THINGS TO KNOW WHEN YOU’VE BEEN IN AN ACCIDENT
Thank you for visiting Linear Automotive Collision Center!
Whether you choose to trust us to restore your vehicle to pre-accident condition or not, there is some VERY IMPORTANT information that you need to know before choosing a facility to repair your vehicle. These are NOT things that you can trust your insurance to tell you, or to tell the truth about. Topics like how to choose the right shop, what aftermarket parts are, what is diminished value, and am I owed more money?
First and foremost, your insurance company is NOT in the collision repair business. Legally, insurance companies are only paying the bill for your collision repair. They do not have repair licenses. Very few of their employees have ever even worked on a car. The few who have repaired a vehicle in the past did so too long ago for their training and information to still be valid today. Insurance companies only want to keep your vehicle’s repair CHEAP and QUICK, because quick also saves them money if they are paying for your rental vehicle.
The information we are providing to you here is vital to ensuring you and/or your families safety, so please take the time to read it. The questions below are listed in bold lettering, so you may skip past the information you don’t feel you need and jump straight to questions that interest you, if you wish. We recommend reading it all if you can find the time.
Q: Do I NEED to get a police report made if I’ve been in an accident?
You ALWAYS want to get a police report made at the scene if you and another vehicle collide. Make sure that the report is accurate, as sometimes police departments do make errors. Both parties must present their insurance information to the police, which makes it easier for you to start a claim through the insurance of the party who hit you because their information will be on your copy of the police report. Also, it provides the insurance company with a lawful document with details of the accident, which may help you should you need to get an attorney involved. This also helps to prevent claim denials.
Q: Can my insurance company make me go to their recommended shop?
NO, NO, and NO. If you tell the insurance company that you have a facility in mind and they pressure you or try to convince you to go to their “preferred/partner/DRP shop, this is called “steering”, and it is illegal. If they persist in trying to get you to go to their recommended shop, remind them that they are engaging in an illegal practice. They will change their tune quickly. Their recommended shops sign contracts with them that save the insurance company money at YOUR expense.
Q: What could be so bad about a DRP/Preferred/Insurance Recommended shop?
These shops have signed contracts with insurance companies that in exchange for work being sent to the shop, the shop will not perform certain operations, not charge for basic things like cleaning your vehicle, and the shop likely will keep all repairs as cheap and fast as is possible. These shops quite often will fix what should be replaced, use inferior aftermarket parts (more on what these are, below), cut corners, not fix certain parts of your car that aren’t visible (and you would never even know), use cheaper paint materials, not total cars that should be totaled (because totaling vehicles is very expensive to the insurance company). They generally rush through repairs to save the insurance company rental money.
These “partner” shops get ranked by some insurance companies based on how cheap and fast they are. The most expensive shops that take longer to fix cars are listed at the bottom of recommendation lists. The cheaper and faster shops get recommended first. Body shops with no contract with an insurer, that fix cars accurately, completely AND correctly to the automaker’s rules and standards; insurance companies may try hard to keep you away from, as it will cost them more money than their “partner” would charge.
Q: Do I need to go to three different body shops and get three estimates?
- Your time is precious. An insurance company may hire an outside company to come out and take photos of your vehicle and appraise the initial damage for them, they may have their own field appraisers who can do this, where you can drive to their inspection area, or that can come to your home or place of work. Many insurance companies now can also use smartphone apps to have you take a photo of the damage for them, however this is the LEAST SAFE option. If your insurer asks you to send them a photo, we recommend telling them that you do not have that ability or a smartphone. It may be easier and quicker, but it misses most of the damage, and you may be driving around in a hazardous car without knowing it. The final way to start the process is to go to the repair facility that you wish to use, and have that shop e-mail a repair estimate and photos directly to the insurance company.
Q: My insurance company already gave me a check – is this enough money?
If the insurance company or their contractor already wrote you an initial estimate, that estimate is going to be bad, wrong, or just missing a lot of needed operations to repair the vehicle correctly. Imagine if your health insurance company wrote you an estimate for getting a stent put in your heart by a surgeon! If the estimate was written by the body shop of your choosing, they can only see so much of the damage while the car is together. Either way, it is an ESTIMATE, as once the vehicle is disassembled, the full extent of your damage will be seen. At this point, a repair facility will submit a secondary damage report to your insurance company, and the insurance company will issue additional payments to cover the rest of the repairs.
Q: How do I choose the correct repair facility to fix my vehicle?
Research. The internet is a good source of information for reviews, however, there are shops in our area that sometimes still get good reviews, but the quality of their work is poor to a trained industry professional. Meet the facility you wish to use in person. Ask them questions about aftermarket parts. Will they use them? Will they argue with the insurance company to NOT use them? If something doesn’t sound right to you, it may not be. Ask somebody else. Get a second opinion. Make sure that the shop you want to use will work for YOU, and not your insurance company.
The most important question to ask is, “Do you repair a car using the manufacturer’s guidelines and information?” EVERY automaker has information that repair facilities can access about exactly how to repair or replace damaged parts. If information is complete, we can even call the manufacturer and get an engineer on the phone and speak with them, if needed in extreme cases. This information is not cheap, and many shops do not even know it exists. Between the cost of it, and many shops not knowing this information is out there, most repair facilities are not repairing customer’s cars correctly. Make sure you choose one that is.
Q: My insurance company says they won’t pay for a wheel alignment because my wheel wasn’t hit in the accident, but it IS off. Is this okay?
No. Again, insurance companies do not have repair licenses. To say a vehicle’s wheel alignment would be off ONLY when a wheel is hit directly is to ignore basic physics and proves that the adjuster who makes this statement does not know about vehicle repairs. If two 3,500- or 4,000-pound vehicles collide, the sudden dynamic shift of weight and direction, not to mention the energy transfer caused by two heavy, fast-moving objects colliding, will cause your wheel alignment to shift out of tolerance in many collisions, but not all. Your suspension may require just a small adjustment to be back within specifications, or something may have a slight bend to it, requiring part or parts replacement before it will align properly. If you are rear ended, your alignment is likely to be off on the front end of your vehicle, as the front wheels have most of the weight in the car on them when you are struck, and more weight is shifted forward than normal due to the impact. Alignments that are “out of tolerance” will mean abnormal road wear on your tires (costing you more money in tires), and poor traction and handling if not corrected.
Q: Will my car ever be the same again after you fix it?
Yes, if you choose the correct repair facility, the vehicle should look and operate as it did before the collision. If you choose a facility that isn’t properly trained, informed or equipped, you may have issues, or there may be issues hidden inside of the car that you will never see. Today, vehicles are more complicated than ever. They can self-drive, self-park, detect other vehicles in your blind spot, stop themselves short of or slow themselves down before you strike an object, or even just beep to alert you when you’re parking too close to an object that you can’t see. Windshields can have sensors in them to detect rain for automatic wiper activation. If a facility doesn’t know of these options; how to program them, calibrate them, or that they even exist, you should choose another facility. Repair shops that can’t afford to equip themselves for these operations, at least know of them, and know they can send your vehicle to a dealership to perform operations for them.
Q: Will my car be a total loss? What does it take to be totaled?
A total loss in the state of Texas is determined by comparing the amount of repair costs versus the vehicle’s value. In Texas, if the complete costs to fix your vehicle equal or exceed 70% of the vehicle’s value, then it will be deemed “a total loss”. The costs do not just include the repair estimate. For example: if your vehicle is worth $10,000 according to NADA.com, and the repairs will cost $7,000, it cost $300 to tow the vehicle from the scene of the accident, and it will cost $500 in rental while it is being fixed, the total comes out to $7,800.00. That is 78% of your vehicle’s value, and it will likely be deemed a total loss.
Q: If my car is totaled, can I keep it? Where does it go if I don’t keep it?
Yes, you can choose to keep your vehicle if it is deemed a total loss, and then use your settlement money to pay for the repairs. However, Linear Automotive will not repair a vehicle that has been deemed a total loss.
Q: The frame of my vehicle is damaged. This means my vehicle is totaled, right?
Not immediately. As with the total loss statement above, the cost of the repairs compared to your vehicle’s value is what determines if it will be repaired or not. Frame repairs and replacements can be very costly, and often do result in a total loss, but it isn’t a given. If you have frame damage, ask to see it yourself. If it is being recommended to be repaired, ask why, and ask what the manufacturer says about that zone of the vehicle. Even minor frame damage is important to be analyzed correctly, and you need a well-informed collision repair facility to make the correct decision for you and your family.
Q: Can another shop save my totaled vehicle from being a total loss?
Yes. There are shops out there that will repair things that shouldn’t be repaired, cut corners, and use cheaper quality parts. Should you ever be involved in another accident with your vehicle after it is fixed, it will not respond with the same strength under the stress of another hit if it is fixed improperly. If a shop gives you the “choice” of totaling it or repairing it, that probably is not a shop you want to have your vehicle repaired by. Some shops will keep a car from being totaled just so they can make money repairing it. Their concern shouldn’t be making your life easier, it should be keeping you SAFE, and explaining to you why they make the decisions they make in your repair plans.
Q: If my vehicle is totaled, how much does the insurance company owe me?
Full retail value. You are owed what the vehicle was worth if it HAD NOT been in an accident. For this, we recommend using NADA.com as it finds true market values for vehicles. Kelley Blue Book is NOT a market tool and makes up vehicle prices. KBB may, as a result, be too low or too high on your vehicle’s value. NADA will show you what your car truly sells for on the market and will be an accurate negotiating tool. YOU CAN NEGOTIATE with insurance companies, and even invoke the “appraisal clause”, whereby you hire an appraiser to value your car for you, if you feel you are being taken advantage of and/or are not a good negotiator. Do not ever take the insurance companies first offer for your total loss. They can take deductions from your vehicles value if it is damaged or flawed, so keep that in mind if you have rust, cracked windshield, unrelated dents, peeling paint, etc. that is not a part of the accident. Lowballing you on totals is a big source of insurance company profits.
Q: What is an aftermarket part? Is it safe to use?
“Aftermarket” is a term that refers to any part made by a company other than the original maker. If you go to AutoZone or Pep Boys for brake pads or suspension parts, those are aftermarket parts. They aren’t the original Honda/Ford/BMW parts your car came with. In the collision repair industry, almost every insurance company tries to force body shops to use these parts, as there is normally a drastic difference in price. Unfortunately, a drastic drop in price usually means a drastic drop in QUALITY.
While imitation mechanical parts may not seem like a huge difference to some people, imitation collision parts are. A hood may cost $700 from the original maker, but there may be a knockoff made for $200. On just that hood, the insurance company can save $500! To make the hood $500 cheaper, however, cheaper metals are used, cheaper labor, manufacturers have NO CRASH TESTING of their parts, and little-to-no packing materials are used to keep the parts safe during shipping.
“CAPA” and “NSF” certifications mean nothing. If a part has not been crash tested, there is no evidence that it will keep you or your family safe. These imitations parts often don’t fit properly and are drastically lighter and made of a different material than the original. This will result in more damage to your vehicle, more severe injuries for the people in the vehicle, and an alteration in airbag deployment timing should you ever be in a collision again.
NOTE: If you visit the websites for CAPA and NSF, on their pages you will find that, as non-profit organizations, their donors are largely major insurance companies. The insurance companies fund them so that they can “certify” poor-quality parts to make you feel better about using them, even though they aren’t safe.
Multiple independent studies have been done in recent years by companies like Ford, and small independent research firms. These have shown that cars repaired with these knockoff parts result in crash test ratings on cars being reduced from 5 stars to as low as 3 stars by federal standards. In one study, the damage done to the front end of a vehicle with all aftermarket parts on it sustained DOUBLE the amount of damage when compared to a car with all original parts on it that they crashed under the exact same conditions. Imagine if your family was in that car!
Q: My car is now fixed, but is it worth the same amount as before the accident?
No. Once you have an accident that shows on your Carfax report, you may find that dealerships and individuals offer you less money for the vehicle if you choose to sell it or trade it in. If you were hit by another insurance company, you can collect on the DIMINISHED VALUE of your vehicle. Unfortunately, if you are going through your own insurance for an accident you caused, you do not have this option available to you.
NOTE: If you were hit by another person and choose to start a diminished value claim, ask a shop representative if they know of, or search the internet for an appraiser who specializes in diminished value that will handle the negotiations for you. An insurance company will pretend to not know what diminished value is or ignore your claim entirely if you don’t have a veteran on your side.
Q: I feel my insurance company is lying/treating me unfairly. What can I do?
Every state has its own individual regulatory board that can step in and/or advise you on insurance companies’ daily operations. Contact your state board online of via telephone if you feel that something is not being handled correctly or in a timely manner. You may also contract an attorney who may work on “contingency” in a collision, meaning they only get paid if you do.
Q: Once I pick up my completed car, if notice something else, can I still get the insurance company to pay for it?
If it is related to the collision, yes. Once you pick up your vehicle and take it home, the claim is not necessarily over. In very rare situations, you may have a noise, a light on your dashboard, or a mechanical issue that was not apparent when the vehicle was fixed. Alert your repair facility immediately. The longer you wait, the more likely the insurer is to deny paying for the additional work. If it appears to be accident related, the insurance company may cover just the diagnosis of the issue first, to see if it truly is part of the collision, or just age/wear related. In some instances, we have seen an issue arise a month down the road, but again, it is very rare. An issue a year after the fact is likely due to normal mechanical issues with a vehicle, however it never hurts to contact your repair facility just to make sure.
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Linear Automotive provides top quality for people looking for Collision Repair in Plano, Frisco, Dallas, Richardson, Allen, McKinney, Sachse, Murphy, Wylie, Parker, Lucas, Garland, Rowlett, University Park, Highland Park , The Colony, Addison, Carrollton, and Farmers Branch Texas.