Immediately after being involved in an accident, things change drastically. In addition to the physical pain that you are feeling, your life has just been turned upon its head. From the immediate problem of how to get from the scene (assuming that you are not leaving in an ambulance) to where do I get my car fixed and how do I go about doing it all take an emotional toll on you.
When your car has been damaged as a result of someone else’s negligence, your entire life has been interrupted. Let’s face it, people rely on their cars and without a vehicle, your life is not the same. Just getting a replacement vehicle, finding out how to do it and whether or not you have coverage for that kind of replacement vehicle is a headache in and of itself. The fact that you have to go to a body shop and take time away from your schedule and your life to do this and to rent a vehicle further disrupts your life.
There are two ways to handle the repair of your vehicle. If you have collision coverage on your policy, you can use that collision coverage and go through your own insurance company to have the damage repaired. The problem with that approach is that you will then be responsible for the deductible on your policy. Typically, this means that you have to shell out $500 to $1000 to have your own vehicle repaired. If the other driver was at fault, your insurance company will pursue something called “subrogation.” This means that your insurance company will go against the other driver’s insurance company in an attempt to get the money that they paid for your repairs back, and will also get your deductible amount back. Insurance companies have an arbitration agreement that they participate in so that the process is usually streamlined. (You would not expect insurance companies to wait for their money would you?). Even with subrogation, it will take two to three months to get back your deductible.
In the case where you do not have collision coverage, or do not want to, or cannot afford to pay the deductible, you can go through the other person’s insurance company if they are responsible for causing the accident. There are problems with this approach. First, insurance companies will look for any reason under the sun to avoid paying a claim. This means that if another vehicle made a left turn in front of your car, and even though there were eyewitnesses to the fact that you could do nothing to avoid the accident, the other insurance company will raise an issue of who was at fault. They will sometimes deduct a portion of the claim due to your “potential” fault. Is this right or moral, no. But insurance companies do it anyway because the law allows them to. The second problem is that you must deal with the other insurance company and hope that the other driver promptly reported the matter. You then may be forced to go to the other insurance company’s repair facility and typically, they are looking to save money there. You can expect a very low estimate of what your actual repairs will cost. There may be have to be supplemental inspections undertaken. In addition, you have to wait for the other insurance company’s adjuster to come out and look at your vehicle which can take a maddening amount of time. Then there is the problem of using the correct parts to fix your vehicle. GEICO, for example, is famous for allowing body shops to use gray market parts which are not manufacturer parts.
If you can, consult an attorney to help guide you through the process.