometimes when we pick our cars up from any kind of workshop, we pay exceptional attention to the car and notice problems that we didn't see before. It could be a particular noise, slightly different handling, or the car horn might even sound a little weird when you use it again.
Here, being objective is vitalt. Yes, some problems might be a direct result of a car body repair gone wrong. Still, it’s important to realise that some issues may have been caused by something else instead.
Discuss with the Auto Body Shop
Most auto body shops don’t like making mistakes. Typically, they’d be more than willing to acknowledge their mistakes and fix them quickly for a paying customer like you.
The first thing you should do is bring the car back to the body shop and discuss the matter with them. Doing that will give them a chance to fix any mistakes, or at the very least, they’ll be able to provide you with an explanation.
Contact Your Insurer
There are some situations where an insurer is involved in the process, such as right after a car accident. Since they’d likely be the ones to finance the auto body repair, you should contact and discuss the matter with them.
Get an Independent Assessment
Another possibility is to get a neutral third-party to assess your vehicle. That way, they’ll be able to generate a report explaining what the problem is, as well as their likely causes.
This kind of assessment will be pretty handy in trying to settle any disputes, or at the very least, it may help convince the auto body shop to resolve the issue.
Can I Sue a Body Shop for Poor Quality or Messing Up with the Repair?
Suppose the problem isn’t getting resolved, even after you’ve discussed it with the auto body shop. In these situations, you may want to escalate the matter legally and initiate a lawsuit against the auto body shop in question.
As mentioned earlier, this article isn’t here to provide you with any legal advice. Only a qualified lawyer can do that. In short, consulting a lawyer about your situation is an excellent first step. It’s entirely possible they’ll recommend writing a formal complaint letter or filing a complaint with the relevant government authorities as the first steps.
It’s not unusual to reserve lawsuits as a last resort. However, all of that depends on the advice of your lawyer. For all we know, your case might be so severe that a lawsuit is the only way to go; only a lawyer can determine that.
Understand More & Be a Better Car Owner!
To understand more about auto body repair and other related topics, please check out our blog over at Carpart.com.au. You may also find this article on the Australian Consumer Law useful. You’ll discover plenty more to help you understand how to get the services you need for your vehicle while avoiding many of the pitfalls.
By Ray Hasbollah