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Your Rights

Your Rights Before, During & After The Repairs

It is important to understand your rights as a consumer before during and after the collision repair process to your damaged vehicle. In some cases after an accident you may have the option to utilize the negligent party’s insurance company to indemnify you for the cost of the repairs to your damaged vehicle. If the occurrence was your fault you will need to use your collision coverage to indemnify you for the loss/damage to your vehicle.

Hire YOUR OWN Auto Collision Repair Expert for Repair Negotiations & Supervision — Diminished Value Insurance Claim Settlements

HIRE YOUR OWN GUIDE Through the Sometimes Complicated & Mysterious Collision Repair (or Replacement) Process: Someone to GO TO BAT for YOU Versus the Auto Body Shop Owner and the Insurance Adjuster

The first few hours—and days, for that matter—following a vehicle accident are filled with such confusion and stress that we yearn for someone who will just take over the entire mess for us.

protect your most valuable personal property asset by hiring an auto collision repair expert to:

  • Negotiate with the insurance adjuster and collision shop owner over what repairs MUST BE DONE to restore your vehicle.
  • Negotiate with those two over what kind of parts will be used and what manufacturer’s warranties can be salvaged
  • Supervise the auto collision repair process, including interfacing with the auto body shop owner and the insurance adjuster when problems develop
  • Inspect the vehicle after the collision repair work for quality workmanship
  • Report on elements necessary to support a claim for DIMINISHED VALUE For a Cash Insurance Settlement Diminished Value
  • If qualified, the expert can prepare the entire diminished value claim package and some will negotiate the diminished value claim for the owner

Each year the price of new vehicles increases, and even with a four-year-old vehicle wrecked in an accident, we are talking about a LARGE ASSET value at stake in the collision repair process. There is a lot one can do to safeguard the value of your damaged car, and there is a lot one can do to fight for a cash award when that large asset suffers a big reduction in value in an auto accident. Thus, we felt that this is a service you should consider hiring as soon as practicable.

The purpose of this page is to suggest that in many auto accidents involving vehicles with a high actual cash value and/or extensive damage it is essential to hire an expert in auto collision repair procedures and insurance adjuster negotiations for the sole purpose of getting the vehicle repaired and restored to pre-accident condition. We do not wish to scare any readers with this list of things that can go wrong in the collision repair and insurance payment process. But there is so much at stake these days, we must alert victims of a car wreck about the potential problems that await them in the auto body repair process. Many of these issues were being discussed in our Auto Accident Collision Repair Shops & Insurance Adjuster Relationships Explained.

What we want to do now is to see if it would pay you to hire an expert in the auto body shop and insurance repair negotiations. Just twenty years ago, it would have been highly unusual to suggest that someone with car wreck damage needed an expert to help him go through the process of getting his vehicle repaired and restored to pre-accident condition.

3 things have changed

  • Vehicles are much more complex and the collision repair processes have also become extremely technical.
  • The insurance industry has implemented more aggressive strategies to avoid their responsibilities to the policyholders. i.e. use of imitation parts, partnering with designated repair shops and not adhering to manufacturers procedures.
  • Vehicles have become a lot more expensive, so the amount at risk is easily triple what it was twenty years ago.

It is not logical to expect the consumer who is not familiar with the repairs of highly sophisticated automobiles to be able to understand the collision repair process and the cost-saving tactics of the insurance industry. Typically the general public does not know they have the right to retain an expert to assist them with the supervision of the collision repair process after an accident. It seems that those reassuring insurance ads that run on our media have lulled us into believing that insurance companies really are our “good neighbors” and we truly are “in good hands”.

The insurance industry did not become the wealthiest industry in America because it paid out on its obligations. The insurance industry has secured 60 BILLION dollars in profits in 2006 which is an increase of 10 billion dollars from the year before. The insurance industry is among the most anti-consumer institutions in our country. They have developed stringent cost-saving practices that decrease the quality of repairs to which the consumer is entitled. Hence, the necessity of retaining an expert to ensure the quality of repairs is a service that will benefit the consumer and their families.

First Things First:

What should you do about your damaged vehicle immediately after the accident? Where should you take it, and how do you best get a rental vehicle? First Things Following Auto Accident Property Damage: Report to Insurance? Save on Storage; Choose Collision Repair; Rental Car Rights. Seven Reasons to Consider Using an Expert for Auto Collision Repair Negotiations & Supervision—and Maybe for Diminished Value Insurance Claim Settlements

Reason 1: You do Not Even Know What the Estimate Says After it has Been Explained to You. Don’t take offense: in this day of complex vehicles, not too many among us could go over the elements of auto accident collision repair and understand the estimate. Can you really read and understand the estimate? Can you tell the differences between the estimate from the insurance adjuster versus that of the collision repair shop owner? When you receive the collision damage estimate from the shop and or insurance company, it will probably be fairly confusing if you try to read it. To make matters worse, if you get one estimate from the insurance company and one from the shop, they will probably be different. How will you argue effectively for one versus the other?

Reasons 2: Vehicles are too Complex; in a Significant Car Crash, can YOU Tell If Something is Omitted From the Estimate? This is a follow-on from 1: most of us would never be able to tell if something is missing from one estimate. Can you tell when there is an omitted or overlooked item of repair? Expect the purposes of each appraiser to show in the bottom line, to-wit: insurance appraisers are under pressure to examine several vehicles daily and to keep repair costs down, whereas the body shop appraiser will usually try to include all of the damage at the beginning. With the increasing complexity of vehicles, you do not want to be bound by the insurer’s rules of “visible damage” because the estimate generated by the collision repair center is usually more accurate and thorough. Most of us INCORRECTLY ASSUME that our motor vehicle will be restored to its pre-crash condition. That clearly is ALMOST NEVER going to happen in a big auto accident (i.e. one with a lot of physical damage) if you leave it to the insurance adjuster to “take care” of you. Negotiating the differences between the appraisals from the auto body shop versus that of the insurance adjuster is an important task in huge impact car wrecks.

Reason 3: When are You Entitled to Original Equipment Manufacture (OEM) Parts? When Would USED OEM be Better Than NEW “Quality Replacement Parts”? There has been sufficient notice in the media to alert most consumers that there is a HUGE IMPACT of differences in various repair parts. The insurance adjuster will usually try to write for “Like Kind and Quality” (LKQ) parts, Recycled parts, or “Aftermarket” (A/M) parts. “A/M” or “Aftermarket” parts are parts that are made by companies other than the original manufacturer of the automobile (Ford, Chevrolet, Nissan etc.). These NON-OEM parts (also sometimes referred to as “Quality Replacement Parts” or “QRP”) are generally inferior to the OEM parts. Independent research by unbiased parties has shown, in nearly every case, that “Imitation Replacement Parts” are inferior. Besides, for those vehicles under warranty, there is likely an adverse impact on the warranty by using NON-OEM parts. The use of used salvage and/or imitation/counterfeit parts is not covered by the GM factory transferable limited warranty on that part and all adjoining parts and systems that are caused to fail by these parts. Many independent and OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) studies have documented the lesser quality of imitation repair parts. Use of imitation parts may diminish the value of the vehicle at resale. When—in terms of both age and mileage—does an expensive vehicle lose its right to be repaired with new OEM parts? Do you know when it might be better to accept USED OEM parts instead of QRP parts? An auto collision expert knows the answers to those questions, and he can fight for you to obtain the best deal for your repair work. “Recycled” parts are parts that are used. As long as these parts are in good condition, this is not a problem for vehicles older than three or four years since, after all, all of the parts on all vehicles on the road are actually USED: it just depends upon the age and mileage of the vehicle—and, yes, the pedigree—as to whether or not it will be repaired with new OEM parts, or something else.

Reason 4: If an Auto Accident Resulted in Serious STRUCTURAL, Mechanical, or Electronic Damage Consider hiring a collision repair expert in the case of obvious serious structural, mechanical, or electronic damage to your vehicle. Unless your vehicle is valued at less than $5,000, or the repairs are less than $5,000 damage to these areas may merit your paying an expert. The most difficult for consumers to evaluate are the repairs to STRUCTURAL areas of the vehicle. Usually, these areas are not readily visible, and—UNLESS YOU USE AN EXPERT—chances are that actual after-repair testing has not been performed. And, of course, if defects in repair are detected upon resale, the value will drop considerably. Many times a frame or structurally damaged vehicle can not be sold as a “certified used vehicle.” This will impact the vehicle’s value by as much as 40%! Some experts would express concern that the structural repair will not respond properly to subsequent impact(s) to protect the occupants of the vehicle or ensure deployment of any and all SRS (Supplemental Restraint Systems) at the factory specified level of impact. What if you do not hire an expert, but upon resale, an inspection reveals that there is visible evidence that the vehicle’s frame and/or uni-body structure have not been restored to factory tolerances and to factory strength and rigidity so as to ensure deployment of all and any SRS (Supplemental Restraint Systems) at the intended level of impact? Most importantly, these last two examples are addressing the systems designed to save lives. The few hundred dollars you “saved” by not hiring an expert in the face of SERIOUS STRUCTURAL damage, are going to result in costing you MANY THOUSANDS of dollars upon resale.

Reason 5: If an Auto Accident Resulted in Imitation Replacements being Planned for a HOOD, DOOR, or BUMPER What is so special about hoods, doors and bumpers that some money cannot be saved by using imitation parts? These are areas of the vehicle thought to be just “common”, so if ever we could agree to the use of NON-OEM parts, why not in the case of replacing a hood, a door, or a bumper? In fact, these three parts, while appearing to have no workmanship that could fail in a NON-OEM part, do, in fact, expose the occupants to actual physical danger for the following reasons. Hoods without factory-built “crush-initiators”. Many hoods these days are designed to fold up in a crash, as opposed to slicing through the windshield. But even though the overseas imitator manufacturers are supposed to copy the so-called “crush initiators”, hardly any of those hoods have been tested, and some hoods that were examined failed the test. Having a hood slice through the windshield is a serious safety risk. Doors without factory perfected guard beams. Our manufactured doors have welded guard beams, but there have been many overseas knock-off doors that either lacked the guard beams or in which there was unsatisfactory welding. In any side collision, this is another safety risk. Bumpers that fail. Once again, there has been evidence of even low-speed failure of overseas manufactured bumpers, according to testing done by Consumer Reports. Bumper failure can affect not only the prospects of suffering structural damage but also the way the energy of a crash is used to set off the protective airbags. Even if the bumper does not fail, foreign-made bumpers very often need to be re-drilled or widened leaving large gaps or uneven surfaces. Fenders don’t fit. When it comes to fenders there are “Fit Problems” with overseas manufactured imitation parts. Some require widening the holes or using shims. Many don’t match the contour of the car and require significant reworking. This kind of faulty repair is not going to be apparent to the average consumer, but upon resale, any inspector will comment on that unsatisfactory mark of an accident, and the resale value will suffer accordingly.

Reason 6: Will the Adjuster Fight Your Diminished Value Claim by Use of a “Canned” DV Formula? When you run into an insurance adjuster who insists on using a company or purchased software or a formula to determine Diminished Value, it would be best if you had an expert who could pick apart that formula approach. There have been court approvals of a couple of DV formulas, but there are gross defects in using a formula approach to arriving at a value for a Diminished Value insurance claim. You might look at the formula and see if you can understand and work with such terms and concepts as damage extent modifiers. Besides the unfamiliar terms, the formulas often have built-in problems, but since they appear reasonable at first glance, the claimant has no basis to object, and hence the DV claim will be greatly reduced. Your expert will be able to show that these formulas have deficiencies designed to favour the insurance company by diminishing the DV insurance settlement. There have been class-action lawsuits on the use of these formulae. Thus, it is best to get some professional help to make a good diminished value insurance settlement.

Five important auto accident vehicle repair functions the auto collision expert can perform for you.

1. Picking a repair shop; obtaining a rental vehicle; collision repair monitoring: Two advantages that come up first if you hire an expert are finding a good collision repair facility and making satisfactory arrangements for a rental vehicle. It is YOUR CHOICE as to where to take your vehicle. You will either do the research on your own or if you have an expert, then he can help to identify the leading collision repair shops in the area. Maybe he will even recommend one of those shops that are “approved” or “preferred” by an insurance carrier. They do have the advantage that a shop owner does not need permission to write binding amendments to the estimate. The only worry is that this shop was not selected just because it agreed to shortchange on the repairs. Think of this like having YOUR SIDE represented in making arrangements for the collision repairs before the shop even gets started. Your expert can review and guide you through repair estimates, supplements, first party, third party, steering, OEM or imitation parts, etc. Your expert should be able to define the actual damages to your vehicle, and he will help you achieve a proper repair. Make sure he includes a comprehensive inspection of your vehicle and then he can make suggestions on handling the complex maze of collision repair. This is a GREAT ADVANTAGE IN AND OF ITSELF: consider how lost most of us would be to even recognize what to dispute and how to resolve a dispute between the insurance adjuster and the auto body shop owner.

2. Collision Repair Monitoring: It would pay to have someone on your side—first to define the actual damages to your vehicle, and—second, to help you achieve a proper repair. This is where it pays to have someone who is local so that you can have both a comprehensive inspection of your vehicle and suggestions and interaction on handling the complex maze of collision repair. He will take a lot of photos. Make sure he does NOT CHARGE EXTRA for telephone consultations inasmuch as the disputes among the auto body shop, the insurance adjuster, and your expert will need your involvement for resolution.

3. Post-Collision Repair Inspection: We all hope the only purpose of this service would be to form the basis for a diminished value opinion. But this service is also necessary because sometimes the owner experiences problems with the repairs done on her vehicle. A local professional will make a personal inspection and prepare a written report on the overall quality and safety of the repair. In larger repairs, it is helpful to have someone to review and discuss the shop and insurance paperwork. He will once again take a lot of photos to form the basis of any “come-back” work that needs to be done and the evidence for your diminished value claim. A detailed inspection of your vehicle including photographs. A detailed review and analysis of your final repair documentation. A description of what happens to a damaged & repaired vehicle in the marketplace. A description of the type & extent of damage to your vehicle, including identification of structural, suspension and safety-related components. An assessment of any post-repair remaining structural damage that may still be present in a repaired vehicle. A thorough inspection of paintwork. To restore your vehicle to pre-accident condition, factory specifications on paint depths must be met to ensure durability. Most auto body shops put on paint too thick and it is subject to chipping. A determination of the pre-damage value of your vehicle. A determination of the post-repair value of your vehicle. A determination of the diminished value of your vehicle. A listing of the background, experience and certifications of the appraiser The signature of the appraiser who completed the report. A professionally written report that complies with USPAP (Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice).

4. Diminished value assessment and preparation of dv Insurance Claim Documentation: Here is another area where a LOCAL expert is essential. You need someone who can build a Diminished Value insurance claim from the ground up, which includes an assessment of the quality of the work done. How can an Internet site evaluate the paint spray work or the fitting of spaces between sheet metal components?

5. Valuations, Negotiations, and alternate Solutions: Your expert can and should be in the best position to make estimates of actual cash value figures for your vehicle pre-accident and projected after potential repair work.

He can also attack those inaccurate computer printouts that the insurance adjusters usually present to demonstrate lower actual cash values for vehicles like yours. DO NOT BE INTIMIDATED by those printouts: they have been held to be deceptive and incomplete in court cases. The actual vehicle sale or listing information trumps those computer-generated reports that the insurance adjuster and an expert can help to compile more convincing evidence to support your higher actual cash value loss demand.

Let the expert take on the insurance adjuster in negotiating the total loss of your vehicle. He can fight for the payment of extras you had installed, including the value-added element of expensive repairs.

Third, in the event you want to fight to have your vehicle totalled, the expert can negotiate ways to employ used and/or NON-OEM parts to reduce the costs of repair to a level that will mean you can keep your vehicle.

Finally, some people who have put a lot of money into a vehicle (and especially where the adjuster is not willing to give any recognition of the investment recently made) may want to buy back the vehicle once it is totalled and have it repaired with used and/or NON-OEM parts. An expert is best for this situation inasmuch as this strategy requires not only negotiations with the insurance adjuster and the auto body shop owner BUT, IN ADDITION, the re-titling and inspection of the vehicle.

Should you Hire an Expert to Help Negotiate and Supervise the Auto Collision Repair Process—AND—if Applicable, to Prepare Your Diminished Value Claim?

To us, it makes sense to spend some money when there is a lot of money at stake. If your vehicle has much value at all (we arbitrarily picked $5,000 as a threshold), AND if it suffered some significant damage (again, $5,000 seems about right for a threshold), then you should really consider hiring an expert to help you through the process.

Don’t be afraid to spend a couple of hundred dollars: these guys can make you a couple of thousand dollars, or more.

For those with a valuable asset that has suffered very significant damage, SettlementCentral.Com suggests that it makes sense to hire a company to perform BOTH collision consultation and interaction with the insurance adjuster AND a Diminished Value analysis—and a DV report, if warranted. Why do some owners of expensive cars think that they know as much about the repair game as the adjuster and the collision repair shop?

It just makes good sense to spend some money to make sure your valuable asset is going to be restored fully and fairly, and that any Diminished Value claim is paid to the owner as a cash award in an insurance settlement.

Where can you find an auto collision repair expert and diminished value insurance claim expert?

We have no problem locating such experts using any search engine. The problem is that most of them will be too far away from your locality to have any real chance to participate by means of an actual inspection of your vehicle.

Websites do not do Appraisals; Computers do not do Appraisals

Only an individual with the required training, experience and knowledge can provide you with an appraisal report that will have any meaning. Plus, of what value is the report from an Internet source if the expert has not inspected your vehicle? He will be missing out on any mediocre workmanship that would support your claim for Diminished Value.

Do not hire an “Internet” expert if you can find someone within driving range of your location. We think it is just too important for the credibility of the expert for him to have had a chance to inspect the vehicle. Otherwise, he will be missing out on one whole aspect of repair work supervision and Diminished Value claims in that he has no way to tell about the quality of the repair work.

Quality of Repair Work is one of the MOST SIGNIFICANT aspects of both the repair supervision function and the Diminished Value claim. Thus, if you were to hire an Internet expert, you would be foregoing any opportunity to argue for correction of imperfections in the auto shop repair job, AND you would miss out on some real ammunition in support of your Diminished Value insurance claim.

In addition to the Internet search for common phrases dealing with collision repair and Diminished Value claims, why not ask around of other collision shop owners: maybe someone knows of a retired body shop worker or a retired insurance adjuster. How about advertising on the Internet for such a retired professional who can serve as your expert?

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