What to do if your car has body damage after an accident

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A doctored photo depicting a man on a bicycle. He's carrying a small car body on the handlebars.

If your auto body shop receives part shipments this way, get a second opinion next time you're in an accident. (Photo Credit: CC BY-ND/joe-ks.com)

After an auto accident that requires repair, your insurer’s claims adjuster will assess the damage. But what comes next? Rather than accepting your insurance company’s definition of fair price at face value and going with the first repair shop it recommends, take the time your insurer allows to find a shop that works for you. Before signing a release, do your research.

Shop around; don’t buy into auto insurance pressure

If you don’t have a good relationship with a trusted auto body shop, you’ll have to shop around. Typically, your insurance company will give you a couple of days to find a shop you like if you don’t want to use the insurer’s recommendation. You should also have the option of using your auto insurance company’s recommended towing service to transfer your car to the auto body shop of your choice at no charge; check with your insurer.

What if the car is a total loss?

Readers of the blog Trust My Mechanic claim that by the simple act of searching for the average price of a car similar to the one totaled in an accident, money can be saved. Think hundreds of dollars, perhaps even a thousand or more – all because you didn’t accept the insurance company’s estimate at face value. Don’t sign the vehicle release your insurer offers unless you’re sure you’ll be receiving good value. And make sure you see the quote in writing so there’s a paper trail.

If you’re in this situation with a totaled vehicle, don’t just find out how much your insurer will pay. Find out when they’ll pay you and hold on to your rental car until you have your promised cash in hand. This produces additional incentive for the insurer to cut you a check quickly. Don’t sign anything until the matter at hand has been rectified to your satisfaction.

Keep repair receipts

Sometimes, you may be able to get more than your auto insurance company quotes initially by producing repair receipts, as well as documentation that shows the pricing for comparable vehicles. This isn’t a matter of squeezing your insurer, but of obtaining fair value for your car.

Do your homework so you can make an informed decision as to whether you should accept your auto insurance company’s offer. While insurance companies, in most cases, aren’t trying to take advantage of customers, the companies won’t necessarily jump at the chance to pay more unless you can produce a compelling reason.


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Minor auto body repair you can do yourself


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