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Property Damage: Car Repair Claims

Whether you are dealing with your insurance company or filing a 3rd Party Claim, the insurance company will most likely want to send your car to one of its pre-approved body shops.  You do not have to do this.  You can take it to a body shop of your choosing, have them inspect your car and provide you with an estimate for repairs.  If you are picky about your car this will be the most satisfying approach in the long term because you control who does the work on your car, not some lowest cost bodyshop the insurance company likes to use.

So, your two choices when faced with a PD claim that requires you to repair your car are:

  1. Let the insurance company send your car to one of its approved body shops and handle all the repairs for you;  or
  2. Have the insurance company give you the money for the repairs and you manage the repairs yourself with a bodyshop of your choosing.

If your are handling your own repair estimate and it looks like it is equal to or exceeds the value of your car, you will want to begin researching the fair market value of your car because the insurance company will probably want to total out your car instead of paying for repairs.

Who Should Manage The Repairs

Letting the insurance company handle your car’s repairs can seem like a good idea.  It gets you out of finding a body shop or mechanic and takes you out of the middle of having to pay for the repairs.

Insurance companies want to use a body shop of their choosing because they have relationships with body shops.  Body shops give them a discount on the repairs in exchange for the insurance company sending them business.  This high volume type relationship may put the quality of your repairs at risk.  If your estimates are close to the estimates of the body shop the insurance company is using, then the fight over who repairs your car may not be worth it.  But if you have 2 or more estimates noticeably higher then what the insurance company is presenting, you should strongly consider using a body shop of your choosing and fighting the insurance company over the costs.

Handling Your Own Repairs

If you are going to handle the repairs yourself, the adjuster will most likely want to get their own inspection and appraisal to argue the repairs could be done for cheaper.  A good strategy for preventing this tactic is to get two estimates from bodyshops of your choosing.  The adjuster will be less inclined to argue your estimates are unreasonable.  Even so, you should still let the insurance company inspect and appraise your car.  But, make it convenient for you.  They are going to want you to drive to their guy.  Insist that their expert come to a time and location that is convenient for you.  If you are filing against your own insurance company and the adjuster pushes back against this condition, kindly request they send you a copy of your insurance policy with the applicable provisions highlighted so you can read where in the contract it says you must comply with their demands.  Remember, everything between you and your insurance company is controlled by the contract between you both – the insurance policy.

Replacement Parts

Ask that the body shop only use OEM parts in repairing your vehicle.  When the body shop repairs your car, they can either use original equipment manufacturer parts (OEM) or aftermarket parts.  OEM refers to the company that originally manufactured the product.

The insurance companies will tell you the difference in quality between the two types of parts is negligible.  It is no wonder they say this, seeing as how aftermarket parts are substantially cheaper than OEM parts.  An OEM part may be twice as much as its comparable aftermarket part.  Finally, when you go to sell your car, the buyer/dealer will look to see what types of parts you used and will adjust the value of your car accordingly.  OEM parts increase the value of your car.

Your Stuff That Got Damaged

A little known part of your claim is the ability to replace broken “things” that were in your car.  “Property damage” includes personal property such as eye glasses, sun glasses, a cell phone, or anything else that was damaged by being in your car when the accident occurred.  You will want to get estimates for the replacement values for these things as well as some sort of estimate on what they were worth when damaged.  Some adjusters will give you the replacement value while others will argue you are only entitled to their value on the date of accident.  This argument considers that fact that things depreciate, or lose their value as they get older and used.  Research prices on eBay, Amazon, and Craig’s List.  If you have photographs of the item or the original receipt, you may want to send that to the adjuster as part of your demand.

Rental Cars

You will also want to get the bodyshop to give you an estimate on how long the repairs will take so you can calculate the number of days for which you will need a rental car.  Make sure the bodyshop you intend on using for repairs can commit to having your car done in the estimated amount of time.  You don’t want to estimate 3 days for a rental vehicle and then have repairs go for a week because you will have to cover the difference. Ask the bodyshop if they are willing to pay for your rental if they go beyond their estimate and explain you are handling your own PD claim and making their rental car length estimate part of your total settlement.  See Rental Cars for more information.

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