Confused About Auto Accident Repairs? Navigate the Waters Between the Collision Repair Shops Versus the Insurance Adjusters
Auto Accidents: Vehicle Collision Repairs Made Simple
“I am so upset—getting my car fixed from the wreck has become a HUGE hassle. To start with, who can think straight after an accident—so I had nothing to suggest when they told me where they were taking my car. Next thing you know, it is in a “storage yard” and they are charging $55 dollars a day for storage, which I will have to pay after four days grace from the insurance.
“So my boss recommended a body shop and I want my car towed over there. But the adjuster “suggests” I go to a shop his company has approved. He says it will work out better for me and they will stand behind his work. This is the insurance adjuster for the guy who hit me.
“Meanwhile, I learned that already the body shop owner and the insurance adjuster are disagreeing over repairs. The adjuster wants to repair with used parts or foreign parts instead of those from my own manufacturer. I have a 2003 Chevy Impala with lots of extras and I want it to be restored to pre-accident condition.
“To top it off, I am not going to get anywhere near my size and comfort using their rental allowance of just $25 per day.”
Sarah Ackles is going through what thousands of us have to deal with: fighting through the collision repair process after an accident. It is bad enough to have your life disrupted, and perhaps injuries to deal with, but when things go sideways with getting your vehicle restored, then the whole thing can be, as Sarah described it—“a huge hassle”.
Let me just summarize what she has written about, identifying three areas that she states she needs help resolving:
- Can I choose my own collision repair shop, or should I go where suggested by the adjuster. I am afraid that he is in with the auto body guy and they might not go full bore on getting repairs right.
- What about the fight between my collision repair facility and the adjuster about the kind of parts to be used?
- Also, I don’t think I should be stuck with such a low allowance to cap my rental costs.
I am going to add two more issues for Sarah to consider: the storage costs and diminished value on her repaired vehicle. First, she was smart to get her vehicle out of the storage yard because the adjuster was only going to pay four days of costs, and then she would be responsible at $55 a day; and hence a lot more likely to have gone along with whatever repair shop he suggested to move the car and stop the storage costs.
Second, since this is what we call a third party (the “other guy’s” insurance) repair, diminished value is a possibility. If this were a serious accident, then diminished value means that even after complete repairs, the market place could show a reduced value for her car versus one the same age and mileage that has not been in an accident.
But here we do not know the extent of the damage to judge whether or not to hire an expert to make an appraisal. If she has good repair work with good parts, and no structural damage, and the total repair cost is less than $10,000, she probably will not have to worry about diminished value to her car. Otherwise, she should go to my website below and search for “diminished value” to get complete information for free.
Question #1. Yes, she can choose her own shop; it is HER CHOICE, not the adjuster’s. The adjuster was trying to steer her to what we call a "Preferred Shop", "Approved Shop" or the like. These are licensed by the insurance company to write estimates that automatically become approved work orders. This process is part of a cost-saving and convenience (for the insurance) setup known as DRP: Direct Repair or Referral Program.
There is nothing wrong per se with that arrangement, and there can be some real advantages to the consumer (as I mention in the linked free information page below). But one thing to be concerned about in agreeing to use such shops is to be careful that they are not selected because they agree to shortchange on the quality of repairs.
Question #2. She has the right to receive her vehicle back restored to its pre-accident condition. The debate here is likely between use of Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) parts versus “Aftermarket" parts, "Like Kind and Quality Parts", or "Quality Replacement Parts", all as touted by the insurance industry.
These are the parts made by some unknown shop overseas and are pushed by the insurance industry as a cost saving for their insureds. Since they are usually not of the same quality or fit as the OEM parts, sometimes customers will hold out for even a used OEM part rather than a new Aftermarket part.
If her Impala were seven years old, it would be more difficult to argue for new OEM parts since the parts on the car were NOT new, and had significant wear. Thus, insisting to use brand new OEM parts on an older car could be considered “betterment” for significant parts, wherein the consumer will owe the insurance company because it improved the vehicle from its pre-accident condition.
Question #3. Sarah is right to complain about such a low allowance for a rental car. In the first place, it is the obligation of the tortfeasor to provide like kind replacement transportation in terms of size and luxury. She cannot expect the exact same car as her own vehicle, but anyone knows that $25 a day is only going to get her a subcompact. She should not accept that offer and she needs to demand an upgrade.
Plus, if she stays with the shop of her choosing and there is a delay of any kind in the repairs, I can already hear the adjuster telling her that he is cutting off the rental authorization because if she had stayed with his “preferred” shop the job would have been done in time. Sarah must reject that argument and point out that the rental car should continue through the repair process, including reasonable delays for parts. These delays would be within the ambit of what we call the consequential damages of the tortfeasor's negligence.
Finally, Sarah has to insist that her vehicle is restored to pre-loss condition. That means FUNCTION (do all systems work?), APPEARANCE, SAFETY (restored to manufacturer’s standards), and VALUE (no diminution in value).
I have prepared extensive free insurance adjuster and body shop owner information regarding these topics, and I respectfully invite your review of it at Auto collision Repairs: Body Shop Vs. Insurance Adjuster.
Dr. Settlement, J.D. (Juris Doctor)
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About the Author: THE recognized Internet authority on personal injury insurance claims, Dr. Settlement, J.D. (Juris Doctor) writes as a proven expert with 27 years of front line plaintiff’s trial lawyer experience in PERSONAL INJURY INSURANCE CLAIMS. Along with another attorney, an insurance adjuster, (and one ugly neurologist), they have created a website to help injured people get their own auto accident insurance claims help.