After An Accident: Getting Around Repair Shop, Insurance Obstacles

By: Jim Champion/The Auto Guy Email
By: Jim Champion/The Auto Guy Email

Getting in an accident is stressful enough, but it can get even more stressful when you start trying to figure out the repair process with your insurance company.

Years ago, the insurance company would tell you to go get three estimates from three different shops and then they would pay the lowest estimate. But things have changed.

These days much of the estimating process is done by the shop that you choose to repair your vehicle, especially if the shop is a direct repair provider (or DRP) for the insurance company that is handling your claim. If a shop has a DRP arrangement with the insurance company, it is usually authorized to handle a large part of the claim process, including writing the estimate, taking digital images of the damage and documenting the condition and mileage of the vehicle.

After the DRP shop puts all of the information together, it uploads all of it to the insurance company for review. As long as the vehicle is not a total loss, the shop can get right to work on the vehicle. Any additional damage after repairs are underway are documented by the shop, so there are no delays related to waiting for the insurance company to send an adjuster back out to the shop for a re-inspection. When repairs are completed, the shop can usually have the customer sign an authorization form and bill the insurance company for the repairs.

All of the larger insurance companies have DRP arrangements with selected shops, and that relationship can get confusing for people who are trying to get their vehicle repaired. When you talk to the representative from the insurance company, you might get the idea that you have to go to the shop of their choice in order for them to take care of the claim. But it’s important to note that by law you can go to the shop of your choice, no matter which insurance company you are dealing with.

There still are circumstances when an insurance adjuster will write the initial estimate. Catastrophes such as hail storms almost always end up being handled by catastrophe teams that the insurance companies will bring in to write the original estimate of the damage.

Many times, the insurance company will even write you a check on the spot. If the shop that repairs your vehicle runs into additional damage during the repair, it will handle billing the insurance company for those costs. But the shop has to be working off of the original insurance company estimate in order for insurance to pay the additional costs.

Here is the most important thing to remember when you have damage on your vehicle. It’s your choice to take your vehicle where you want to have it repaired. Deal with a shop that has your best interests in mind and will do a quality repair. So if you are in an accident you can tell the insurance company where you are going to have your vehicle repaired, not the other way around.

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