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 to repair the damage 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 the insurance company and the auto body shops, which can be confusing at an already stressful time. You must understand you have rights.
After a car accident, drivers should attempt to get at least three repair estimates. One should come from an auto repair shop with a reputation for quality work. However, suppose you only get a single estimate. In that case, you will not know if the repair shop you selected is asking too much or not enough to do an excellent job on your car.
You could also use the estimates to determine an average cost, which can be used to assess the quality of their car insurance company payout, subject to the deductible and collision coverage limitations.
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 offer a great deal only to take shortcuts 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. Simply put, getting multiple estimates will allow you to make an informed decision about repairing your vehicle. With only one estimate, you cannot know whether the costs are above or below what they should expect.
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; 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 follow up on discrepancies. If you have multiple estimates that align in cost and recommendation, 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.
Is the Lowest Estimate Always the Best?
Not necessarily, as in some cases, the lowest estimate might be your worst option. For example, suppose you will spend the least amount on your vehicle repairs. In that case, the repairs might be of such low quality that you must take your car to another repair shop to fix it correctly.
This scenario is especially true if one of the estimates is significantly lower than the others or the itemized estimate is missing an entire line. Perhaps the person giving you the estimate missed an essential part of the repair job. Perhaps the car repair shop is drastically cutting costs in a manner that will impact the quality of the work.
Should You Go to The Car Repair Shop Recommended by Your Insurance Company?
Many auto insurance companies have a list of recommended collision repair shops. These could be reputable businesses, but they also might be ways to let the insurer cut their expenses and maximize profits.
If the referral is to a direct repair program (DRP), then there is a chance the driver might not get the quality repair that they wanted. Direct repair facilities are auto body shops in partnership with car insurance companies.
The insurance company refers their customers to the shop, which will make the repairs at a discount to keep new business coming in. Next, the insurance company keeps the savings and pays out less to the driver for the repairs.
Further, the insurance company could also require that the repairs be completed within a specific time frame, forcing the shop to use cheaper or refurbished car parts.
Simply put, taking your damaged car to a repair shop recommended by your insurance company has advantages and disadvantages.
While your vehicle may get repaired more quickly, the repair shop might be placed on a deadline and cut corners, resulting in a lesser quality repair job, and it's the insurance company that will save most of the money.
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 remember that 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, which says the following:
- “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 the 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 the following:
- “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. Still, the truth is that you do have control over some aspects, including the right to seek multiple repair estimates for your damaged vehicle.
What If the Insurance Company is Taking Too Long?
If the insurance provider delays the car repair process, you should take your car to a repair shop of your choice, pay out of pocket, and then seek reimbursement.
This often occurs when the insurance adjuster has yet to inspect your vehicle damage within a reasonable amount of time, generally within one week.
However, it would be best if you acted cautiously, as choosing a car repair shop that gives a very high estimate could result in the insurance company refusing to pay the total cost of the car repairs. In addition, they may delay sending you a reimbursement.
As noted, estimates should be in writing, itemized, and include the labor costs and the parts used. After you get multiple estimates, you should make an itemized comparison to see which repair shop will provide the best service for the cost.
If you have been injured in a car accident due to negligence, our Los Angeles car accident lawyers can help you. In addition, we offer a free case evaluation. Injury Justice Law Firm is located in Los Angeles, California.