It’s a beautiful day in Southern California and you’re driving around town when suddenly you get into a small fender bender, are a victim of a hit and run, or worse, you are involved in a major car accident.  You need to file a car insurance claim.

So what do you do?

First you take care of yourself and your passengers, exchange information with the other driver, and then call your Insurance Company.  They will immediately start a car insurance claim and they might recommend you to take your car to your Insurance Company’s body shop.  But…

Do you really have to take your car to the Insurance Company’s body shop?

No.

You can take your car to any body shop you want. By law, the choice is yours.

Your Insurance Company will tell you, “you can take your car to any auto repair shop you want”; but, they might also tell you that if you do the repairs at another body shop it will possible take longer or that they may not warranty the repairs.

Many insurance companies have goals on how many claims they want to get to their shops. Car insurance claim representatives and call center representatives try to steer customers to their preferred shops. Steering is against the law.  So why does your Insurance Company insist you take your car to a body shop they prefer?

Who benefits more from you going to your Insurance Company’s body shop?

Your Insurance Company.

How?

Most insurance companies use body shop’s who met their equipment, facility, and training requirements as well as offer lifetime warranty -something professional auto body shops also do.  But here is the difference, most insurance companies negotiate lower labor rates, discount on materials, and/or part costs with their body shops.

Does that mean a body shop that is not on your Insurance Company’s preferred list is not good?

No.

A professional and reputable auto body repair shop will:

  • Work with any insurance company.
  • Understand the car insurance claim process.
  • Restore your vehicle to pre-accident condition.
  • Provide lifetime warranty on repairs.
  • Give you a fair and honest repair estimate.
  • Employee experienced autobody and paint technicians.
  • Have experience working on your type of vehicle.
  • Have all the proper permits and licenses in order.
  • Handle your car insurance claim in a timely manner.
  • Have plenty of positive reviews on Google, Facebook, and Yelp.

You Get What You Or What Your Insurance Company Pays For

Your Insurance Company might insist you take your car to the body shop they prefer. But is that really in your best interest? Remember, the insurance companies are here to make money for their shareholders, not you. It is in their best interest to pay less to have your vehicle repaired.

Do you really want your vehicle repaired by the lowest bidder?

Remember, most insurance companies promise preferred body shops more business if they agree to discounted labor rates, material, and part costs.

So what’s wrong with this practice?

You and your car might pay the price for this bad business practice. The quality of the job on your car is at stake, the overall look of your car, and even your life and the life of your passengers can be in danger.

But the Insurance Company’s body shops meet their requirements, what can go wrong?

Think about what happens when people try to save time and money.  In this case, your Insurance Company’s body shop might have to resort to certain bad practices in order to save time and money like:

  • Technicians could cut corners, to save time, since they are required to do the job in less time than what it really takes.
  • The shop could deny a particular repair because, according to them, it was not due to the accident, so now you get stuck with that bill.
  • The autobody man could repair parts, or buy used parts, instead of purchasing the new parts you were promised, in order to save money.
  • The repair shop could use lower quality paint, materials, and processes to save money.

Do you really want someone working on low pay, (most likely a person with little experienced) on your car or doing the repairs in a hurry and quite possibly make a few mistakes on the way?  Will you feel safe to drive your car?

Do you want to get stuck paying extra for something that should have been covered by your Insurance Company?  Would you feel comfortable if your Insurance Company’s auto body shop lied to you in order to save/make money off your car insurance claim?  Which brings up the question.  What other things might have they lied to you about?

Would you trust these bad business practice with your life or the lives of your loved ones?

The Choice Is Yours, The Car Is Yours

Of course, we are not saying that all insurance companies or all the body shops they recommend are bad, simply be aware of that there are good and bad apples.  The same is true about non recommended auto body shops.

Above all, don’t be intimidated by your Insurance Company. Use common sense, whether you go with your Insurance Company’s body shop or your own professional auto body repair shop. Do your research. Read the reviews.  Speak to your friends and family and get recommendations. Don’t feel like you have to take your car to the shop your Insurance Company “recommends”.

Remember, your Insurance Company works for you, you pay them to compensate you for a loss.

It’s your car, not theirs.

You drive your car, not them.

It’s your life, not theirs.

You have the choice, please choose carefully.

The Bottom Line On Your Car Insurance Claim

In general, if you take your car to a reputable and professional body shop of your choice you will always get what your insurance dollars pay for.  All your car repairs will be taken care of by your auto body shop.  By exercising your power of choice, you promote quality and fairness because the people working on your car will be paid a proper labor rate and will not resort to cutting corners.   The result, your car will be done right in a fair and honest way.

Your auto body shop’s goals should be to make you happy, not your Insurance Company’s shareholders.

And the State of California knows this, that is why they made it a law.  Read it below.

Car Insurance Claim,

Consumer (Insured) Bill Of Rights

You have the right to select the repair facility of your choice for the repairs to your vehicle under California Code of Regulations, Title 10, Chapter 5, Section 2695.8(e)(2).

A consumer is entitled to:

1. Select the auto body repair shop to repair auto body damage covered by the insurance company. AN INSURANCE COMPANY SHALL NOT REQUIRE THE REPAIRS TO BE DONE AT A SPECIFIC AUTO BODY  REPAIR SHOP.

2. 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, reconditioned, or rebuilt.

3. Be informed about coverage for towing and storage services.

4. Be informed about the extent of coverage, if any, for a replacement rental vehicle while a damaged vehicle is being repaired.

5. Be informed of where to report suspected fraud or other complaints and concerns about auto body repairs.

6. 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.

Car insurance claim complaints within the jurisdiction of the bureau of automotive repair

Direct your complaints concerning the repair of a vehicle by an auto body repair shop to:

Toll Free (866) 799-3811
California Department of Consumer Affairs
Bureau of Automotive Repair
10240 Systems Parkway
Sacramento, CA 95827

The Bureau of Automotive Repair can also accept complaints over its website at www.autorepair.ca.gov

Car insurance claim complaints within the jurisdiction of the California Insurance Commissioner

Submit your concerns regarding how an auto insurance claim is being handled to the California Department of Insurance at:

(800) 927-HELP
(213) 897-8921
California Department of Insurance
Consumer Services Division
300 South Spring Street
Los Angeles, CA 90013

The California Department of Insurance can also accept complaints over its website at www.insurance.ca.gov