• Oct 20, 2010
Anyone who's ever been hesitant to hand over their keys to another driver, or conversely to get behind the wheel of someone else's car – exotic or otherwise – will want to take note of the following story currently being played out on the internet's extensive web of car enthusiast forums.

The story revolves around a Ford GT – one of the finest exotics ever produced by an American automaker – its customization, and its unfortunate demise. The car – in classic Gulf baby blue and orange heritage livery and outfitted with twin turbochargers – belongs to one Ray Hofman, who wanted to have some modifications carried out to make it more drivable in advance of a Ford GT rally event. Having struck out with other tuners, Ray turned to Bill Knobloch of Discovery Automotive, better known to forum members as Shadowman. Bill agreed to carry out the tuning Ray was looking for, handed over the keys, and from there things went downhill in more ways than one. Follow the jump to read on.

[Sources: Bimmerboost, Ford GT Forum]

The driver's account of the situation unfolds on Ford GT Forum as follows: After examining the car in his garage and asking for (and receiving) Ray's insurance and registration papers, Bill (a.k.a. Shadowman) says he took the GT out onto the open road to examine the behavior of the turbo boost. He claims he was driving slowly along the highway when he inexplicably lost control of the car, spun off the road, and the next thing he knew, he was climbing out of a ravine, the car laying damaged below. Bill was briefly hospitalized, but released within hours, after which he contacted Ray (the owner) to let him know that he'd been in an accident. He said he couldn't get close enough to the car after the crash to determine the extent of the damage, but that he assessed that more damage would likely be caused by the tow truck extracting the car from the ravine than had been incurred in the crash itself. He couldn't explain how the car spun out of control, but he apparently noted that this sort of outcome was precisely why he had made sure to arrange the insurance papers ahead of time.

The car owner paints quite a different picture on Bimmerboost's forums. According to Ray, he received an email from Bill informing him that he was taking the car out on the road, but didn't hear back from him until the next day when he was informed of the supposedly "minor" crash. With little information to go by, Ray flew out to Los Angeles where Bill's garage is located and where the crash occurred. Arriving at the tow company, Ray immediately saw that his car suffered significantly more damage than he expected. Proceeding out to the scene of the crash with the tow truck driver (who allegedly described that stretch of highway as the local drag strip and the apparent driver as a "pilot"), Ray could see skid marks on the road (contrary to Bill's account) and the broken trees as high as 30 feet in the air. He and the tow truck driver surmised that Bill must have hit a tree on the side of the road, spun around 180 degrees, flown off the highway backwards, and struck another tree, which shattered the transaxle and pushed the engine through the bulkhead.

Both driver and owner – as well as the highway patrolman on the scene – agreed that it was a miracle that Bill walked away essentially unscathed from the crash. Unfortunately that's where their thoughts splits. Bill claims that the liability for the damage to the car is entirely the responsibility of the car's owner, and that as a small business, he doesn't carry a policy for such cases. Ray says he gave Bill ample opportunity to make it right, but that Bill deflected any responsibility for having totaled his exotic while adding a personal injury claim onto the Ray's insurance. One way or another, it's quite the mess. For our part we're just glad we're not the ones who have to sort it out. Thanks for the tip, Jeff!


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  • 131 Comments
      • 4 Years Ago
      I bet Bill wish he actually did die in this accident.
      • 4 Years Ago
      First off - HEY AUTOBLOG, HAVE YOU EVER HEARD OF PROOFREADING???

      Second - not sure about the laws in the states involved, but here in Oregon, the insurance stays with the vehicle, not the driver. I backed my brother's Duango over a short fence and ruined his bumper and it was HIS insurance that processed the claim. (Yes, I paid the deductible for him).

      Don't know if negligence comes into play, but I can't imagine the car just up and jumped off the road into a few trees for no reason.
      • 4 Years Ago
      clearly the message is for no one else to get any work done at Discovery automotive

      and BILL in case you see this man up and pay for your mistake
      Angie
      • 4 Years Ago
      I have also worked a large amount of claims which consisted of dealerships and there service departments and I can tell you first hand that this man by law (if he is running a garage) would need to have garage liability insurance. Maybe the state he is in does not require this...I don't know? Second there are a lot of factors that come into play...yes, the vehicle was given over to the mechanic to be in his care, custody and control....however when the mechanic became "reckless" with the customers vehicle...going over the speed limit then because of his actions the accident came to be. Bill is legally responsible for the damages to the vehicle....Do the yaw marks per the police report show he was traveling at a high rate of speed and that was why he lost control? Also, was Bill ticketed? In this instance BILL is at fault and liable for all damages....not just repairing the vehicle (if it can be repaired) but also for diminished value....the vehicle now will go on record as being wrecked and therefore diminishes the resale value of said vehicle. Note: If Bill were traveling minding his own business just driving the vehicle to make sure it was ok (like many mechanics do after repairs) and someone hit him...well that would be an instance where the cars insurance company and the person who hit the GT's insurance company would have to settle together, leaving Bill completely out of being responsible for repairs to the GT.
      • 4 Years Ago
      That makes me sad.
      billolcat
      • 4 Years Ago
      Um, where is the police investigations determination of events? Because I'm pretty sure the insurance company is going to go off that and not some tow-truck drivers opinion. Personally its pretty obvious to me that Bill here is at fault and should be held responsible. And he should definitely have been insured for such a situation if he took the job in the first place.
        • 4 Years Ago
        @billolcat
        @ Majarvis:
        Actually, you're wrong. 99% of the time, the insurance company defers to the police report. Been through this a number of times. A few times, even though the adjuster I met with, was in agreement with me that the police report was wrong, the insurance company still went with the police report.
        In a case like this, where the insurance company is likely to want a more thorough job done with regards to determining liability, there's probably a better shot that the facts will outweigh whatever the police report says.
        • 4 Years Ago
        @billolcat
        Don't count on a police report as being the Gospel on this. I've seen plenty that were completely wrong regarding the details of an accident.
        • 4 Years Ago
        @billolcat
        @katshot

        Well, I don't know what to tell you, but that's not how we do things. I'm sorry that Allstate screwed your company over, but we don't go by what the police report indicates for liability. Most of the time, liability ends up being the same as what the police report says, but that doesn't mean we use it to base liability on.

        Liability is determined by either using the chart system (an agreed upon liability table of standard accident types) or tort (when the accident doesn't fall into a standard accident type). Also, case law comes into effect for peculiar accident types when fighting liability or a dispute in statements from each driver.
        • 4 Years Ago
        @billolcat
        The person driving the car at the time of the accident should be responsible (until) he can prove that there was some sort of event/malfunction that caused him to loss control and crash.

        Any worthy officer filing the accident report will note that if the car was being driven at a "slow" speed, there should have been much less damage and the car would not have travelled as far from the road.

        The tuner guy should have accepted responsibility and paid the have the car restored by a separate party.
        • 4 Years Ago
        @billolcat
        Majarvis/katshot - Sounds like different insurers behave differently. Honestly, that isn't much of a surprise. The industry is big enough for both the skilled and the slip-shoddy.

        As for bill's original comment about insurance - Agreed. My father owned a MBZ repair shop, and he most certainly had insurance for the shop which also covered him on road tests. Unfortunately, he had a chance or two to file claims, even if there was something wrong with the car outside what he worked on (or nothing wrong the car at all, but someone else's fault). Sometimes, it's about doing the right thing, and doing business in such a way to protect your reputation.
        • 4 Years Ago
        @billolcat
        @katshot

        Sorry, but *you* are the one who is wrong. Are you an insurance adjuster? No, then please listen.

        Maybe things are different where you are from, but insurance adjusters here come to their own conclusions, and only refer to police statements for factual evidence. They do not base liability decisions on what the police officer determines at the scene.

        You are now smarter than you were before.

        You're welcome.
        • 4 Years Ago
        @billolcat
        Police reports do not determine liability, insurance adjusters do. Ask any insurance adjuster, and they will tell you the same. Even if a police officer tells you what he thinks liability is at the scene, that has no bearing on the outcome of what an insurance adjuster will determine with their own investigation.
        • 4 Years Ago
        @billolcat
        Majarvis,

        it might depend on location, but in MI a police accident report will list if an involved party committed a "hazardous action" and what kind it was, and in most cases contributes to determining fault. Also, any citations issued will influence the determination of fault.
        • 4 Years Ago
        @billolcat
        @ Majarvis:
        Nope, not an adjuster. I was the manager of a VERY large fleet for 20 years, oversaw all claims, and assisted in many accident investigations during that time. I worked with the police, the insurance companies, and the vehicle manufactures. On top of all that, I also had my son total a car a few years ago, and ended up getting totally screwed on the settlement due to the insurance company (Allstate) going by the police report instead of listening to their own adjuster (who agreed with me, not the police).
        Most times, adjusters never even saw the cars prior to repair, or ever.
        • 4 Years Ago
        @billolcat
        Not a write-off, that'll buff right out.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Nothin' a bit of duct tape and a can or two of spray paint won't fix.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I think this guy saw an opportunity to try out a rare sports car and ran with it. Then when he wrecked it he wanted nothing to do with it anymore. What a maroon.
      • 4 Years Ago
      As a general rule of thumb, insurance follows that car first...driver second. Also most policies have language about racing...its can be a deniable situation.

      • 4 Years Ago
      Bill's only reasonible arguement here was that the car was not safe to drive in the first place. That some factor of the car was why he "inexplicably" lost control. The police report is definitely key here (as mentioned above). Because this WILL end up in the courts, and the police report and MAYBE the tow-truck driver's analysis may be the only legitimate evidence to present. Unless Ray was smart enough to get pictures of the skid marks and trees.

      Bill's story sounds like horse-dung to me. How a performance car "expert" loses control while driving slowly down a highway is beyond me. Besides, how was he testing the performance of the turbo's if he WASN'T at high speed?
        • 4 Years Ago
        Exactly my thoughts - from the limited information we know, a car tuner who, by their profession is implied to be experienced, 'inexplicably' ends up in a ditch.

        Where there's smoke, there's a fire.
      stevereno
      • 4 Years Ago
      How much was that car worth?
      • 4 Years Ago
      What a waste of such a wonderful vehicle...Personally, I think the tuner should repay the owner in full for his reckless joyride
        • 4 Years Ago
        With that massive turbo I'm guessing the driver slammed the gas, lost control and ended up in the trees, for which he is at fault. If you're in a stranger's car, especially one with massive amounts of power, you can't drive it like a tricked-out Civic.
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