Car accidents are inconvenient at their best and devastating at their worst. If you've been involved in a car wreck in Los Angeles, you'll have a lot on your plate, including beginning the process of repairing the damage done to your vehicle. Most drivers haven't been in many accidents, and while this isn't a bad thing, it does contribute to a general lack of experience in navigating the post-wreck process.
In seeking vehicle repairs after a car accident, you'll need to communicate with both the insurance company and the auto body shops, which can be confusing at an already stressful time. It's important you understand you have rights.
Get at Least Three Estimates
If your insurance, or the other driver's insurance, has agreed to pay for the repairs to your vehicle, you'll want to get at least three estimates from reputable mechanics. Drivers who only get one estimate won't know if they're getting a fair deal. The mechanic may be overpriced, knowing that the insurance company will pay the bill, or they may be offering a deal that's too good to be true. Unfortunately, some mechanics will seemingly offer a great deal only to take short cuts and use cheap parts. Even when there isn't a bad intention behind a low estimate, mechanics make mistakes just like everyone, and it's possible they missed something in their evaluation.
When drivers get a second and third estimate, they'll be better able to make an informed decision.
Getting Auto Repair Estimates in Writing
Section 2695.85 of the California Code of Regulations outlines the Auto Body Repair Consumer Bill of Rights. Under this Bill of Rights, you are entitled to:
“An itemized written estimate for auto body repairs and, upon completion of repairs, a detailed invoice. The estimate and the invoice must include an itemized list of parts and labor along with the total price for the work performed. The estimate and invoice must also identify all parts as new, used, aftermarket, reconditions, or rebuilt.”
A written estimate serves multiple purposes, and a reputable mechanic won't find this request. Some of the benefits of detailed, written quotes include:
- Easy, line-by-line comparison of repair work.
- Cost comparison.
- Information that could tell you if the insurance estimate is way off.
At first, you shouldn't show the repair shop the details of the other estimates. Instead, you should compare the estimates against one another and see how they match up. If the same recommendations are offered at drastically different prices, you'll know something is amiss and could then follow up on discrepancies.
If you have multiple estimates that align in cost and recommendation, then you can usually assume those estimates are accurate. An issue can arise, however, when the insurance company doesn't believe the damage to your vehicle will cost as much as your estimates indicate. If you're armed with multiple estimates that say otherwise, you'll have more leverage to convince the insurance company that they haven't accurately evaluated your repair needs.
Your Right to Choose Your Auto Repair Shop
After you've been involved in a car wreck, the insurance company will give you the names of the mechanics they recommend if you request it. If you don't know where to start, you can use these suggestions, but keep in mind that the insurance companies are looking for the best deal. They might prioritize their bottom line over the quality of your repair. You should always ask friends or family members for independent recommendations.
Many don't realize they don't have to use the auto repair mechanic recommended by the insurance company. California law places the following restrictions on insurance providers under Section 758.5 of the California Insurance Code.
“No insurer shall require that an automobile be repaired at a specific automotive repair dealer…”
“No insurer shall suggest or recommend that an automobile be repaired at a specific automotive repair dealer unless … referral is expressly requested by the claimant …” or “[t]he claimant has been informed in writing of the right to select the automotive repair dealer.”
The Auto Body Repair Consumer Bill of Rights also entitles you to:
“Seek and obtain an independent repair estimate directly from a registered auto body repair shop for repair of a damaged vehicle, even when pursuing an insurance claim for repair of the vehicle.”
You may feel powerless after you've experienced losses resulting from a car accident, but the truth is you do have control over some aspects, including the right to seek multiple repair estimates for your damaged vehicle.