INTRODUCTION: The following information is designed to aid you in having your damaged vehicle repaired. This pamphlet was prepared by the Automotive Service Association’s (ASA) legal counsel. This information has been prepared by the ASA and its affiliated shops across the country. Automotive Service Association, PO Box 929, Bedford, Texas 76095-0929
Q. Must I obtain more than one estimate?
A. No. No one can tell you to obtain more than one estimate. You as the vehicle owner may do so should this be your desire.
Q. I was told I must take my car to a certain repair shop. Must I do this?
A. No. Keep in mind, you are the owner of the car and only you can determine the place of repairs. No one can force you to go to a certain repair shop for any reason.
Q. What is the best procedure for me to get quality repairs and quickly get my car back on the road?
A. Take your car to the shop of your choice. Leave it with the manager. Instruct him to contact your insurance company and advise them as to the damage report. You should then call your insurance representative and advise him of the car’s location.
Q. I do not believe I was at fault in the auto accident. Should I use my own collision policy or try to collect from the other party?
A. It is best to use the other person’s policy, because you will not have to pay a deductible. Also, if you use the other person’s policy, you may be entitled to a rental car while yours is being repaired, and there is no accident charged against your policy.
Q. Who is responsible to the repair shop for my repair bill—the insurance company or me?
A. You are. The contract with your insurance company states that the company will pay the damages to your car less the deductible amount. You may direct your insurance company to pay the repair shop, but the payment must be in the hands of the repair agency when you pick up your car (unless prior arrangements have been agreed upon). Keep in mind you are the customer and the insured. You deal with the repair shop owner for repairs and you look to your insurance company for payment.
Q. Who is responsible for the safety, workmanship and guarantee on my automobile repairs—the insurance company or the repair shop?
A. The repair shop is responsible. You would not go to an insurance company if a doctor made a mistake in treating you, you would go back to the doctor. The same is true in this situation. Insurance companies do not repair automobiles nor do they prescribe medical treatment.
Q. I am sure that the other driver was at fault, but no one has made any effort to see to the repairs of my automobile. What can I do?
A. You are the owner of the automobile. Only you have the legal right to make arrangements for the repair of your car, not the insurance company. If you need help, ask the manager of the shop. He usually is informed on this subject.
Q. Do I have to take my car to a drive-in claims service?
A. No, it is not mandatory to take your vehicle to a drive-in claims service. This is your vehicle, you can have an estimate wherever you choose. Call your insurance company and tell them where the vehicle can be examined by the claims person. This is your right as a vehicle owner. You are required to cooperate reasonably with your insurance company. Notice of vehicle location is reasonable cooperation.
Q. If I go to a drive-in claims service, do I have to take the car to its preferred shop?
A. No. However, if you decide to take your car to the preferred shop, you should do so only under the condition that the insurance company implements it’s “elects to repair” clause (check your insurance policy). The phrase “elects to repair” means that the insurance company is totally responsible for the quality of repairs to your car and the time it takes to make these repairs.
Q. I am having a problem with the insurance company. Can the state insurance commissioner’s office help me?
A. Yes, but the commissioner’s authority is limited! Keep in mind the insurance commissioner has no judicial authority to determine negligence or establish the value of a loss or injury.
Q. Can the insurance company and the service shop make an adjustment and start repairs on the automobile without the consent of the owner?
A. Not legally. You must be presented an estimate to know what is being repaired on your vehicle before repairs are made. Additionally, many states require written estimates on repairs.
Most state laws make it unlawful for any person to operate any motor vehicle which is unsafe or has defective equipment. Insist on having your vehicle restored to its pre-crash condition. Do not be pressured into having repair work done by a shop selected by the insurance company simply because of a lower price. You have the right to demand quality repairs!
The owners of some repair shops have pledged their shops to a rigid code of ethics. This code is designed to protect you and your property.
We hope the above information is of help to you.
* Readers are cautioned that this document is provided only as a guide to the general legal principles involved. You should consult your own attorney for specific legal advice and opinions.
State of New York Department of Insurance
Consumer Services Bureau
25 Beaver Street
New York, NY 1004-2319