My name is Michael Trinagel and I am a 49- year old husband and father
of twin 15- year old girls
ABOUT MICHAEL TRINAGEL, PRESIDENT AND FOUNDER
My name is Michael Trinagel, President and Founder of Personal Touch Auto Body. As a 54 Year old man, husband and father or 20 year old twin girls, I place a high importance on family values, honesty, and respect; all of which are equally important in my business.
When I was just 9 years old, I started my business career be washing cars in my father’s driveway on Hone Avenue in the Bronx. My neighbor Johnny took notice and soon introduced me to bodywork. It quickly became obvious that I was a natural, even at the young age of 10. Over the next nine years I honed my skills by doing bodywork in my father’s backyard. I also bought, restored and sold vehicles that were in need of repairs. Not only did I gain an excellent reputation for my abilities, but the experience shaped me into the successful businessman that I am today.
At the age of 19, with an established clientele, I became president of my own company, Express Auto Sales Inc.. Three years later, I opened my auto body repair shop and proudly named it Personal Touch Auto Body Inc. Personal Touch Auto Body is still located in the Bronx at the corner of Boston Road and Mace Avenue, just blocks away from the home where I was born and raised.
In 1984, I realized that I could no longer do it all by myself and began hiring employees. My reputation of quality, speed and excellent customer service spread and drew customers not only from within the Bronx but also from outlying areas. With the overwhelming number of repairs and custom work coming in on a daily basis I made the decision to eliminate the car sales portion of my business and concentrate on growing and expanding Personal Touch Auto Body. Today we are a well-established, highly respected business still known for quality, speed, integrity and excellent customer service.
Big Biz VS. Small Biz
But now after 44 years in the business and over 33 years in the present location, my success as an honest, hardworking, taxpaying family/ businessman is in jeopardy. A lot of my customers have been lost due to the greed of many insurance companies through their “Direct Repair Programs”.
ABOUT DRP'S (Direct Repair Program’s)
Direct Repair Programs are auto-body repair shops assigned by the insurers who agree to work
with the insurance companies following THEIR rules, regulations and guidelines, which often
result in substandard and often low quality work for the customer. The main reason the insurers have
DRP shops is to save themselves money by paying well below the normal hourly rates for
repairs, tows and storage charges.
Some would say "its ride or die". Most shops have surrendered and decided to "ride" with it;
while others (myself included) refuse to *ride* and are now dying a slow death. But we would
rather die than compromise quality and risk our reputation. We choose instead to speak out
against this illegal action and make sure that the public knows their rights.
According to New York State Law (S 167-C Section 2610)
§ 2610. Collision or comprehensive coverage on motor vehicles; claims; repairs
(a) Whenever a motor vehicle collision or comprehensive loss shall have been suffered by
an insured, no insurer providing collision or comprehensive coverage therefore shall
require that repairs be made to such vehicle in a particular place or shop or by a
(b) In processing any such claim (other than a claim solely involving window glass), the
insurer shall not, unless expressly requested by the insured, recommend or suggest
repairs be made to such vehicle in a particular place or shop or by a particular concern.
This means that No Referral to DRP Can Be Made Unless Requested by the Insured. To break it
down for better understanding, an insurer should not take liberties and STEER insured to designated auto repair shops, because they (the consumer) have the legal right to choose their
own auto repair shop.
In our experience customers have come in to make their claims and leave their vehicles for
repairs only to be told by the insurance claim representatives to take their vehicle to one of the
insurance companies DRP shops. They are told that we are not on their list of repair shops,
emphasizing that it would take a longer time to get an appraiser out to inspect their vehicles.
This is how they Illegally strong-arm, intimidate and discourage customers from leaving their vehicles at
the body shop of their choice.
I remember the days when the biggest name insurance companies would come out within 2-4
business days to inspect a vehicle in my shop. Now, due to their new tactics, they tell
customers that, if they choose to leave their vehicle at my shop, it will take from 10-14 business
days to get the inspection done! This statement alone is illegal…According to the New York
State Insurance Department ( http://www.ins.state.ny.us/auto/2010/auto1012.htm ) the
insurance company MUST …inspect the damaged vehicle and make a good faith offer within six business
days after receiving notification of the loss, provided that your car is available for
inspection. A good faith offer is one that can be backed up with the name of a
Department of Motor Vehicles-registered repair shop that will perform the repairs
at the insurer's offer.
Where Im from we call these types of tactics blackmail. The insurance companies have beautified the word "Steering" by calling it "Concierge Service" and "Xpress Service". However, any way you turn it, steering is still illegal.
Some companies have even graduated from STEERING to STEALING! It was bad enough when
they would tell you where to go for repairs, now they tell you to leave your car with them at
their claims center and they will take care of everything. (Can you break the law any more than
that?). DRP shops are overwhelmed with the excessive number of repairs that the insurance
companies steer in their direction. As a result you will not get your vehicle back in a timely
fashion, your repairs will be substandard and, most of all, you must pay your deductible in full.
The insurance companies offer this 'convenience' solely for their own benefit, leaving the auto owner holding the bag.
Consumers need not only to know that they have rights but to also take steps to reclaim and
exercise those rights. They should not be afraid to stand up and say "I have been going to this
repair shop since I was in college" or "my parents and grandparents have had all their vehicles
repaired here and I know I am entitled to have my vehicle repaired where I see fit".
The insurance companies have gone beyond how they steer, now advertising through the
media, and I see no one stepping in to assist the business owners in regulating the actions of
the insurance companies. I have appealed to the conscience of my local Senator, sent letters to
the Mayor and talk shows, hoping that someone will hear and open their eyes to this ILLEGAL
and UNJUST act perpetrated by the insurance companies.
No one has listened, or even cares to understand. It appears that no one will do anything. If
New York State law says NO STEERING, then why is it still happening and why would the New
York State Insurance Board not enforce the law which they themselves created? Are the
insurance companies above the law? Obviously the law is a big joke to the insurance
companies. They know all too well that they can get away with their illegal actions; after all, no
one is enforcing the law.
According to the Body Shop Business newsletter: www.bodyshopbusiness.com : "Body shop
owners need to find lobbyists to bring this to their State Insurance Board." Even though not
one New York State legislator has considered bringing this to the State Insurance Board, I will
continue to pay my taxes, knowing that those same taxes pay for our elected officials' lavish
We are seeking our very own *Erin Brockovich* and I wonder which official has the guts
to stand up to these huge conglomerates. Sometimes it only takes one person to make a
difference. The remaining auto body shop owners are also wondering when a political figure
will stand up for the rights of taxpaying business owners, or are we left to believe that the old
saying is true, *Money Talks and All Else Walks*.
There was a time when the American citizen was first priority for the elected officials.
We were once the greatest nation in the world. What happened? Our government has
abandoned us, leaving us to believe that they do not care. We are calling for assistance. Please
help us now! How much longer can we fight to keep our doors open? All my employees have
families and, in good conscience, I cannot lay them off. Do we not all have the right to earn an
honest living? The public needs to exercise their rights and stop the insurance companies from
playing games with them.
I know that telling this story will not change the illegal actions of the insurance
companies. However, I feel compelled to inform the public and hope that people will read this
and learn their legal rights to quality repairs , performed at the auto body shop of their own choosing.
Consumers need to understand they can call their body shop who will assist them in making
their claim and to remember the law (Section 167-C) when they are being steered by the
insurance companies to DRP shops, when they have already informed the insurance
representative they already have their own repair shop. The old saying *Don't Ask, Don't Tell *
should apply at that time.
If there is anyone out there who knows someone, who knows someone, who knows
someone that is willing to help the situation, please contact Personal Touch Auto Body @ 1-
800-695-6522. After all, it all boils down to who you know.
UPDATE: MAY 2013
Since writing the above article in early 2008, exposing the illegal Steering & Stealing tactics of
the insurance companies, the situation has become even worse. Little, if anything, has been
done to stop them. We continue to lose business due to the strong arming imposed on our
customers when trying to file claims.
In July of 2008 News 11 interviewed me at my shop and aired a feature story to help bring these
illegal actions to the public's attention. They were the only response we received; one brave
network out of the many willing to stand up and risk advertising dollars in order to bring justice
to both the hardworking, honest, taxpaying shops and the unknowing victims of the insurance
The insurance companies have become even bolder with their tactics, pushing their DRP shops
through advertising on both television and radio - effectively assuring that most networks will
not stand up and support those of us who refuse to join them.
The New York Department of Insurance ended an investigation in January of 2009 - releasing a
statement that "Some practices raise concerns; consumers' right to choose where to have cars
repaired must be protected," but then stating…"Auto insurance companies have not
systematically violated a section of the State Insurance Law that gives consumers the right to
choose where they want their vehicles repaired after a collision…" It is no surprise, with
statements like this, why insurance companies have no fear of the agency that created the law
that is supposed to protect the consumers. The "results" of their investigation cannot be further
from the truth, a direct contradiction to what shops such as mine and consumers continue to
face on a daily basis.
Currently an insurance trade group, PCI, has challenged the constitutionality of the Rhode
Island "Anti-Steering Act" in Federal Court1. It is imperative that this challenge fails - a ruling in
their favor will no doubt have national effects. We must continue to write and call our senators,
governors and state insurance boards until something further is done to protect us all from the
illegal actions being carried out by the insurance companies. Action must be taken soon. Again
I implore you to contact me at Personal Touch Auto Body, 1-800-695-6522, if you would like to
join our cause and end illegal steering. It may only take one person to make a difference, but
there is always strength in numbers!
Most insurance company advertises auto body repair in there commercials. Insurance companies cannot own and/or operate auto body shops.
Be AWARE of policies you are signing
If you DO NOT read your contract you will of have signed away your rights to have your automobile repaired at a shop of your choice. Insurance companies now are adding in your contract that YOU MUST use there recommended facilities.
1. Those referred shops MUST and Will want to collect your Deductible in Full. Personal Touch Auto Body DOES NOT.
2. Your automobile repair will lack in quality were as Personal Touch Auto Body guarantees all repairs and parts as well as paint for the life of your vehicle.
Personal Touch Auto Body is second to none providing great pride for over 40 years. NO one has turnaround time as fast as Personal Touch Auto Body.
We offer Towing from ANYWHERE 24/7.
One Final Note for this update & slightly revised story:
Most insurance companies are now BOLDLY offering auto body repair in there commercials on Public television and radio, Hence the reason being since my news report of illegal steering aired over 2 years ago. Not only did it not change what was happing but on the contrary this activity of illegal steering has increased.
Our Final reminder to you and suggestion "CALL US BEFORE YOU CALL YOU INSURANCE COMPANY and LET US HELP TO PRTECT YOUR RIGHTS, SAVE YOU MONEY AND PROVIDE YOU WITH THE UP MOST QUALITY IN REPAIRS. In closing we here @ Personal Touch Auto Body want to thank you for your patronage. Thank you and God BLESS.