After you've been in a car accident and reported it to your insurance company, one of the first things that happens is getting an estimate for repairs to your car. An estimate is the amount of money that an insurance adjuster believes will restore the car to its pre-accident condition. There are a few important steps to this process.
- Adjuster or Inspector. Your insurance company will usually have a qualified adjuster or inspector look at your vehicle and draw up an estimate of what it will cost to repair it. Rather than send an adjuster to your home or business, they may also send you to specific centers to review your vehicle.
If the damage is minor they will ask you to get estimates from several mechanics or body shops for the cost of repairs. However, if the estimate is less than your deductible, you will end up paying for repairs yourself.
Even if you think your damages may cost less than the deductible, it doesn't hurt to make a claim. If you end up injured or find additional damage related to the crash later on, the insurance company will cover that, too.
- Mechanic or Body Shop. Choose a mechanic or body shop you trust. Your insurance company may suggest one, but you're also free to choose your own. If your insurance company asks you to provide estimates from multiple repair providers they can then choose which of those you'll go to. If it's important that you see your regular mechanic, make that clear.
Remember: Your insurance company can't force you to work with a particular mechanic they might have a partnership with. Listen to any suggestions, though. They have as much at stake in getting your car fixed correctly the first time around as you do.
- Additional Damage. During the course of repairs, the mechanic may find additional damage and will contact the insurer. An adjuster may re-inspect the vehicle and reassess the cost of repair given the additional damage. This is a fairly common situation as many times certain types of damage aren't apparent until after repairs have started.
- Cost of the Repairs. You'll also want to find out what type of parts will be used in the repair estimate. Many insurance companies ask that mechanics repair your car with a used or aftermarket parts. However, you can request a new part, but you may have to pay the difference in price.
You may also wish to have additional work done on your car at this time for damages unrelated to the accident, but you'll have to pay for that directly.
- Appraisal Provision. If you and your insurer can't agree on the amount the repairs, find out if your insurance policy has an appraisal provision. An appraisal provision describes how disagreements on the value of a loss are resolved. Typically, this directs you and your insurer to each hire appraisers. The respective appraisers will then select a "neutral umpire," who will also be an appraiser.
All of the appraisers review your claim information, and if they can't agree on the value of your loss, the claim information will be submitted to the umpire. The amount that two of the three of them agree on is the value of your claim. The decision on the value of your claim is binding.
The insurance company is responsible to return your car to the state that it was prior to the accident. However, don't expect them to pay for a problem that was present before the accident. Restoring your car to pre-accident shape doesn't mean they have to make it perfect, only as good as it was right before the accident.
They also can't refuse to pay for additional damage found while the mechanic was working on your vehicle as long as it was related to the accident.
More at http://insurance.lawyers.com/