No, as per the law, you have a choice to choose the auto repair body shop after a car accident. You do not need to follow the recommendation of a car insurance company. They have relationships with body shops called DRP’s. (Direct repair facility)
A car accident is a bad experience in general. It often leaves people with a lot of resentment towards insurance companies. And, if your car is damaged and goes to the body shop, that is an additional hassle. For the car insurance company to approve your claim, you may need to use the services of an approved body shop.
Selecting a body shop after an accident
Your car insurance company will recommend their choice of an approved car body shop. Otherwise, you can also select a car mechanic of your choice. The insurance company, however, will dissuade you from selecting a body shop of your liking. The reason being here is that insurance companies have contracts with body shops. Therefore, the body shop will work towards the best interest of the insurance company.
The body shop will write an estimate and determine the extent of the damage to your car. They will then provide an estimate of the damages. Then the insurance company will pay the body shop to fix your car.
Coming back to the main question:
Do you have to select the Body Shop recommended by the insurance company?
There are a few options at your disposal.
- You never have to accept the insurance companies offer
- Which insurance company to file a claim with
- The body shop of your choice.
- Fix the car or keep the money (see below)
- Keep the car or not
Let us explore all the scenarios.
1. You don’t have to accept any offer from the insurance company for your car
If you car is not a total loss
You can either have the adjuster come out to your house or meet you at the body shop. He will write and estimate and cut you a check on the spot. You can argue with him, especially if you have a couple of estimates already.
The best thing to do is drop the car off at the body shop of your choice and give them the claim number and let them handle it for you. Body shops are experts when it comes to dealing with insurance adjusters. They do it everyday.
Can I just take the money and not fix the car?
Sure, if your car is paid for free and clear. It would be wise to fix your car if it is financed. The loan company doesn’t check to see if you had an accident or if you fixed your car. However, it would be prudent to fix your vehicle if you have a loan on it. You may be responsible for damages if the loan company takes back the car for missed payments.
If your car is a total loss
You need to know what your cars value is, not what you owe
Many people think the insurance company has to pay off their car or truck. They are only required to pay for the value of your vehicle. Go to Edmonds.com and get the value of your car. If the adjuster wants to give you less, show him why your car is worth more. It never hurts to argue with the adjuster, especially when we may be talking about thousands of dollars.
Additional value, maintenance, tires, etc.
It is possible to get the insurance company to pay for addition items. This would be tires that you just bought a week before the accident. You must provide proof of purchase. They would not cover Tires that were installed a year or years earlier.
Extra things the auto insurance company may pay for
Tires, wheels, etc. (as long as they were installed with a certain time frame)
Certain repairs, such as transmission replacement, brakes, etc.
Insurance companies may want to charge you the storage fees after they make you an offer and you reject it. This may be because they want you to accept that offer. Make sure your vehicle is in a place that you control. In other words, have it towed to your house if possible. They may not be required to pay for storage fees after they make you an offer and you reject it, so be ready for that scenario. They want you to accept that offer, so taking away the rental car or making you pay for storage is one way to do that
Make sure you have gap insurance if you owe more than your car is worth. The insurance company is not required to pay off your vehicle, only the value. It is your responsibility to make sure you have adequate coverage for your vehicles. Gap insurance would cover the difference of what the car is worth vs. what you owe.
2. You can pick which auto insurance company to file a claim with
This really applies if you have full coverage. Your insurance company works for you, you pay them money. They may handle your claim better than the at fault insurance company. You will have to pay a deductible. However, in some instances they will waive it.
3. You can pick the body shop of your choice.
When you’re insurance company suggests an auto shop to go to after a car accident, you can do some initial research. Check with past clients about the workmanship of the repair shop. An insurer-recommended body shop has some arrangements with the insurance company. However, this could just work in your favor.
The Body shop will have met the insurance company’s standards of repair and maintenance. Since they have been services for car insurance claims for a while, therefore, have experience in this regard.
If you do not want to go by the insurance company’s choice of the body shop, you can go for your pick. In this case, too, you might prefer sending the car to your trusted body shop.
Some insurance companies require claimants to obtain estimates from three different shops for the repairs, before establishing a median amount. Once you acquire the estimates, you can take the car to your choice of the body shop, but the body shop has to complete the repairs for the approved amount.
The insurance company owes you a claim that covers costs more than the cost of repair. It will also cover the amount that your car has depreciated due to the accident. This is called diminution in value damages.
Diminished Value Claim
Diminished value is the depreciated amount that your car now has since it was involved in an accident. Many people, including myself, don’t want to buy a car that was in an accident. There is a price tag for this amount and it’s based on several things.
The amount of damage to your car
If you have a brand new car that has 10k in property damage, you have a substantial diminished value claim. If you just need a new rear bumper that claim is going to be much smaller.
The age of your vehicle
If your car is 5 or more years of, you may not qualify for a diminished value claim. Some insurance companies won’t pay out on diminished value if your car is and older vehicle.
If the insurance company wont pay you diminished value, you may need to speak with a diminished value attorney.
DRP’s (direct repair facility body shop)
They will follow a systematic channel towards repair services and prepare a proper estimate of the damages. The body shop will be skilled in preparing all the necessary paperwork required for initiating the insurance claims. They will directly coordinate with the insurance adjusters, reducing the hassle on your behalf.
An insurance company will conduct a background check of the body shop to verify its authenticity and repair skills. As we know, the body shop has an understanding with the insurer (DRP). So an ill-reputation of the car shop will also put the insurance company’s reputation at stake.
Going by the insurance agent’s choice of body repair shop has its advantages as well as pitfalls.
Let’s explore both sides carefully.
Benefits of selecting the Insurance Company’s Body Shop
Selecting the insurance company’s repair shop would mean a faster car repair service. The body shop will be well-versed in repairing your car and initiate the entire process rapidly.
Insurance company-recommended body shops may offer a lifetime warranty for their work. Check the warranty services before entrusting the body shop with your car repairs. Even if you select a body shop that is not referred by your insurance agent, they may still offer a lifetime warranty for their services.
In-network Body Shop
If you select a body shop that falls within the insurance company’s network, you can have some additional benefits. In case you are in another state or the repairs from the body shop are unsatisfactory, the insurance agent can direct you to body shop.
Disadvantages of selecting the Insurance Company’s Body Shop
Sub-quality repairs & service
A body shop referred by the insurance company will fix your car by very affordable means. Sometimes, it could mean using sub-standard repair work. An association with the insurance company implies that the body shop will try to save the insurance company’s cost. Also, the body shop may not be familiar with your car, they might require extra time and effort for the repairs.
Incorrect evaluation of repairs
Another concern here is that the body shop might downplay the size of your car damage to save the insurance company’s claim. Body shop fraud is common where many mechanics wrongly evaluate the damage to your car.
Used or Aftermarket parts
Some insurance companies & body shops will write estimates that include used or aftermarket parts. However, I’d rather have used parts that are OEM on my car than aftermarket parts. Aftermarket parts may not be manufactured with the same quality materials as OEM. Parts such as bumpers may not have the same fit and finish as OEM. I would insist on new OEM parts or at the least used OEM parts.
4. You can opt whether to fix the car or keep the money
Some claimants prefer to keep the cash instead of opting for a repair. If the cosmetic damage does not bother you much, you can opt for keeping the money.
The insurance company owes you the claim amount whether you get the car repaired or not. In some cases, people get a higher estimate from a body shop and then take the car to a known body shop who will do the work for a lesser amount.
The choice is yours. In case, you take the cash amount and do not get the car repaired from the insurance company’s preferred body shop, the insurance company may exclude that part of your car from any future repairs or accidents.
Another point of consideration is that if you have a lienholder or lender on your car, then you will probably need to get the repairs done. Or else, you may encounter a problem when you try to sell the car. Body damage results in the depreciation in the value of your car, which may cause you to be “upside-down” on your auto loan. Simply put, you will owe more than the car is worth.
5. You Can Choose To Keep the Car or Not
If your car is totaled in an accident, the insurance company takes it away. Although, you can choose to keep the car. Also, if the car is damaged and the repair is estimated at a value higher than that of your vehicle, then the insurance company has the option to pay you the value of your vehicle. They will evaluate the car and then decide on a fair market price.
You have the choice to accept or not accept the amount offered by the insurance company, and also, negotiate on the amount. Factors that affect the value of your car would be some upgrades made by up, good mileage, custom paint jobs, or limited edition automobiles. Any of these factors will work in your favor and you can inform the insurance company about the same. Discuss these details with your adjuster and if the final bid is still too low, then you could contact a skilled attorney and they could help you figure out how to get a better value for your car.
Further, even if the car is totaled in damages, you can still keep it in some states. The insurance company will pay you the insurance amount after deducting the salvage charges. You can keep the car thereafter. However, I would not recommend you do this, unless you want to keep the car for life.
Final Thoughts on do you have to use the insurance companies body shop
A car accident is indeed a stressful situation, but knowing the above facts can relieve you of some of the stress. You always have a choice to select a body shop that you feel comfortable with. You can fix the damage to your car or keep the money and not fix it as long as it is safe to do so.
If your car is totaled, you can still keep the car in some states. And finally, if the offer for the repairs or total price of the auto replacement seems very low, you can refuse the offer. If you need help in the concerned matter, a qualified attorney can answer your questions.