Tag Archives: auto insurance

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

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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…

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