Does this story sound familiar?
Bob got into a wreck. When he was trying to find a place to bring his car for repairs, he remembered a radio jingle for a place in Portland, so he brought the car there. The shop basically tore his car apart, and then billed his insurance company for the costs of buying new parts to put it back together – with an unbelievable markup.
Well, as expected, the insurance company disputed those charges, and the fight over whether or not the insurer would pay went on for a couple of weeks. Eventually, between the rental fees and the storage fees charged by the repair shop, Bob realized the only way he was going to get his car back is if he just paid the bill out of pocket, even though it was going to cost so much more. But what could he do? He needed his car.
We cannot tell you how many “Bobs” have called us over the years, asking us to help them with this type of problem between an insurer who won’t pay, and a crooked repair shop that’s charging huge markups on prices.
But the truth is, by the time it gets to this point, there’s really nothing we – or any car accident lawyer – can do for the Bobs of the world. It’s a painful and costly lesson, and one that we’re hoping to help you avoid altogether.
A quick note about car part returns in Washington State
If your mechanic ordered parts for your car, and you requested that the part be returned, you do have some recourse if the shop refuses to return the part before it gets started on your work – but only if you live in Washington State. You have rights under WA law when it comes to repairs. If you had your car repaired in Portland, however, you could be out of luck.
How can I choose the right repair shop after a wreck?
We always recommend that our clients take their cars directly to a dealership for repairs, because it’s very difficult for insurance companies to dispute their bills and methods. This means the car gets fixed in a timely manner with no additional expense to our clients. Plus, dealerships aren’t likely to use aftermarket parts for newer vehicles.
But we know that not every person who’s in a wreck is going to want to go to a dealership. So here are three things you can do to make sure you choose a reliable auto mechanic for your repairs.
- Ask friends for recommendations. If you know anyone who’s been in a crash, ask them if they have a mechanic they can recommend.
- Check the Better Business Bureau website. If you’re looking online for mechanics, make sure to check the BBB website. BBB Accredited businesses “have been screened by BBB and are held to a higher standard for customer service, transparency and ethical business practices.” BBB also keeps track of how many complaints have been made against a particular business, and whether those complaints have been addressed.
- Check online reviews. Remember that repetition doesn’t equal reputation. Check things like Google reviews, Yelp reviews, and other reviewing sites to see what your neighbors think of a business. You don’t have to only search for 5-star reviews, but pay attention to how a company responds to a negative review. If the company seems genuinely interested in fixing a problem, then you might want to trust them to handle yours.
Which insurance company pays for the repairs after a car accident?
The answer is, it depends.
If the other driver caused the accident, and that driver has insurance, then the other driver’s insurance company should pay for the repairs. If your car was wrecked in a hit-and-run, or if the other driver is uninsured or underinsured, you can file a claim with your own insurance company.
Regardless of who pays, it is worth asking the shop if they have worked with the insurance company before on other car crash claims. You should know that the paying insurance company is probably going to try to convince you to use a shop they want, but you don’t have to go with their recommendations. (In fact, in some cases, you probably shouldn’t – especially if you have a high deductible.) This is important because the negligent driver’s insurer has no relationship with you, and therefore does not owe you any duty of care, or any promise of good faith or fair dealing. In short, they’re going to try to lowball what they’ll pay as much as possible, because their main concern is making and keeping their profits.
This lowball offer is critical if you have been injured. Often, insurance companies attempt to link the amount of property damage to the severity of your injuries. They will try to argue that since you only had, say, $1000 in property damage, that you couldn’t possible be as injured as you are. This is a false equivalency for two reasons:
- They also nickel-and-dimed you on the cost for repairs, and
- Property damage is not a determinant of injury.
Think about it: if you were standing on a construction site and suffered a traumatic brain injury because a lead pipe fell on your head, no one would dispute your injury even though the pipe didn’t break, right? So, arguing that your injuries are only as severe as the damage to your vehicle is just the insurance company’s way of cutting costs and keeping their profit margins high.
At Philbrook Law Office, we believe in being upfront and honest with the people we serve. If you suffered injury and property damage in a car crash, we want to help – and we’ll tell you from the start if we can’t. To speak with one of our car accident lawyers in our Vancouver or Battle Ground, WA offices, please call us at 360-695-3309 or fill out our contact form.
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Founding Attorney Matthew Philbrook attended Clark College, Washington State University, and Gonzaga University School of Law. He is a member of the Washington State and Oregon State Bar Associations and started Philbrook Law Office in 2005. He specializes in Personal Injury, DUI and Criminal Defense cases. Learn more about Mr. Philbrook.