When a motor vehicle collision occurs, we often depend on our insurance policy to cover the expenses. It’s important to remember though, insurance companies are businesses looking to make a profit.

Because they make less the more they pay on claims, they may not always have their customers’ best interests at heart. This is true not only when they deny injury claims, but also when they try to pay as little as possible to repair your car after a crash.

Unfortunately, insurers trying to cut costs when repairing something as complex as a car or truck could end up killing you. When repairs are done cheaply rather than correctly, you could easily end up in another accident. No one wants to have something on their car re-break at 70 MPH on the highway.

Why and How Unsafe Repairs Happen

Louisiana state insurance requirements state all drivers should carry a minimum amount of coverage to handle expenses in the event of an accident. Despite consistently paying policy premiums, many motorists have found insurance companies utilized cheap or dangerous parts and labor to repair their vehicles after an accident.

Some of the practices employed by insurers to lower repair costs include using refurbished and used parts. Many of these parts have been taken off vehicles that were damaged in other crashes. Using shortcuts to reduce the time and labor of a repair are also common practices.

CNN News reports insurance companies guide customers to repair centers that will abide by the insurer’s repair demands, what’s known “steering,” even if those demands mean the vehicle will not be repaired correctly. This practice led more than 500 garages from across 36 states to file a lawsuit against top insurers who have been coercing them to skimp on repairs, claiming the business practices of these insurers are not only unethical, but unsafe as well.

What You Can Do

After a crash, your insurer will provide you with a list of its “preferred” auto repair shops for you to take your vehicle to. However, you are not required to use any of these shops. You have a legal right to take your vehicle to any auto repair shop you like after a crash, and your auto insurance can’t refuse to pay for your repairs just because you didn’t pick a shop they want.

However, if you choose to use a shop not recommended by the insurance company, prepare to be a bit more “hands-on” with the repair process than you would be otherwise, since the insurance company and repair shop will more than likely argue about price. That means asking questions to make sure you know what is being done to your car.

  1. Read the reviews for the repair shop. Make sure to check multiple sources, including Yelp, Google reviews, Better Business Bureau, and Carwise, or ask for recommendations from people you trust.
  2. Ask about the shop’s warranty on repairs. If your car breaks down again after getting collision damage repaired, and the reason is because the repairs weren’t done correctly, your insurance should pay to get the vehicle repaired again. However, the insurance company may try to claim they will not cover the repairs because you didn’t use one of their preferred shops. But you may not need to argue with the insurance company at all, because just about any reputable auto shop will offer a lifetime warranty on their repairs.
  3. Request only OEM parts. OEM stands for “original equipment manufacturer,” a.k.a. the manufacturer that made the parts that came on your vehicle when it rolled off the assembly line. So if you drive a Ford, this means new Ford parts, not generic parts, and not recycled parts.
  4. Ask that all repairs follow the manufacturer guidelines. Otherwise, the insurer may ask the shop to use a quicker, cheaper (and usually less safe and effective) method of repair, even if cutting corners puts you in danger.

Hopefully these tips will ensure you don’t use unsafe parts for your vehicle. Know that when it comes to dealing with insurance companies, you almost always have more flexibility than they lead you to believe.

When Your Car Is Wrecked, AND You’re Injured, It Can Get Even More Complicated

Getting your car repaired after a crash is expensive, but getting injured in a car accident is even more expensive. And since you aren’t (or shouldn’t be) the one footing the bill, the insurance company will be even more motivated to pay less or try to deny responsibility altogether after an injury-causing crash.

Knowing how insurance companies use “steering” to cheap out on car repairs only highlights the need to have an experienced Louisiana personal injury lawyer by your side if you have an insurance dispute stemming from a car, truck, or motorcycle accident. Contact Dudley DeBosier to let us help you get on the road to recovery today.

This article was originally published in February 2015. It has been updated to make all information current. 

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