When you are involved in a car accident, there are concerns about vehicle repairs or replacement. Depending on several factors, you may have to repair your car before you can drive it again.
In most cases, you do not have to repair your vehicle out of pocket even if it is a minor fender bender.
The insurance payout will cover your repair costs and if your vehicle is totaled, the insurance company may offer you its fair market value or actual cash value. In exchange, the company will take possession of your totaled car.
Ultimately, the decision to repair your car after an insurance claim accident depends on the circumstances.
If there is a lien on your car, you may not be allowed to repair the vehicle. Typically, the lender will not risk their investment falling into the hands of an inexperienced mechanic. You may be required to use a pre-approved repair shop that guarantees all services.
The insurance company cannot force you to use the selected repair shops, but your lender might. Carefully read your loan agreement to understand the terms and conditions. You might find language that states you must use certified repair shops.
However, if you paid for the vehicle in full, you may be able to fix it. Talk to your insurance agent to ensure that the repairs will not void your coverage.
If you have a car loan, you will have to get the vehicle repaired. However, as earlier discussed, you have to use certified repair shops. Most lenders have a pre-approved list of trusted mechanics you can use.
This ensures their collateral is properly repaired and does not result in any additional damage in case they have to repossess the vehicle. You do not own the car outright if you are still making payments.
Lenders also require to be listed as a loss payee on your car insurance policy to ensure that you get comprehensive coverage. Listing your lender on a policy allows them to get notified when you file a claim.
When it comes to repairs, most insurers use the same guidelines. However, we recommend reading your policy or contacting your agent to find out the repair procedures.
Depending on which type of insurance cover you have, you may get a substantial amount in the insurance payout to repair your car.
For instance, a comprehensive policy will give you the maximum cover discussed when the policy was first issued.
If the repair costs are less than the provided compensation, you are within your rights to make arrangements to repair the vehicle.
Most attorneys will help you file a claim and advise you that you wait until you receive compensation before doing any repairs.
If you want to continue with your coverage, most insurers recommend that you repair your vehicle after an accident.
Your insurer is a business and they do not want to spend money on future damages for a vehicle that was already damaged and not repaired.
Another reason to repair your car is that existing damage may become compounded if you are involved in another accident.
If your insurer had already made a payout for the pre-existing damage from the first accident, they are unlikely to settle a second claim for compounded damages.
You must provide proof of repairs such as photos and receipts. Your insurer will also make a claim check out to the repair shop and the policy owner to ensure that repairs were made. If the car is not repaired, you may have to drop the physical damage coverage on your policy.
If you have paid for the car in full, you have more flexibility on the choice of repair.
Some drivers opt out of reporting a claim to their insurer to avoid an increase in their premiums. This may happen if you are involved in a single-car accident which is not covered by most policies.
If you are involved in a single-car accident which is your fault and can afford the necessary repairs, you can opt out of reporting a claim.
However, if you are involved in a multiple-car accident, you may have no choice but to file a report.
As a responsible driver, you have a duty to ensure that your car is safe and roadworthy so as not to endanger other road users.
Should you get pulled over and your insurance company is notified that you were operating a damaged or dangerous car or that you were involved in a secondary accident, your coverage may be invalidated.
You should not attempt to drive a damaged car. If in doubt, consider using a tow truck as the cost is typically covered by the insurance company. Some signs that your car might be unroadworthy include:
- Non-functioning taillights or headlights
- Busted side mirrors
- Leaking fluids
- Jagged frame
- Severely cracked windshield
- Misaligned wheels
- Damage near the gas tank
- The hood does not lock
If you are involved in a serious car crash resulting in extensive injuries, you may want to file a personal injury lawsuit.
You may not want to repair the car if the damage on your vehicle can be used as evidence where the other motorist of their insurer disputes liability.
In this case, repairing your car can be detrimental to your suit. Work closely with a personal injury attorney immediately after an accident to ensure all evidence is recorded.
Your attorney will also advise you whether to repair the car or wait until you are compensated for damages.
If you drive an old car, it may require more frequent repairs which can be costly. You can tell your car is not worth repairing if:
- Major repairs cost more than 50% of its value.
- The car is unreliable.
- The car is unsafe and unroadworthy.
- It requires frequent repairs and maintenance.
If your car shows any of these signs, consider trading up.
It is not uncommon for your repair costs to differ from the insurance estimate. Pay attention when the insurance adjuster is negotiating with the repair shop. These negotiations determine the parts used, the choice of repair or replacement, and the labor required.
If you and the insurer do not agree on final costs, you do not have to accept it. You can file a lawsuit to get a better settlement.
Get in touch with an experienced attorney to protect your rights and ensure you receive a fair settlement.