There are a lot of misconceptions about cracked windows. Can I get a ticket? Is it free to replace them? Who should I hire? Given the level of confusion, we wanted to look at the most common questions we receive and provide some clarity on this topic. Here are 5 things you should know about cracked windshields:
1. Can I get a ticket for a damaged windshield?
Absolutely! Florida statute 316.610 reads:
It is a violation of this chapter for any person to drive or move, or for the owner or his or her duly authorized representative to cause or knowingly permit to be driven or moved, on any highway any vehicle or combination of vehicles which is in such unsafe condition as to endanger any person or property, or which does not contain those parts or is not at all times equipped with such lamps and other equipment in proper condition and adjustment as required in this chapter, or which is equipped in any manner in violation of this chapter, or for any person to do any act forbidden or fail to perform any act required under this chapter.
In case you just skipped over the technical jargon, it means the police can stop you if they believe your car is unsafe. Also, it is a primary offense, meaning you do not have to be doing anything else wrong for them to stop you. You can have your hands at “ten and two”, going three miles under the speed limit and maintaining your car in the lane perfectly…but if your windshield is cracked, you may still see sirens in your rearview mirror.
If this happens, then you will be facing a variety of unfavorable outcomes. If the police officer lets you off with a warning, then you will still have to spend several anxiety filled minutes alongside the road. If the police officer writes you a ticket, then you will either have to pay it or get the windshield fixed within 30 days AND either mail in proof of the correction or bring proof (depending on the county) to the county clerk’s office where you were ticketed. However, if the police officer decides your vehicle is not safe to drive, then you could be forced to have it towed at a substantial cost…and, of course, the ticket. While the last scenario may seem unlikely, Florida Statutes do not specify what the measurements, length, or placement of windshield damage would be to render a vehicle unsafe to drive. Therefore, it is up to the police officer’s discretion. Do you really want to be in that situation? Of course not.
2. Is the windshield chipped or cracked?
If you experienced minor damage (usually defined as “chipped), then you may opt for a repair. If you experience major damage, like from a car accident, then you probably will want it replaced. Four elements go into determining if your vehicle merely needs a repair:
- Will a dollar bill cover up the damage?
- Do you have more than three chips?
- Is the damaged area in your line of sight?
- Is the damage on the edge of the windshield?
If the answer to all of these questions is “No,” then it is usually safe to have the windshield repaired.
3. How should I get the windshield repaired?
If you only have the bare minimum auto insurance that Florida requires (Personal Injury Protection, or “PIP” and Property Damage Liability, or “PDL” ), then you should get it repaired the same way you would choose any other maintenance company. Research its history, look at reviews, ask around, and then, select one. However, if your auto insurance policy has comprehensive coverage, you have a lot more options. Florida Statute 627.7288 requires auto insurers in Florida to replace or repair their policy holders damaged windshield with zero deductible, or, in other words, for “free.” Also, the policy holder has sole discretion over who repairs the windshield provided it is from a reputable business.
4. What’s the catch?
This statute seems like a great win for your average consumer, but unfortunately, there are trade-offs. When was the last time someone offered you a $100 gift card for changing your oil? How about a box of steaks to work on your radiator? Anybody ever give you movie tickets for the privilege of rotating your tires? I did not think so, yet, auto glass repair businesses offer these types of gifts all the time. How are they able to do this?
Most of those companies pay for the gift cards/steaks/movie tickets by passing that cost on to the auto insurance companies. Since the auto insurance companies must pay for the cost of the windshield, the auto glass businesses are free to charge them an inflated price. Granted, they cannot charge them thousands of dollars for a simple windshield replacement, but they can (and do) charge a few hundred more than what the insurance company would pay to one of their vendors.
5. Why should you care?
No one enjoys paying their auto insurance bill, so the thought of getting free stuff AND overcharging your insurance company usually seems like a win-win…it is not. First, just because the insurance company pays for the windshield, does not mean they eat that cost. They merely pass it along back to the policy holders. The more people who use the auto glass companies that overcharge…the more expensive all the policies become. Second, and more importantly, it could put you in danger.
Remember when we discussed “chipped vs cracked” windows? Well, if you go to one of these less than scrupulous auto glass businesses, your windshield will probably not be considered chipped. They will most likely insist the windshield needs to be replaced. Why? Because they can charge more to replace a windshield than to repair one.
Granted, a new windshield sounds better than repairing an old one, but that’s only true if you are getting the windshield from the factory. Florida Statute 627.7288 only requires that the new windshield be of “same fit, quality and performance.” It does not have to be an Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) part. Perhaps it is just as good as the factory windshield, and perhaps it fits just perfectly into your vehicle, but it is a gamble. If it is a gamble you would like to take, then that is fine. However, if you are pressured into getting a windshield replaced, when it should have just been repaired, that is another story entirely. Pretty much all personal injury lawyers will agree, if you are ever in a car accident, you want your windshield to hold up as best as possible.
While there are some individuals who will go their entire lives without ever being in a car accident, most people will have to deal with a broken windshield at some point. If and when you need it, we hope these tips will provide you with the knowledge you need to handle your repair (or replacement) as safely as possible.