Unfortunately, many people experience unnecessary stress and anxiety as they work through the repair process. Dealing with insurance companies and vehicle repair shops is inconvenient, time-consuming and a general hassle.
Even worse, consumers are at a distinct disadvantage in the process because most only go through it a handful of times in their lives. They don’t always know their rights, and sometimes they are dealing with insurance companies that are more concerned about profits than the vehicle owners problems.
To help you when you find yourself in that distinctly uncomfortable and even upsetting situation, here are some of the things you need to know in the aftermath of a vehicle crash.
You can choose where you want the work done
Arizona law allows a vehicle owner to choose the repair shop where the repairs will be performed. Some insurance companies try to convince customers they must use an insurance company-approved shop. Obviously, carriers assign the work to the shops that give them the best price breaks. Because you have the option to choose, you should do a thorough search to find a reputable shop.
When selecting a shop, consider factors like how many years it has been in business, what type of warranty is offered, whether the shop is certified by auto manufacturers, how the shop looks in person and even whether its website looks professional. Seek out online reviews and get personal recommendations. Attention to detail is a critical element of post-accident car repair.
The shop is your ally
Even if the body shop you choose has no affiliation with an insurance company, the shop will work on your behalf with the insurance company to make certain your vehicle is satisfactorily repaired, explains angieslist.com. The shop negotiates with insurance companies all the time, so feel free to let the repair facility handle the process.
Beware of the cheapest estimate…which is typically the one from the insurance company
The adage “you get what you pay for” is certainly true when it comes to post-accident car repairs. Getting a good deal is important, but the cheapest bid for car repair might not be in your best interest.
Some body shops focus on appearance. While making your vehicle look like new is important, structural integrity and safety are even more critical. When comparing estimates, be sure that the structural repairs are addressed properly. Shops sometimes try to save money by performing sub-standard repairs and not follow manufacturer specifications. That can leave a weak spot in the metal that could fail in the event of another accident.
You can challenge the valuation
After an accident, the insurance company will determine what your car is worth and how much repairs will cost. If they determine that the vehicle is a total loss and the settlement amount is below market value, you can disagree with that number. You can present the carrier with documentation that bolsters your argument, such as maintenance records that show you kept the vehicle in great condition. You can also provide proof of special parts you had installed or any upgrades made that would increase the vehicle’s value. If the company still won’t budge, you probably will need to resort to the arbitration process dictated in the insurance policy.
You’ll likely get used parts
The insurance company is obligated to restore your car to the same condition it was in before the accident. Because your vehicle had used parts before it was damaged, it is acceptable to incorporate used parts in the repairs. At the same time, however, sometimes an insurance company will allow aftermarket parts that are markedly inferior and can even be potential safety hazards, explains nolo.com.
“If the insurance company insists on using aftermarket (non-OEM, or original equipment manufacturer) parts, you should do one of two things,” nolo.com says. “One is to pay the additional amount to get OEM replacement parts and then to sue the at-fault party in small-claims court for the difference. The other is to insist that the insurance company gives you a written warranty of the aftermarket parts that lasts as long as you own the car.”
You only need one estimate
Some people mistakenly believe they need multiple repair estimates. While you might want to get several bids, it is not required. If you select a company you trust to do the repairs, you don’t need any additional estimates.
Choosing the right repair shop could well be the most important decision you make after a crash. A reliable, experienced shop will deal with many of the insurance hassles and can make the experience much less stressful. And you’ll have peace of mind when your car, after the repairs are completed, is safe and back to its original condition or better.