An Ounce of Prevention Is Worth a Pound of Cure

As Benjamin Franklin knew then, and most of us know now, preventing a loss carries a greater advantage then experiencing one. As those who may have suffered through a property claim caused by fire can attest, the loss of productivity alone is immeasurable.

But in liability cases, time and time again when working through discovery, it appears that there were plenty of warning signs that something could go awry that ultimately went ignored. In many circumstances, even the most remedial standard operating practices supported by common sense were overlooked. And, on the map of misfortune, all roads lead to financial turmoil.

So what can a garage owner do to strengthen their defensible position in a tort matter alleging bodily injury or property damages?

1. At point of vehicle drop off, inspect the vehicle to ensure any obvious damage is documented on the repair estimate. Think rental car community.

2. Document the expected issues voiced by the customer, as well as any known facts (Smoke, leaks, missing stereo, etc.)

3. Document all parts being dropped off for installation and have a stance on whether used parts will be installed. (Used being any part not in its original packaging so to properly identify the origin of the manufacturer and specific fitment application. Any part not in this category beware)

4. All work should be signed off in stages to ensure the agreement of charges incurred are approved and work performed is acceptable.

5. Have an identity that you can trace. Don’t hesitate to stripe bolts after torqueing to ensure you can identify tampering that may have led up to the causation of loss. Some clients have stamps to mark their work and parts, as the DIY community is notorious for changing vehicle perimeters after repair. In fact, you can count on it.

6. Have customers initial all post-service directives like returning for re-torque. Verbal directives are easily and quickly forgotten and assuming the customer will get that front-end alignment done before driving the car is not a plausible defense.

7. Document all rejected recommendations. In claim after claim, the customer alleges that they were not advised something was worn or worse yet, needed to be replaced. Although they specifically elected not to follow through on the recommendation due to the expense, this conversation often goes without record. Everyone knows if a shop can sell a part, they will, so, should a customer elect not to buy the two rear tires due to budgetary reasons, it should be documented and initialed by the customer.

The above examples were left at lucky number 7, for those who may never experience any type of claim are the lucky few. For others, the burden of being in business supports the reality that customers will say and do things that run contrary to your belief. Take a moment and ask yourself, what can I do to prevent false accusations from blurring the truth? In the end, not having documentation could cause you a pain in your stomach and, worse yet, a financial headache. Luckily, Benjamin Franklin just may have the cure.

Alliant note and disclaimer: This document is designed to provide general information and guidance. Please note that prior to implementation your legal counsel should review all details or policy information. Alliant Insurance Services does not provide legal or tax advice, or legal or tax opinions. If a legal or tax opinion is needed, please seek the services of your own legal or tax advisor. This document is provided on an “as is” basis without any warranty of any kind. Alliant Insurance Services disclaims any liability for any loss or damage from reliance on this document.

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A.J. Hecht

A.J. Hecht is the managing editor of THE SHOP and host of the In Gear with THE SHOP podcast. Have an idea, a tip, or a question you’d like to see answered? Contact A.J. at ahecht@cahabamedia.com.

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