I've been involved in an accident...
Now What?

OK, Here are the answers to your questions:

  1. Who picks the repair shop?
  2. What you need to know before having your car fixed
  3. Does it matter whose fault it is?
  4. Once I take my car in for repair, what do I need to do or know?
  5. Is a shop not charging you your deductible a good idea?
  6. Things to know when choosing an Insurance company

1. Can the Insurance Company require me to take my vehicle to a particular Body Shop?

  • No. As a consumer there is no law that requires you to take your vehicle to a specific shop. The insurance company may recommend a shop but remember, It's your car and your choice on who fix's it.

2. How do I choose a qualified Body Shop to repair my vehicle?

  • Choose a shop that has proof of ongoing training and certifications from I-CAR and ASE. This will ensure that they are skilled in the latest repair techniques and requirements.

  • Make sure the shop has the necessary equipment to repair today’s complex vehicles. Today’s cars and trucks are very different than the ones manufactured in the past. The structures are made from different kinds of metals that require special welding and bonding equipment. Measuring equipment and or a fixture system are required to make sure the vehicle is put back to the manufactures specifications. This is critical to insure the vehicle handles properly and that the outer panels fit properly. The electrical and safety systems with ABS brakes and multiple Airbags to protect you must be repair properly so they will protect you if you need them again.  The paint finish is much harder to match and much more durable than in the past. You want to make sure the shop uses a paint system that’s equal to that the manufacture used.

  • How long the shop has been in business and under same management is important. The shop should stand behind their work and be able to provide you a written warranty. Ask a friend, co-worker or relative to refer you to a collision repair shop that they have used in the past and had a good experience with. The web is becoming a great tool. There are web sites that have customer reviews posted. Just make sure the web site is using some way of verifying accuracy of review.

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3. The accident wasn't my fault. What do I do?

  • It's best to contact the others person's insurance company first. It will take some time going this route so be patient and friendly when dealing with them. They will have to wait until they hear from their insured driver. They will need an accident report from the police, which will take a few days.If you don't want to go this route you can always file a claim with your insurance company if you have full coverage. This will result in you paying your deductible. Depending on the outcome of "fault" the other insurance company will step in after doing their investigation and take responsibility for paying to repair your vehicle.

The accident was my fault. What should I do?

  • This has a lot to do with how much damage you have and how much your deductible is. If your vehicle has minor damage it might not be worth putting claim into your insurance company. Based on the size of the claim it could make your insurance premiums increase. This is where having a good relationship with your insurance agent comes in handy. The agent can help you make the best decision. If the other vehicle involved is filing a claim against your policy this will also effect your decision on paying for your repairs or making a claim against your policy.

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4.Once I take my car in for repair, what do I need to do or know?

  • When dropping off your car you will be asked to sign a repair authorization. This will give the shop permission to complete the repairs as estimated. It will also allow the shop to negotiate on your behalf with the insurance company involved.

  • If your insurance company is paying for repairs and you have a deductible this will be paid to the shop when you are picking up the car and you are satisfied with the repairs.

  • Confirm with the shop how and when they will update you on the status of the repairs.

  • Don't panic if there is a delay. Based on how large the repair, there are many things that can cause a delay. Hidden damage is probably the one that occurs the most. One of the 1st things that is done is a teardown, anything not on the original estimate the shop will document and then contact the insurance company for approvals. Any deviation from the original estimate should be communicated to you before that work is performed. Parts are also becoming a larger portion of repairs. Dealers are not stocking as many, making more special order parts necessary. Structural and expensive electrical parts can take up to a week or more to obtain. The important part of this is that the shop keeps in contact with you so there are no surprises.

  • When picking up your car after the repairs are complete make sure someone goes over the car and the final invoice with you. Make sure and ask any questions you have. Check color match at different angles. Check any body panels affected and make sure all gaps are consistent. Open doors, hood or trunk if those areas were repaired and make sure that they open and close properly. If the vehicle sustained any structural or suspension damage, have a representative from the shop go for a test drive with you. Make sure the car drives like it did before the accident. Confirm that the steering wheel is centered and that there are no wind leaks coming from any glass or doors that were disturbed. If the shop did a wheel alignment ask for a copy of the before and after printout. This will help you in the future if you have a tire wear or handling issue.

  • If your car had paint work done, you need to be aware that most paint manufactures recommend that you wait at least 30 days before you wax it or take it through a car wash. Hand washing is O.K. as long as you don't do it in direct sunlight.

  • What if you notice something after you pick up the car? Always contact the shop 1st. If they aren't willing ar able to address your concerns then contact the insurance company involved. If you still are not satisfied the Better Business Bureau may be able to help.

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5.Is a shop not charging you your deductible a good idea?

  • If the repairs on your vehicle are being paid by your insurance company and you have a deductible, asking the shop to absorb your deductible or if the shop offers to do this as an enticement to have you fix your car, you and the shop are committing insurance fraud.

  • The way your policy with your insurance company is written, you are obligated to pay that portion of the repair first. The insurance company then pays the remainder above your deductible.

  • For the most part even if the insurance company doesn't find out you will pay for it in the long run. If the shop follows all the manufactures suggested repair procedures and replaces all the parts they say they are going to, then there isn't anything left but profit. That means the shop owner is taking it out of his pocket.... Well, probably not. What actually happens is the shop cheats and fixes a part that they charge to replace, or finds creative ways to hide sloppy repairs where you can't see it. At best this will definitely catch up with you when you go to sell the car, or worse, could be the cause of you or someone else getting hurt in a future accident because the vehicle wasn't properly repaired.

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6.Things to know when choosing an Insurance company

  • This is one of those things you usually find out when it's too late, after you have had an accident and you have to struggle through the claims process

  • The best thing you can do is to develop a relationship with an agent you trust. The insurance companies that do direct marketing (web site and 1-800s) with no agent involved seem to be the worst when it comes to helping you when you need it most. It's also kind of ironic that the ones that advertise the most aren't very good either. I guess its because they don't have a good retention rate and they have to attract new customers all the time.

  • Like finding a good repair shop ask your friends or relatives who they have and if they have had any claims, how they were treated.

  • Making your decision solely on premium is short sided and will catch up with you when you file a claim.

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