Category Archives: Service and More Service

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…


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.


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!

AP Body Shop, North Hollywood, CA


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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.



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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.


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