Issues & Myths
As part of our commitment to provide you with the highest possible level of claims service, we feel it is important to keep you informed of the current issues and myths facing you as an insurance consumer.
If you have further questions, your insurance broker can provide additional information and advice to ensure your insurance needs are met.
- Aftermarket Repair Parts
- Branding for Total-Loss Vehicles
- Towing and Storage
- Collision Reporting Centres
Aftermarket Repair Parts
Aftermarket, or Non-OEM, parts are usually described as new parts made by a company other than the original equipment manufacturer (OEM). While in the past, this has generally been the situation, in recent years many OE manufacturers have outsourced the production of parts, and, as a result, in some cases the same company is producing both the OE and aftermarket part.
Aftermarket parts can be divided into two major categories: crash (collision) parts and mechanical parts. Examples of mechanical parts include brake assemblies, engine components (starters, alternators, etc.), steering components (steering racks, control arm, etc.) and shock absorbers. Crash parts are usually welded or bolted onto the frame assembly and can be sub divided into two groups: structural (some bumper reinforcements, some radiator supports, frame rails, etc.) and cosmetic (fenders, hoods, door skins, etc.).
While aftermarket mechanical parts have been widely accepted and used by the general public, OEMs and other groups have claimed frequently that aftermarket crash parts are inferior in quality and fit. As a result, the Certified Automotive Parts Association (CAPA) was established in 1987 to develop and oversee a testing and inspection program for certifying the quality of parts used for collision repairs (www.capacertified.org). "CAPA was founded to promote price and quality competition in the collision part industry, thereby reducing the cost of crash repairs to consumers without sacrificing quality."
In addition, The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, famous for their crash ratings of new vehicles, has also published a number of tests indicating that the use of cosmetic crash parts has no impact on auto safety.
Another concern to consumers regarding the use of aftermarket parts is warranty. When any part has been replaced, the original warranty on that part lapses. The warranty on the rest of the vehicle, however, is unaffected. After the replacement part has been installed, whether OEM or aftermarket, the new warranty takes over. Warranties on aftermarket parts are as good and in some cases better than OEM warranties, as many manufacturers and distributors of aftermarket parts offer limited lifetime warranties.
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Branding for Total-Loss Vehicles
Vehicle branding regulations are now in place in all provinces in Canada (and many states in the U.S.). These regulations require insurers and others, including self-insurers, auctioneers, importers, salvors and individuals, to "brand" vehicles that are severely damaged and consequently treated as total losses.
The objectives of vehicle branding are to:
- enhance road safety by keeping severely damaged vehicles off the road
- protect consumers in the used-vehicle market place
- make stolen vehicles difficult to be re-licensed
- make stolen parts more difficult to be re-used
While it varies slightly from province to province, generally vehicles that fall under the program will be branded as follows:
Irreparable (Non-repairable) - a vehicle that has been damaged to the extent that it has no value other than as a source of parts or scrap
Salvage - a vehicle that can be repaired but is subject to a vigorous inspection process prior to going back on the road
Rebuilt - a vehicle previously branded as "salvage" but has been rebuilt, inspected and licensed for use on the road
None (exclusive to Ontario) - all vehicles in Ontario that have not been assigned a brand. A vehicle might be branded "None", but you should be aware that this does not mean the vehicle was never given a brand in another jurisdiction, or that it was not rebuilt prior to the mandatory vehicle branding program, or that it was not a total loss but still did not meet the Ontario requirements to classify it as "salvage" or "irreparable".
Stolen - a temporary brand that can only be applied by the police when a vehicle has been reported stolen
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Towing and Storage
Generally speaking, tow truck operators provide a very valuable service to the motoring public. In addition to the obvious, tow truck operators are quite often the first to arrive at the scene of an accident and have been known on many occasions to provide assistance and/or first aid to disorientated or injured accident victims. In addition, they are quite often seen directing traffic and working with the authorities to clear the accident scene as quickly as possible to avoid further accidents and to restore normal traffic flow. In so doing, they are often putting themselves at risk of injury.
Some tow truck operators, however, exceed their authority and do not always act in the best interest of the accident victim. Unfortunately, some operators have been known to recommend collision repair facilities not because of the quality of work they do but because they pay the tow operator a commission, generally a percentage of the repair cost (as high as 15-20%), for securing the job. The tow truck operator may use other enticements such as a free loaner car, additional work at no cost to the owner or the waiving of a deductible, in order to get you to agree to have the vehicle towed to the repair facility. Since these additional costs are not covered by insurance, they can only be recovered in the estimate or through workmanship.
In dealing with tow truck operators at the scene of an accident:
- Have the vehicle towed to a one of our Recommended Repair Facilities. If you decide later to not have the vehicle repaired there, The Dominion will tow the vehicle to a collision repair facility of your choice. While at the Recommended Repair Facility, there are no storage or administration charges. If you have any doubt as to where you should have the vehicle towed, simply ask to have it towed home or to a local mechanic that you know and trust.
- Ask how much the tow will cost and if there will be any other charges.
- Do not sign anything. If the tow operator insists, make sure that it is only an authorization to tow the vehicle.
- Do not sign a work order or an authorization to "tear down" the vehicle or an authorization to repair the vehicle (even if it says "repair as per insurance estimate") until you have talked to your broker and The Dominion has had the opportunity to inspect and assess the damage.
- If you decide not to have the vehicle repaired at the facility where it is being towed, ask if there will be any additional charges and how much it will cost to have the vehicle removed. These additional charges could include such things as storage, administration and environmental charges, etc. In some cases, we have seen payouts resulting from these charges totaling thousands of dollars.
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Collision Reporting Centres
In some municipalities, police will no longer attend vehicle accidents unless there are injuries involved or impaired driving is suspected. Under most circumstances, the drivers involved are required to attend a local Collision Reporting Centre (CRC) to file a "self report." While all parties involved are required to attend a CRC, this may not always happen at the same time or at the same location. Consequently, it is still very important to record all the details of the accident and the parties involved before leaving the scene of the accident.
In some cases, CRCs are run by the local police force, but more often than not, they are owned and operated for profit by a third-party entrepreneur. In addition, there may be local municipal by-laws that require vehicles which are non-drivable to be towed directly to and dropped at the CRC. Under such circumstances, it is not unusual for some tow truck operators to ask the driver/owner of the vehicle to sign a "waiver" authorizing the operator to immediately tow the vehicle from the CRC. This may not be in the best interest of the driver/owner and should be avoided. Most CRCs offer 24 hours of free storage, which allows the driver/owner time to contact his broker and/or insurance company and to make an informed decision as to where the vehicle should be taken.
CRCs are successful from a police perspective. They allowed police departments to allocate their officers to more dangerous crimes. From an insurance perspective, however, CRCs can be very costly, because in order to participate, insurers are required to purchase police reports for all accidents reported to the CRC and not just the reports they require. As a result, insurers may or may not participate and support all CRCs.
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