If you have ever been involved in an accident, you may find the process of getting an accurate car repair estimate that satisfies your insurance company to be a hassle. You will need a car repair estimate in order to get insurance money, so it is important that you follow the insurance company's instruction. Knowing what your car insurance policy has to say about getting a car repair estimate will make the process easier.
Car Insurance Estimate When You Are Not At Fault
When you are involved in a car accident and the other driver is at fault, you can choose to submit a car insurance estimate for damages to your own insurance company or the negligent driver's insurance company. So what's the difference? If you make a car accident claim with your own insurance company, you will likely incur a deductible before you receive insurance money. After taking your car to a mechanic to assess the damages, you will submit a car insurance estimate to the claim's adjuster for approval.
TIP:Make sure you get your car insurance estimate from a reliable mechanic who can provide documentation for your claims adjuster. A car insurance estimate from your neighbor who fixes cars on the weekends is not likely to be accepted.
If, instead, you go through the other driver's insurance, as long as liability is clear, they will pay for your car damage and a rental car and you will not be charged a deductible. If the damage to your car is small you may be asked to obtain multiple car insurance estimates.
Some companies will advise you to use their preferred body shop for the car insurance estimate because preferred shops streamline the process by sending the bill directly to the insurance provider, or having the company write a check on the spot. A car repair estimate from a preferred body shop is not likely to be disputed.
TIP: You do not have to get your car repaired at a preferred body shop! Get a car repair estimate from the preferred shop, and compare it to other repair estimates to make sure you are getting the best work done. While a preferred body shop may streamline the car insurance estimate process, the most important thing is getting the best repair!
Whatever your choice, a claims adjuster will likely question you about the accident and then arrange for photos to be taken of your vehicle at the body shop or separate location. These photos will be used by the claims adjuster in deciding how to pay out your claim, so make sure your car insurance estimate well documents the damage and cost of repairs!
Car Insurance Estimate When Fault is Unclear
If you are partially at fault for the accident or it's not clear who was at fault, it's best to submit your car insurance estimate to your own insurance company for payment. Your insurance company may get some of their money back that they paid to repair your car and you may get a percentage of your deductible back if the companies agree that you deserve to be reimbursed.
If you were injured and partially at fault, you will only collect a percentage of your damages. If it's not clear who was responsible, it may have to be decided in court or by an arbitrator.
TIP: Anytime fault is unsettled or you disagree with your insurance company's assessment, you should hire a personal injury lawyer who will advocate for your position and get you a larger percentage of your damages for your injury.
Car Repair Estimate for a Totaled Car
If your car was a total loss, you will have to negotiate with the insurance carrier (yours or the other carrier) regarding the value of your vehicle.
Before you get a car repair estimate, review your own car's value online at sites like Kelly Blue Book. This will give you an accurate value for what you vehicle is worth. Make sure your car insurance estimate accounts for all your vehicle's features-navigation system, alloy wheels, CD changer, MP3 player, etc---as all of this increases the value of the car. Likewise, record the vehicle's mileage and what condition it was in when it was stolen. The insurance company will start at the low end of your car's value, so be ready to negotiate. Once you come to an agreement on your value of your car, you will be asked to sign over the title of the vehicle in lieu of a check for the total loss amount.
Your car insurance estimate can be different if you use aftermarket parts. Aftermarket parts are part made by manufacturers other than your car's maker. They look, feel and work identical to the OEM part. The insurance company is required to return the car to its pre-wreck condition. They will argue that the aftermarket or generic parts will do that in a cost-effective manner. But this is a hotly contested issue. Laws on this issue vary from state to state. Some states require that insurance companies use OEM parts in certain vehicles. For example, insurance companies in New Hampshire must use OEM parts for damaged vehicles that are less than 2 years old or have less than 30,000 miles on the odometer, while West Virginia requires OEM parts in all cars under 3 years old. Because state law differs, you should always check your state's laws with regard to the use of aftermarket or OEM parts.
TIP: Although the parts are similar is quality, using OEM parts may help you by reducing the car's diminished value. If you are concerned about what your vehicle will be worth after the accident, check to see how the parts affect its value before submitting your car insurance estimate.
No Fault Insurance Laws
The relationship between fault and who ultimately pays for damages and injuries determines the outcome in car insurance claims and car accident cases across most states. There are some states, however, that operate under no-fault laws. Essentially, under no-fault laws, it doesn't matter who was at fault. Each person's own insurance company pays for his or her expenses, depending on that state's specific laws and rules. The no-fault insurance laws do not always apply to property damage to your car. If you live in a no-fault insurance state, make sure you know what damages your insurance company will cover before filing your claim. Consult a car accident attorney with questions.
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