Get Car Repairs Done the Right Way After an Accident

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If your vehicle is damaged after an accident, follow these tips to get it fixed and back on the road as soon as possible.

Getting a Damage Estimate

Usually, you don't have to get any estimates yourself. Normally, the insurance company that is paying to repair your car damage will have an on-the-road estimator go to your car and estimate the cost of repairing the car. Alternatively, if your car can be driven lawfully, some companies may ask you to drive your car to their closest estimating facility.

For more things to keep in mind when it comes to damage estimates, check out Getting a Vehicle Repair Estimate After an Accident: 3 Tips

Choosing the Repair Shop

You can probably choose where you want to havfe repairs done. However, some insurance companies are writing their policies to give them the right to select the repair shop. This is something to check out when you renew your insurance policy or get a new policy -- do you have the right to select the shop that will repair your vehicle?

Obviously, if they have the right, insurance companies will send you to go to a repair shop that gives them favorable rates, in order to save the insurance company money. These deals between insurance companies and repair shops are known as DRP (Direct Referral Program) Contracts.

Under these contracts, the insurance company refers a great deal of business to the repair facility and, in return, the repair facility gives the insurance company price breaks. This is okay if the repair facility retains control over how the vehicle will be repaired, but in some instances, those decisions are given to the insurance company. Do you want some insurance type with a calculator deciding whether to replace a car part that could affect your family's safety?

Your best protection is this: before your accident, purchase insurance that gives you the right to select the repair shop. Then, after your accident, select a repair shop that has a strong reputation for ethics and customer service.

Beware of Used Parts

The repair facility can -- and probably will -- fix your car with parts that aren't necessarily new or made by the vehicle manufacturer. 

You would like the repair facility to use OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) replacement parts. More likely, however, they will use parts manufactured by someone other than the original equipment manufacturer, used parts or reconditioned parts. Why? They're cheaper.

If you are dealing with the other driver's insurance company under the other driver's property damage liability insurance, that company's obligation is to put your car back into the condition it was in before their policyholder crashed into you.

Since your vehicle had used parts before it was damaged, it is acceptable to use used parts in the repairs.

On the other hand, non-OEM parts -- sometimes called aftermarket parts -- may be markedly inferior junk parts that can, in some instances, be a safety hazard. You should not accept them without a fight.

If you are dealing with your insurance company under your collision coverage, there is probably a provision in your insurance policy that requires your company to provide parts of "like kind and quality." To describe these parts, the shorthand "LKQ" is often used.

Here, also, your position should be that non-OEM parts are not of LKQ. You should insist on OEM replacement parts or, at least, used OEM parts.

If the insurance company insists on using aftermarket (non-OEM) parts, you should do one of two things. One is to pay the additional amount to get OEM replacement parts and then to sue the at-fault party in small claims court for the difference. The other is to insist that the insurance company gives you a written warranty of the aftermarket parts that lasts as long as you own the car.

When New Damage is Discovered

What if additional damage is found while the repair work is being done? This happens quite frequently. Once a mechanic goes under the hood or puts the car up on a lift, additional damage is discovered that couldn't be seen before.

When that happens, normally the repair shop contacts the insurance company and tells them what the additional damage is. The insurance company sends an appraiser to see if they agree. If they do, they authorize the work.

If you have chosen a repair shop with a reputation for quality work and strong ethics, they will make sure that this is done and that your vehicle is repaired correctly.

Learn more about Disputes Over Vehicle Repairs After a Car Accident.

Updated by: , J.D.

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