Can you choose your own body shop after a crash?

After a crash, your auto insurance (or the other driver’s insurance, if they caused the crash) will pay for your vehicle to be repaired. However, the insurer will often also supply you with a list of ‘preferred’ auto shops, leading many accident victims to wonder, “do I have to pick from this list?”

Thankfully, the answer is “no.” You have the legal right to take your vehicle to any repair shop of your choice. Even if the repair shop you prefer isn’t on the list provided by the insurer, the insurer cannot refuse to pay for repairs made at that shop.

Why You Might Want to Choose a Shop of Your Own

Insurance companies are in the business of making money, not spending it. So, when they need to pay to have your vehicle repaired, they may be more interested in doing so cheaply rather than safely.

The insurance company’s ‘preferred’ shops have an established relationship with that insurer, so they may be more inclined to do what the insurer asks to ensure repeat business from the company, even if that isn’t what’s best for you or your vehicle.

One common practice employed by auto insurers to lower repair costs is requiring their preferred repair shops to use refurbished and used parts, which may have been taken off vehicles that were damaged in other crashes. Another method is asking shops to take shortcuts to reduce the time and skill level of technicians needed to complete a repair.

Unfortunately, using potentially damaged parts and not taking proper time and care when making repairs means your vehicle may not be completely safe or roadworthy when you get it back. Although this scenario is unlikely to occur, it has happened.

Why You Might Want to Choose an Insurer’s Preferred Shop

The unfortunate truth is that if you decide to use an auto shop that is outside of your insurance company’s preferred network, you may end up paying some of your repair costs out-of-pocket. The insurer can’t refuse to work with your chosen shop, but they can, and almost always do, disagree with repair shops on the price of a repair.

Preferred shops have agreements with the insurance company to work within the scope of the insurance company’s estimate of how long it will take to complete a repair and how much it will cost, while shops outside the network haven’t. For example, the repair shop may quote you $1,500 to repair your vehicle while the insurance adjuster argues it should only cost $1,000.

Auto repair shops and insurance companies can usually come to a compromise on the cost of repairs, but if they don’t, the insurance company is only responsible for paying up to their estimate of the cost.

What to Consider When Choosing a Collision Center to Repair Your Car

  1. Does the auto shop have good reviews? Make sure to check multiple sources, such as Yelp, Google reviews, Carwise, and Better Business Bureau, or ask for recommendations from people you trust.
  2. Do they offer a lifetime warranty on repairs? The insurance company must pay to re-repair your vehicle if the repairs were made incorrectly at one of their preferred shops. However, they may refuse to pay for re-repairs if you used a shop outside their network. However, most reputable shops will offer a lifetime warranty on repairs regardless.
  3. Do they use OEM parts in their repairs? Ask whether the shop uses OEM, aftermarket, or reconditioned parts. OEM (original equipment manufacturer) parts are genuine parts from the auto manufacturer, aftermarket parts are generic parts, and reconditioned parts are used parts. Aftermarket and reconditioned parts are typically cheaper than OEM parts, but they are not always as trustworthy.
  4. Do they plan to follow manufacturer guidelines in their repairs? Some auto repair shops use shortcuts to repair vehicles, rather than taking all the steps recommended by the manufacturer, because it saves times and money. But these quick repairs are usually less safe and less effective.

When Crashes Cause Injuries, Count on Joye Law Firm to Have Your Back

Getting your car fixed after a crash can be frustrating. When you are also injured, it’s an extra stressor you really don’t need on top of trying to argue with insurance about how much of your medical bills they will pay.

If you were injured in a crash that wasn’t your fault, we believe you shouldn’t be responsible for any of your medical expenses. Furthermore, you deserve to be compensated for any income you lost while unable to work due to your injuries, and for the pain and suffering you endured. When you hire our experienced South Carolina car accident attorneys, we’ll work to get you the full compensation you deserve.

Call today for a free consultation.

About the Author

Mark Joye is the Head of the Litigation Department at the Joye Law Firm. A Board-Certified Trial Advocate with nearly 30 years of litigation experience, he currently serves on the Board of Governors for the American Association for Justice and is a past president of the South Carolina Association for Justice. In a recent trial, Joye headed a trial team that secured $17 million for a family killed in a tractor-trailer accident.

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