I’ve just had an auto accident, now what?!

Here’s a brief overview of what to do once you’ve been in an accident and some bits of information you probably don’t know…

THE ACCIDENT

After an accident has occurred and you’ve made sure everyone is alright what should you do next? People often wonder if they should call the police right away, even if there is no “major” damage or if there are no injuries… Here in Southern California when you call the police they will ask if anyone has been injured or if there is any blood. If there are no injuries then the police will not show up. They will advise you to exchange information with the other party and call your insurance company. Even if the other party doesn’t have insurance they still won’t show up. But it’s important that you get their license plate number and their driver’s license information.

So let’s say you and the other party in the accident are both insured, you need to gather 4 pieces of information:

1. Personal information: Name, Address, Phone number.

2. Drivers License number and state

3. License Plate number

4. Insurance information: company name, policy# and telephone number, and make, model & year of their car.

IMPORTANT: If you are missing one (or more) of these 4 pieces of information or you fail to give the other party one (or more) of these 4 pieces of information you or the other party can actually be charged with a felony hit and run. This has happened to customers of mine. If someone wants to push it to the limit you can lose your license for a year and be charged a $3,000 fine. So I highly recommend that you give all 4 complete pieces of information to the other party if you are in an accident. This has nothing to do with who’s at fault.

Side note: if for some reason the other party claims to have insurance but doesn’t have their full insurance information with them, then you should have them get their insurance company on the phone on the spot. Don’t trust that you’ll be able to track them down at a later date.

After you’ve gathed the other party’s full information you should call your insurance company and put in a claim. Ideally do it within 24 hours. You may want to catch your breath first… From there you will want to get your car to a body shop for an estimate where they will walk you through the repair process. If you have a shop that you know or have used before that’s great. If not you might want to ask for a referral from family, friends, your insurance agent, your mechanic, etc.

Once you’ve decided on a body shop your insurance will send an adjuster to the shop to write a preliminary estimate for repairs. By this point you should be familiar enough with your policy and your insurance company to know your deductible and if you have car rental coverage and how much the allowance for that is. NOTE: you don’t need to wait for an accident to know this information…

Your DEDUCTIBLE: the check from the insurance company to the body shop is the amount of your repair minus your deductible amount. It’s your responsibility to pay the body shop your deductible when you pick up your car. Note: in California it’s a felony to negotiate not paying the deductible within an insurance company’s claim.

OTHER POSSIBILITIES & SOME NOTES

Something that may happen that is perfectly okay: one of the people in the accident says they don’t want to go through their insurance and are willing to pay out of pocket for the damages. This usually occurs when someone is clearly at fault, knows it, takes responsibity and isn’t concerned about their car repair. So what should you do in this instance: I recommend as long as you have all 4 full pieces of information you go get an estimate or two from a local body shop and then contact the other party with that information. If at this point the other party is still agreeable to cover the costs of the repair (often at this point the other party says it’s too high – this is your cue to call your insurance company and put in a claim) then you should arrange for the other party to make direct payment to the body shop. Be sure to have your body shop give a bill with liability release to the other party before you have repairs commence. This way you are covered and not liable for the repair expense.

Note: in California if you are not at fault your insurance company cannot and will not raise your rate.

Note: In California you have the right to take your car for repair to any body shop. Your insurance company can only suggest a shop for you they can’t make you use one of their preferred shops.

Note: If you get your insurane through a “survival” type broker instead of an insurance company this may lead you to getting insurance from an out of state company (which you may not even realize) then you may need to go to one of their shops for repair or they won’t pay the full repair amount. Buyer beware!

Note: In California if the repair total is under $750 then it won’t show up as an accident or claim on your policy or on your DMV record.

 

I hope all of this helps!

Andre
AP Body Shop, North Hollywood, CA

1 Comment

Filed under Service and More Service

Auto Body Painting Goes Green in CA

You may see a shakedown of your local auto body shop. In order to go green, paints for cars are going to a water based system…

Legally in California as of June 1, 2008 all Auto Body shops must convert to water-based base coats. What that means is: every new car produced since the mid 80′s (with some exceptions with foreign cars in the past few years) has been done with a two stage paint finish. The color is the base coat, and the clear coat is the top coat, hence two stage painting. Some cars even have three stages (color-base coat, pearl mid-coat and clear coat).

Since the mid 80′s all the base coats have been solvent (petroleum) based. These are very harmful to the environment. But there was no other alternative to paint. The solvents used are really 50% of the base coat which is the harmful part. As the base coat is shot onto the car it immediately realeases p and evaporates into the air.

The clear coats are usually only mixed with a catalyst and the pollutants going into the air are much lower than in the base coats.

To help reduce pollutants greatly the base coat was the one engineers have focused on altering. After years of research engineers managed to develop high quality base coats that are WATER based (instead of solvent based) making them almost completely harmless to the environment (an approximately 90% harmful emmisions reduction). This is a momentus shift in automotive paint refinishing.

California is the first state in the US to regulate the implementation of a state law requiring auto body shops to use water based base coats instead of the solvent based ones.

Going from shooting solvent based base coat to water based is like going from riding a bicycle to riding a unicycle. Ok, that was a bit dramatic ,but it’s very very different in the way you approach the paint work and paint time. There is a certain speed and style that goes into applying base coat. Because of the shift to a water based system there now is the need to allow much more time for the drying of the coat. The solvent based system evaporated much faster than water based: a three layer application of solvent based base coat on a small repair job in an ideal temperature may take 15 minutes to dry. While with a water based base coat that time may increase to about 45 minutes. I’ve found the increase to be at least 3x longer, even with a retro-fitted spay booth.

So what does all this mean to you as an auto consumer? Well if you get into an accident and need to have part of your car repaired and repainted, then it may take additional time and cost everyone in the process (shop, insurance, consumer) more. A shop’s production flow will be  affected by this change. Depending on the shop you take it to, this could possibly translate anywhere from a half of day to a couple of days difference in getting your car back!

My shop was “unofficially” the third shop in the San Fernando Valley to implement this new system. It was installed about a year ago. So We’ve had plenty of time to make adjustments. But if you are in California be aware that this new system will change the way things used to be done….alot.

Happy motoring,

Andre
AP Body Shop, North Hollywood, CA

5 Comments

Filed under Green Body Work

Going the extra mile, and then some…

In my day-to-day operations running an auto body shop I often find myself faced with the challenge of how do I serve my customers best interest while maintaining peace with insurance companies. This is not always easy. And sometimes I need to fight in order to help my customers and stay within bounds of my personal integrity. Here’s an  example:

A couple of years ago I had a customer who’s new Lexus RX330 SUV was parked in front of her house on the street and hit by a driver who tried to get away. Incredibly the driver got stuck and the police showed up. The driver was charged with a DUI. The driver only had minimal liability coverage, in CA that’s $5,000. My customer brought her car in and the preliminary estimate was approximately $4,200.

FYI, Insurance companies usually expect about a 20% supplement on a big claim, because until the car goes through tear-down we aren’t completely sure of the extent of damage. Additionally the insurance company needs to factor additional money to cover a car rental.

In this case the preliminary estimate + 20% would be approximately $5000, but the rental would push it over that threshold.

So when I spoke to the driver’s insurance company, they basically said they wouldn’t do a claim because it would go over $5000 and they are not liable to pay unless they pay in full. So the adjuster happily told me to have the customer call her insurance and handle it through them…

I find this offensive. My customer had nothing to do with the accident and now she was being put in a situation where she needed to go to her insurance to file a claim, pay a deductible and get it handled that way. Big headache.

This is where I really went into action.

I called my customer and found out that she didn’t need a car rental. Score! So I called back the driver’s insurance adjuster and told her that my customer didn’t need a rental car and therefore we had a claim. Bingo! Let’s just say the adjuster was a bit speechless… I could almost hear her thought bubble “Oh, shit, now I’ve got do deal with this guy. He’s getting paid anyway, why does he care?” I almost wanted to say to her “Gotcha!”

So the next step was to tear-down the car and rewrite a precise estimate to make sure it would fit under the $5000 threshold. Which I did, and it came in at $4,921. Perfect. I informed the driver’s insurance adjuster. They made me sign a contract which basically stated that if I find something that causes it to go beyond the estimate, it is on the customer or me to cover that. I was confident that I had everything I needed and would be able to complete the job for under $5,000. To go from initial estimate to getting approval for the work took nearly 20 phone calls! But mission accomplished. The work was done on budget and now I have a customer for life.

Dre

4 Comments

Filed under Service and More Service

The Estimating Process

Ah the estimate.

An important and necessary yet potentially grey area of the repair process. If you are like most people you are probably going through an insurance company to have your car repaired. Each insurance company has guidelines as to what they will pay for, and how long each repair should take. Often if you are looking to do an out of pocket repair and not go through insurance, the estimate will be lower than what the insurance estimate might be.

So let’s say you’ve been in an accident and you’re car is driveable but needs repair. Maybe someone backed into you while you were waiting for a parking spot at the mall. You go to your local repair shop and ask “how much is this going to cost?” Good question. Now to answer that question there are multiple questions that your repair shop professional should ask and steps for them to take.

Are you going through insurance or out of pocket?
If you answer “I am going through insurance” then there will need to be an estimate created with a field adjuster from your insurance company. Which means you need to make an appointment and have the adjustor meet you at the repair shop.
If you say you are handling it yourself out of pocket, the estimator should be “easy” on you and probably give you a break on elements of your repairs.

I am constantly asked after this first question, “how come you can’t just do an estimate and then I’ll present that to my insurance company?” Two reasons, first the insurance company needs to initiate the estimate process because “they” are responsible for the repairs… and the vehicle needs to be repaired under their guidelines and the work order sheet that they’ll provide. In other words, the repair shop is doing what the insurance company asks of them. Second, it keeps things clean as to what is being fixed that is directly related to the claim. People often try to claim  unrelated damages.

Let’s say you are going through insurance and you’ve set up an appointment for the adjustor to meet you at the shop. What happens next is: you drop the car and get a rental or a ride. As the adjustor may have a window of time. When the adjustor meets with the repair shop they together negociate on what is needed, what will be done, how long it will take, etc. Then, this agreed upon estimate is what is used as a work order. Then either the shop or the insurance company should contact you and inform you what they are doing, how much it will cost, what you are responsible for covering (based on your deductible) and will keep you informed in case anything changes.
Here’s some questions you may want to ask the repair shop:
1. Are you using used parts, aftermarket parts or factory parts?
2. Is this the price final?
3. What am I responsible for paying?
4. Are they paying for a rental? If so, how much a day?
5. How long will the repair take?
6. Is my car going back to pre-collision condition?
7. What exactly will you be doing to my car?

I always invite customers to check in with me to find out where things are at in the repair process. Of course I don’t expect a call everyday but if your repair is going to take a week or more it might not be a bad idea to check in after 3-4 days to see how things are coming along.

Another thing to be aware of in regards to a rental car is that if you were not at fault and the other party is paying for your claim then they will be paying for a comparable car as yours, and the other insurance company will cover the rental for as long as it takes to repair your car.

2 Comments

Filed under Those Dang Insurance Companies

What’s the best auto insurance company…

…which could be rephrased to “who is the best of the bad guys?”

Customers, friends, family, anyone who has car insurance and knows that I’ve got an autobody shop ask me this question. Especially when their car is in the shop.

In order to answer that question I always recommend that people read their auto insurance contract very carefully before choosing a provider or switching to a new provider. While it may take a little bit of time and research, if you read your contract or proposed contract you will have peace of mind and know what you are dealing with.

I recommend you specifially look at:
- OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) new or used factory parts VS. aftermarket parts. Because at the end of the day it’s about fit & thickness – how well the part fits and how resiliant it is.
This is probably the most important element of repairs. It’s very important to be sure that your insurance company will use OEM new or used.

In Southern California the challenge that tends to show up is that an auto insurance company tries pay as little as possible for your repairs. And part of the way they do that is by authorizing aftermarket parts that generally are not as high quality as the manufactuter’s original parts. Mercury insurance is one of the only companies that actually does not allow aftermarket parts and they make sure your car is restored as close as possible to its pre-accident condition. They even try to save your car by going to an 80% formula for total loss as oppossed to 70% for almost every other insurance companies. Mercury also has very affordable rates.

So if you are in Southern California I would say start with Mercury and then compare them to any other provider you are considering.

For disclosure purposes, please know that I am not an agent of Mercury and am a fully independent shop.

3 Comments

Filed under Those Dang Insurance Companies

Car Repainting vs. Restoration – Tips & Info

There is a big difference between repainting a car and restoring a car:

REPAINTING a car you basically strip apart (take off door handles, door molding, bumpers, lights, mirrors, etc.) which is generally fine for cars where the existing paint is either faded or dull, but not if it’s cracked or brittle. Depending on the car’s finish and how it’s been maintained or painted over the years if a car is less than 20 years old repainting should be a good option to have a car look newer.

RESTORING is the flip side where if a car hasn’t been maintained or it’s been in the sun consistently for years or it’s over 20 years old it will probably need to be restored in order to have it look “new.” In the restoration process the car not only needs to be stripped like it would be for repainting but it also needs to be stripped to the bare metal. When that happens rust spots, weak spots and previous repairs are often discovered and need attention. At that point you either replace panels that are too rusty, fenders that are too damaged, cut & weld all weak spots and/or start the rebuilding process by straightening the body and build up the car finish with a 3 coat urethane primer (which are done at different times). Which means that it will take extra time and and therefore money to complete. The hard part of doing a restoration is getting an accurate estimate because as a repair professional I can’t tell what I’m going to find before I get in. So if you are needing restoration on your car it is important that you discuss this with your repair shop before agreeing to have them do work.

In my shop when a customer has a car that I deem needs restoration over repainting I inform them of their options. If a customer needs restoration but they just want to repaint I can do that but I can’t guarantee the paint job. I also let them know that for a restoration process I can’t give an exact estimate until I start the stripping process. I usually give a ballpark figure with a large range depending on what we find. From that point the clock is on and every minute counts. Then once I’m about 3/4 through the restoration I can usually give a final estimate (by the time I get to the final primer).

So if you are looking to restore your car keep in mind that restoration is costly and can take months, so make sure you ask lots of question before you commit to having a shop do the work. It’s also important to choose a shop you trust.

7 Comments

Filed under Service and More Service

Welcome to Auto Andre’s World

I am in the unique position of being a truly independent auto body shop owner, AP Body Shop in North Hollywood, CA. I plan to share my thoughts, feelings and ideas about auto repair, custom cars and whatever comes to mind about my passion for cars and people. I’m just gonna dive right in. I hope you enjoy the journey…

Here’s a little background on the way auto insurance industry/claim process works (at least in CA): when you call in a claim while your insurance provider may suggest/request a place for you to take your vehicle (“preferred shop”), by law you can take your car wherever you want. The insurance company is only making a suggestion. And you would probably figure it’s the best to take it to a recommended place. And sometimes it may be. However, the preferred body shop will have a deal with the insurance company and really be looking for their best interest as oppossed to yours. In exchange for having business sent their way the “preferred” body shop will reduce their rate. And most shop owners do the right thing but keep in mind that when things come up like: if you are in an accident and there is damage that is not obvious (sometimes structural) the shop owner may not force the issue with the insurance company or the adjustor may deny the claim and the shop owner would have his/her hands tied and possibly not even say anything to you. So whenever possible I highly suggest that you find an independent auto body shop to take your car after an accident. If you are in the Los Angeles area definitely contact me. I am also in the process of connecting with independent shop owners across the country. Any good shop will fully guarantee their work.

Customization/Add-On’s/Aftermarket

In alot of cases an insurance company won’t cover anything customized on a car that is damaged (aftermarket, add-on’s, etc.). So if you are planning to do any customization to your car or you’ve already done some, I’d recommend that you check with your auto insurance carrier to find out what is or isn’t covered. For example, in California, AA Insurance will not cover any non-factory parts, add-on’s, upgrades, etc. But State Farm and Mercury will as long as they know about them. Meaning you’ve upgraded your policy to cover those items and your rates where adjusted accordingly  . In the long run this may literally save you thousands of dollars!

Here’s an example: I had a customer come in with a 2002 Camero SS with tons of upgrades and add-on’s (engine, suspension, wheels, stripes, etc.). He had probably spent about $15,000 in upgrades. He had an accident where he had hit a fire hydrant. The front of the car, suspension and wheels were severely damaged. He was with AAA Insurance. They would not pay for the replacement of any of the upgrades. I told the customer that his upgrades would not be covered. Of course he was furious. I called everyone (adjustor, supervisor, even a vice president) connected to claim. He also called everyone I called. Both of us got major push back along the way. The first adjustor said even if the owner of the car had claimed all the upgrades it wouldn’t be covered…”AAA just doesn’t cover that”  he says. Fine, but no way ( I thought)…After a dozen phone calls made by me and the customer , the complain went all the way to a vice president .They did end up covering the entire repair bill with upgrades because nowhere on my customer’s contract was it mentioned that his upgrade where not included…..nice. But here is a situation where if he had gone to a preferred shop he would not have been able to get his car back to it’s pre-accident condition through his insurance. They would have only paid for the original parts. Again, a preferred shop will not challege the insurance companies in fear of loosing their account with them…which means, you, would end up loosing and  paying the difference.

Ultimately there are many tricks that insurance companies and preferred shops use to minize their costs. I’ll be back with more info about this soon. Stay tuned…

4 Comments

Filed under About Auto Andre & AP Body Shop