Watch for accident damage overcharging

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Car crash

Keep a close eye on repair bills to avoid accident damage overcharging. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

Everyone needs to get car insurance but no one ever wants to have to use it. However, if one does get in an accident, watch for accident damage overcharging, which can add hundreds of dollars to the bill and bump up the premiums even further.

Keep an eye on estimates to prevent accident damage overcharging

Car accidents are bad enough to weather, but the next step after that, namely getting the car repaired, can almost be worse. Not only does one have to deal with the insurance company, but one also has to get an estimate for the repairs. It’s also just that – an estimate. Nothing keeps a repair shop from holding to it before submitting the actual bill.

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According to Edmunds, not all body repair shops are created equal; some will low-ball the initial estimate to not only land the customer, but also to get the insurance company to approve the repair. Once the actual bill comes, it may be a lot higher, which can stick the customer for the difference out-of-pocket. Sometimes it’s perfectly legitimate; damage can sometimes be worse than it appears in an initial inspection. Always get an itemized estimate and review it line-by-line.

Beware of rental car companies

One of the most commonly-accused parties in accident repair overcharging is rental car companies. Over the years, a number of rental agencies have been accused of drastically charging up to twice the amount a repair would cost if a rental car is damaged. In 1988, according to the New York Times, Hertz was caught charging customers more than double the cost of repairs to fix cars damaged in accidents, netting $13 million over several years from the scheme.

A letter written to the “What’s Your Problem?” column of the Chicago Tribune in 2010 claims National tried to gouge a man with charges for new radiator, front grille and bumper for a Ford Mustang a man was driving on his honeymoon in that year. The car broke down unexpectedly, and he got a replacement rental. He never had an accident.

The problem is hardly confined to the United States; according to The Telegraph, “credit hire” services in the U.K., which arrange for repairs and rental cars after someone has been in an accident and wasn’t at fault, are said to be overcharging customers and reaping upward of 200 million pounds (about $310 million) per year from overcharging.

Part of insurance fraud

Trying to get more money out of an insurance company, or by extension a customer by overcharging for repairs, is not just unethical. Legally, that’s called fraud. Faked or exaggerated damage claims, according to the Texas Department of Insurance, is a form of insurance fraud, which the National Insurance Crime Bureau estimates to add up to $300 per year per policy to cover fraud losses at insurance companies.

The NICB also estimates that up to $120 billion is lost annually to insurance fraud and that up to 10 percent of all injury and property claims are fraudulent.

Sources

Edmunds

New York Times

TDI

The Telegraph: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/motoring/news/9413143/The-credit-hire-price-sting.html

Chicago Tribune: http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2010-07-15/business/ct-biz-0715-problem-kusmider-20100715_1_national-car-rental-tow-truck-bumper

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0 Comments

  1. CRIS2FER on

    We hired a car from Hertz Vienna for the day.  hertz wien innere stadt
    kärntner ring

    (Aug 22nd 2012) 

     

    On
    signing for the car they told me there was some minor damage to the rear bumper
    and I signed to agree that this was prior to my hire period. With Hertz being
    such a large company, I never suspected it would come back to haunt me.  

     

    The
    car was parked on the street and I was told to return in there when we had
    finished.

    There
    was no damage to the car when we returned the car the very same day, but 2 weeks
    later we have been billed £600, a £50 admin fee and received photos of a
    scratch on the rear of the bumper

     

    We
    are now fighting the case as we didn’t take their insurance, but we do have an independent
    insurance. It’s total fraud, as we only travelled a few miles and never at any
    point was the car involved in any form of scrape to cause any damage at all.

     

    I will give you the Hertz UK Customer
    Relations email address which I initially struggled to find.  customer-relations-uk@hertz.com

    Hertz UK advised this branch is a franshise and they
    need to take it up with Hertz Austria

    I
    also called the local Hertz Store in Vienna but they would not help me

     

    WARNING!
    – Always make sure when returning the car, the store sign to say it has no
    damage.  Take photos with date and time
    stamp when returning your hire car and keep all paperwork.

     

    http://www.fodors.com/community/travel-tips-trip-ideas/hertz-austria-fraud.cfm

     

    http://www.frommers.com/community/forum.cfm/tips-tools-deals/car-rental-bus-rail/hertz-austria-fraud?plckFindPostKey=Cat:Tips%20Tools%20and%20DealsForum:0EE9686EDiscussion:182f3caf-6d15-4f6a-b29c-333f780783a3Post:3e000fb0-9bbb-421f-ab5b-6456ce138364