According to the insurance industry, the average adult will file an auto collision claim approximately once every 17.9 years. This means that, over the course of an average lifetime, you are likely to be involved in three to four car accidents. That doesn’t necessarily mean you will be involved in a serious car accident or fatal crash—only about 3 out of every 1,000 auto collisions involve a fatality. What it does mean is that at some point in your life, you will be looking at your smashed-up car, feeling at least a bit of despair. Perhaps you already have a trusted auto body repair shop, or, perhaps you have never needed one, so have no idea how to choose a trustworthy repair shop after a car accident.
Your Insurance Company Could Have a Contract with Certain Body Shops
You probably either have first-hand knowledge, or at least have been told, that estimates from one body shop to the next can vary widely. While one shop may give you an estimate of $700, the next estimate could be three times that. How do you know whether it is okay to choose the cheaper company? Should you simply go with the body shop your insurance recommends? What you may not know is that insurance companies will typically attempt to steer you toward their “preferred” shops following your auto collision. Unfortunately, the contracts insurance companies have with those preferred shops can impose strict budget limitations on your repairs.
These budget limitations can compromise the quality of your auto repair, and, in some instances, even your safety. When an insurance company has a contract with your auto body shop, they may pressure the shop to use non-OEM (Original Equipment Manufactured), reconditioned, or even salvage parts to repair your vehicle. The shops using the most non-OEM parts will receive the highest number of referrals from the insurance companies they have contracts with. In turn, parts and labor are expected to be discounted, leading to a vehicle which may not be properly repaired.
Choosing Your Own Repair Shop
You have the right to choose your body repair shop no matter which body shop your insurance company recommends, and it is important that you do so. Talk to friends or family members who have used local body shops and find out which ones consistently receive positive feedback. Then, talk to several of those shops about the repairs for your vehicle. Get an estimate from each shop, but don’t automatically choose the lowest estimate.
Carefully compare the estimates to determine whether they are, in fact, equal, as far as what repairs will be done to your vehicle. If one estimate is considerably cheaper than the others, be a little cautious, and ask yourself why that estimate is so much cheaper. Ask about whether the work comes with a warranty, and, if so, for how long. (Typically, a one-year warranty is the minimum). Ask about the materials which will be used to repair your vehicle. Are they new, used, or after-market? After-market parts can save you money, and, in some cases, can be as good as those which come from the original manufacturer, but you may prefer to have OEM parts used on your vehicle.
Finally, trust your intuition. If the shop is not busy, ask yourself why. If it is extremely disorganized, cluttered or dirty, you might wonder whether the work on your vehicle will be done in the same manner. If the body shop owner appears to resent your questions, move along to the next shop on your list. Ask specifically about labor charges, as they can vary considerably.
Steps to Take Following an Auto Accident
If the issues regarding choosing a body shop—and perhaps ignoring the advice your insurance company is giving you in the process—seem overwhelming, try to take it one step at a time, and remember the following:
- If you are able to drive your vehicle (and the accident was not your fault), you will need to call the other driver’s insurance company. An estimate will be provided to you by the company for the necessary repairs to your vehicle. You may be asked to take your car directly to the insurance company for an estimate, or they may come to your location.
- If the insurance company does not have a local estimator, they may ask you to obtain 2-3 estimates from local body shops for the repairs to your vehicle, then they will issue a check for the lowest estimate.
- Once you receive an estimate from the insurance company, take your vehicle to several body shops for additional estimates.
- If a body shop tells you the necessary repairs to your vehicle cannot be made under the insurance company’s estimate, you may need to have the manager of the body shop contact the insurance company to explain the necessity of the repairs. At this point, the insurance company will (hopefully) issue a check to the body shop to pay for the necessary repairs.
- If the damage to your car was so severe that it was towed to a salvage yard, it is extremely important that you have your vehicle moved to the body shop you choose as soon as possible to avoid daily “storage” fees.
Contact Our Colorado Springs Car Accident Attorneys
If you have questions regarding the repairs for your car, or you are having difficulty dealing with the insurance company, perhaps the most beneficial action you can take is to contact an experienced attorney who can be your advocate, ensuring you are treated fairly following your auto accident.
At the Rector Law Firm, our Colorado Springs car accident attorneys have the experience and the resources to build a case that is designed to obtain maximum compensation for our clients. Contact out attorneys today at 719-578-1106 for a free initial consultation and review of your case.