Whether it’s your cars’ door that’s been keyed in a parking lot, a serious accident or restoring a car, having a good body shop on your side is like having a good attorney; hopefully you won’t need one, but if you do you want the best. Although it still has some aura of mystery, the definition of good body work is very simple; after it is completed, no one can tell. In other words, if someone tells you off the cuff they like the paintwork on your bumper, it wasn’t that good. Along with the aesthetics, the structural integrity has to be maintained to the factory specs. We’re going to cover the whole gamut of the body shop field ranging from your rights as the insured to choosing a top notch shop to being competent to distinguish good work from mediocre.
Let’s start with the scenario of you being involved in an accident. This is usually a very traumatic and emotional time, but you have to keep a level head because what you do at that moment will have an impact on the settlement with the insurance companies. You should have a check list as well as knowing your rights under New York state law.
- Make sure everyone is ok and contact the proper authorities. Move everyone to a safe area away from traffic.
- Do not argue with the other party (just put away that brick you were going to crack over the other driver’s head) or admit guilt. Just exchange pertinent information.
- If the other party tells you then don’t want to call the police and would rather pay you out of pocket; call the police. They usually have a lowball amount in their head and will never pay the real amount it would take to repair your car correctly. Then it is your responsibility to prove your case. In over 20 years of being in business, only once have we seen a person pay the real amount it took to repair the car they hit.
- Take pictures from different angles of the accident. Do not share these pictures with the other party. BTW, this is why we recommend having dash cams installed in you car. They’re your witness in case anything happens.
- Contact a towing service of your choice to transport your car to the body shop of your choice or your home (have the contact info. of the towing co. with you in the glove compartment). If you’re on a highway and have to use an official designated towing service, have them transport your car to your body shop or your home. Do not let them “steer” you to the shop they recommend (whom they difinitely get a kick-back from).
- Insist that the towing co. only uses the factory supplied towing hook to winch the car (it is in the factory tool kit). The hook screws into the front bumper or behind the rear license plate. I’ve seen many instances of cars having their suspension components bent from improper towing. And obviously, always have your car transported on a flatbed (a kneeling flatbed is best).
- You may legally designate your repair shop to negotiate a fair claim settlement with your insurance company. This is where you want someone who has your best interests at heart. Just think of it as having a lawyer represent you. We just repaired a Porsche Turbo where the initial estimate was written at another body shop which was suggested by the insurance carrier. After we towed the car to our body shop and got done fighting with the insurance company, the car owner received a supplemental check for an additional $7,200 (this was what it took to repair the car “correctly”).
- Do NOT ever go to drive-in claims center. Although they are marketed as convenient and quick, in many instances it will cost you money in the end – and that’s very inconvenient.
- An insurance company cannot tell you to go to its designated shop to get your damaged car inspected. If additional “hidden” damage is found after disassembly, the insurance company has two business days to re-inspect after proper notification.
- The insurance company must negotiate in good faith. You are entitled to a prompt and fair settlement to repair your car to its pre-accident condition. This includes parts of like, kind and quality equal to original equipment.
- You are not required to get more than one estimate for another party (even though you always hear about needing 3 estimates).
- Don’t let the insurance company steer you to one of their “approved” or “in network” shops – it is illegal for them to do so. These shops are part of their DRP (direct repair program), but also creatively marketed as a “Concierge Service” or “Xpress Service”. Under Section 167C of the New York State Law, YOU HAVE THE RIGHT to have your car repaired at a registered shop of your choice; your insurance company cannot direct you otherwise. If your insurer insists that you need to get your car inspected or repaired at a particular place, do not get into an argument but just contact the Insurance Department at (800) 342-3736.
- Except for window glass repair, an insurance company cannot recommend a particular shop unless you ask for a recommendation.
- If the damages to your car are over $1,000.00, you must fill out a D.M.V. Form 104.
- An insurance company cannot tell you that you have to repair your vehicle in order to get paid. If you have damage, the insurer must pay the cost of repairing that damage, whether or not you choose to repair the vehicle. These New York state restrictions apply when a consumer files a claim with his or her own auto insurance company under his or her own policy. Claims filed with a third-party insurance company (the insurance company covering a person who hit you), even if that company is the same as yours, are subject to different restrictions. A third-party company is allowed to recommend a particular repair shop, but still cannot require its use. As a matter of fact, recently the NYS Department of Insurance conducted an investigation into this practice. They found that certain insurance companies were making claims that “the work of independent shops (read – your body shop) might not be guaranteed or fully covered, or overpriced or that the work will be unduly delayed”. Do not fall for these scare tactics. Remember you are the customer who pays them and have the right to stay in control.
- The only parts which should be used to repair your car are those equal to the OEM or those originally on your vehicle. The use of imitation parts could void a portion of your warranty or devalue your vehicle. Always inquire which parts will be used during repairs.
In our next blog, we’ll discuss choosing a quality body shop as well as differentiating between top notch vs. mediocre work. Until next time, may the wind be always at your back!