It is your right to expect that the repairs carried out as a result of your insurance claim will return your vehicle to it's pre-accident condition.
The insurance company's obligation is to assess the cost of returning your vehicle to pre-accident condition and to advise you of how much they are prepared to pay for the claim. There are two ways to obtain an estimate:
An estimate should specify:
- What repairs are being done.
- Whether parts are being replaced or repaired.
- Whether new or recycled parts are being utilized. AND
- Whether new parts are from the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) or from an after-market producer.
If the collision shop or the insurance company plans to utilize recycled or after-market parts compare their warranty to that offered on OEM parts. Also verify that the use of after-market parts will not void any new-vehicle manufacturers warranty, or impact your obligations under a vehicle lease contract - some leases require that all repairs use OEM parts.
Only one estimate is required! However, you may decide to get more than one in order to compare prices and opinions about the extent of repairs. If you get another estimate and it's different, find out why. Most shops use industry-standard estimating programs, and labour and parts prices in a geographical area are similar, so a substantial price difference indicates a difference of opinion as to the nature of the damage or the appropriate repair technique. The best price may not always be the best deal.
The insurance company may accept the collision shop's estimate of the damage and authorize the repairs or it may want to appraise the vehicle. The insurance company has the right to inspect the damages to your car. Because the quality and extent of the repairs will affect the value of your car, you may wish to be present if the appraiser meets with the collision shop manager to evaluate the damage and discuss the repair procedure.
If you are claiming from your own insurance company, the company is required to provide you with a Proof of Loss form. Complete, sign, and return the form to the insurance company as soon as possible to avoid delay in settliing your claim.
Once the insurance company has appraised the vehicle and assessed the damages, their option is to:
- authorize the repairs, or
- exercise their right to undertake the repair or replace your car, or
- pay you the actual cash value of the vehicle if the cost of repairs approaches or exceeds the actual cash value of the vehicle.
If You and Your Insurance Company Disagree
If the amount of damage to your vehicle is being disputed or other disagreements arise over your vehicle's repair, and all attempts to negotiate have failed, an inexpensive formal arbitration process exists. The process is known as "Appraisal"
If you choose to follow this procedure, you will be responsible for your share of the cost involved. To start the Appraisal procedure, send a written request to your insurance company. If you haven't already submitted a Proof of Loss Form, do so right away.
A three-member panel will resolve the dispute. You select an appraiser, the insurance company selects one, and the two appraisers appoint an umpire. An appraiser can be anyone either party considers to be qualified to present its side of the dispute. Each side pays for its own appraiser and half the cost of the umpire. The decision of any two of these persons is binding and final.
Getting the Repairs On Your Vehicle Completed
After the insurance company has approved your claim, the collision shop can begin repairs. The shop will ask you to sign a work order authorizing the repairs. The shop will ask you to sign a work order authoriziing the repairs. Make sure it specifies all the details outlined in the estimate. Any changes or additions to the job and the related costs should be written on the work order.
Your signature on the work order means that you are ultimately responsible for the invoiced costs.
Once the repairs are done, check them over. You may decide to have an independent party look at them. If you are not satisfied with the repairs, discuss the problem with the collision shop manager. If the problem isn't resolved, notify the insurance company.
There are several method's of paying the bill:
- The insurance company may forward to you the money to pay the collision shop.
- Or the insurance company may pay the shop directly.
- Or the insurance company may send a cheque jointly payable to you and the collision shop.
You may be responsible for paying the amount of the deductible, as noted in your insurance contract. Once the shop has been paid, or the when the insurance company has confirmed it will pay the invoice on your behalf, you can take your car home.
Dealing with the Other Driver's Insurance Company
If the other driver caused the accident, you have two options:
- You may claim under your own collision coverage, if you carry it. Your company will pay your claims, then deal with the other insurance company. With this option, you may have to pay your deductible up front, but you or your insurance company can attempt to recover it from the other insurance company or the other driver. When you claim on your own policy, the formal Appraisal process is open to you.
- You may claim directly against the other driver through his or her insurance company. If you wish to do this, notify that company after calling your own insurance company. Many of the steps listed above still apply. You select a collision shop and obtain an estimate, but your dealings are with the other company. However, if you choose this option, the provision for formal Appraisal does not apply.
The other driver's insurance company may ask you to sign a relase form before paying you or the collision shop you have chosen. When you sign a relase form, you discharge the other person and his or her insurance company from any further liability to you. It is a final payment! Read the form carefully to make sure that you are releasing only the claims for which you have settled.
If your claim has not been finalized with regard to personal injuries you suffered in the accident, make sure the form does not release liability for your injury. You may wish to consult a lawyer.
If the other driver refuses to file a report with his or her insurance company, the company may deny your claim unless you sue the driver in court and get a judgement.