When you've been in a car accident involving significant damage to your vehicle, you may be faced with a roadblock or two before you can get your car fixed and get back in the driver's seat. This article looks at the kinds of disputes than can come about over vehicle damage estimates and repair work after a car accident.
You've probably obtained your own estimates of what it will cost to repair your car, and hopefully you've gone about it the right way. (Learn more about getting a vehicle repair estimate after a car accident.) But if the insurance company has conducted its own inspection of your damaged vehicle, or obtained its own estimate of what repairs will cost, the adjuster may dispute the estimates you have obtained. If so, there are several factors to consider in negotiating with the adjuster about the fair amount of a property damage settlement. Before actually negotiating, however, make sure that both you and the adjuster have exchanged written copies of all estimates and inspection reports.
These written estimates will form the basis of your negotiations, so the more detailed your estimates are, the more easily you can argue that they are more complete and accurate than the insurance company’s estimates.
Now, let's look at a number of ways you can argue that your estimate is the correct one when a repair dispute rears its ugly head.
If the insurance company’s estimate of repairs is based on its own inspection rather than on that of a qualified repair shop, you can argue that the estimate is a meaningless figure because it does not reflect what it would actually cost to get the work done competently. Unless the adjuster can guarantee a qualified local repair shop that would thoroughly and expertly repair the property for the amount the inspection has estimated, the inspection figure is just a whistle in the wind.
If the insurance company’s estimate is from a repair shop, make sure that the estimate is thorough and detailed. Particularly with regard to vehicles, these estimates are often made by someone taking a quick overall guess at what repairs would cost rather than taking the time to itemize each part and labor cost. And make sure that the estimate includes any repainting that might be required. Unless the repair estimate has been carefully itemized and can be compared with your own estimate, you can argue that it is too vague or incomplete to be taken seriously.
Particularly if the property to be repaired is new, expensive, or rare, an estimate that is not based on factory replacement parts or is not made by a shop that specializes in repairs of that specific make or brand is worthless. You have a right to have your property repaired to the condition it was in before the accident, not merely to have it functional.
If the insurance company’s estimate does not spell out all the parts to be used and their cost, and specify that they are to be factory authorized replacement parts, you can explain to the adjuster why that repair estimate is inadequate. Similarly, if the shop that makes the estimate does not specialize in repairing your make or brand of vehicle or other property, its estimate should not be a basis for compensation.
For more tips on getting your vehicle repaired the right way after a car accident -- and all the information you’ll need to navigate your case -- get How to Win Your Personal Injury Claim by Joseph L. Matthews (Nolo).