Do You Have To Use The Auto Body Shop Your Insurance Company Recommends?

Most insurance companies have repair contracts with body shops in your area.  If you use whomever they suggest, it benefits the insurance company because of negotiated lower labor and repair rates.  Insurance companies will also require their shop to provide a lifetime warranty but there are a lot of shops that do that already.  You just have to ask.

Insurance company claims representatives are given set goals that they need to achieve as far as costs.. They would like to see around 40% of their claims go to the repair shops they have suggested to their policy holders.  If you have chosen your own repair shop, claims representatives will frequently try to sway you away from using the body shop and tell you that the shop is not on the warranty list and it could effect payment of your claim.  They may explain that it will take up to a week before an adjuster will be available to write an estimate on your car which no one is really fond of.  They also may say that there will be no warranty if you don’t use someone on their list.

In my opinion that is really not cool.  Any great body repair shops will be confident in their work and offer a lifetime warranty no matter who is paying the bill. Shops are systematically interested in handling your claim and the repairs efficiently. Also, most body shops know how insurance company’s claims are processed, making it easy to complete the estimate process and repairs quickly.

So, the answer is No. You don’t have to use the body shop that AAA, Geiko, Farmers, State Farm etc. has recommended. The choice is yours by law, in the majority of cases. Will you still get top notch repairs?

Overall, whether it’s the insurance company’s recommended shop or your shop of choice, it is important that you choose a repair shop that you feel confident in. Ask friends, family and co-workers for recommendations. You can also research body shop reviews online through websites like Angie’s List.

Here are some questions to think about:

  • Does the shop have a lifetime warranty?
  • Do they have experience working on your type of car?
  • How long have they been in business?
  • Have they worked with your insurance company before?
  • What is the likelihood that the estimate will go up once the repairs have started?

Just so you know, the shop you choose doesn’t have to be on your insurance company’s direct repair list.  A reputable body shop will work with any insurance company to restore your vehicle back in tip top shape.


How Do Insurance Companies Handle My Car Accident Injury Claim?

When you’re trying to get payments from your insurance company for an injury, you have to be proactive and know how an insurance company works.  For example, if you get into a car accident, the insurance company for the driver who caused the accident or is at fault will be the ones you’ll try to get paid from and settle your claim.

So how do insurance adjusters work and what is their motivation?

They are assigned to a case to investigate facts and determine how much each claim is worth. They work for the insurance company, not for you as the insured or as the victim. They are interested in keeping the payouts as low as possible or not at all so the insurance company doesn’t lose money.

Insurance adjusters want to pay out as little as possible and avoid a lawsuit. If a case does not settle with the insurance company, the individual who was injured can take it to the courts.   This is risky for an insurance company, as the damage award can end up being very high depending on the judge and jury. Legal fees and other costs associated with a trial can also become expensive for an insurer.

The insurance adjuster, wants to get the insured to accept the lowest settlement offer possible, without having to go to court.  Most adjusters decide on a number that they are willing to pay out and then will make an offer and then will make an offer to you that is lower than the maximum they came up with.  This can sometimes be as much as 25 to 50 percent lower. This is because they want some room for movement in case of settlement talks.

How an Insurance Adjuster Decides on an Offer

Adjusters are usually looking at:

  • Actual expenses (medical bills and costs) that have been incurred and that will be necessary in the future
  • Actual losses in the form of lost income or lost wages
  • Pain and suffering damages
  • Emotional distress damages

Pain and Suffering Calculations

Because of the complexities associated with calculating pain and suffering, adjusters have a system. Here are two examples:

1. The injured victim is paid a set amount for each day of suffering 

2. Insurance company multiplies medical bills and lost income times a set number. The number that is often used for a pain multiplier will usually vary between 1.5 and 5, but each insurance company may have a slightly different system here.

Other Considerations

Insurance adjusters also consider two other key factors: policy limits and the strength of the plaintiff’s case.

The policy limits.

An insurance company is never going to pay more than the maximum amount of the insurance policy. For example, if a driver bought $50,000 in liability insurance, the maximum the insurance company will ever pay out is $50,000 total in legal fees and damages.

Effectively Dealing With an Insurance Company

Once you have an understanding of how insurance companies work and of what the motivation of the insurance adjuster is, you can use that information to your advantage to negotiate the best settlement possible. There are a few key things in particular that you should do:

Consider hiring a lawyer.

This lets the insurance company know immediately that you do take your rights seriously and that you will be filing a lawsuit if you aren’t given a fair settlement. Your lawyer also knows how to determine what your specific case should settle for and can use her expert legal knowledge and negotiation skills to get you the best outcome.

Make sure you have track and keep great evidence:

Photographs, journals, extensive medical records, and records of all bills paid and work lost are all essential.

Consider sending a demand letter

This is essentially a letter where you state what you will accept in order to settle the case. If you send this letter, then the negotiations with the insurance adjuster can begin at the number that you believe is fair, rather than the number that the insurance adjuster decides is right.

Remember, the insurance adjuster is trying to save money for the insurance carrier.  They will try to keep costs low.  You need to be paid what is fair under your policy.


Car Insurance, Settlement And Medical Payments

If you get in a car accident and you have Medical Payments on your insurance coverage, your insurance company will pay for you and anyone in the car that has an injury up to policy limits.  This is really good to add to your insurance policy if you don’t already have it and it only costs a small portion more per year (you will be surprised how little).  With this included in your policy, care is easy and effortless on your part.

Now, if you do NOT have medical payments on your car insurance policy and are hit by someone else:

During your care with a doctor, the insurance company for the person who is “at fault” sends a final settlement for damages to you in the mail or sometimes wants verification over the phone.  After this is verified, the insurance company will send out a check within 30 days after you reach this settlement figure for car damages or in some cases, the car repair shop will send the bill directly to the insurance company for repayment.  A “release” is included with the final paperwork to sign for closure of the damage part of your insurance settlement.  You must sign the release and return it to the insurance after which you are free to deposit the check.

Be Careful What You Sign Though….

If you also have a personal injury claim arising out of the same ­accident, which means you are seeing someone for injuries sustained by your car accident.  Be sure to read the documents you are to sign in accepting a property damage settlement. When you receive the check and release document, make sure the words “Property Damage Only” or “Property Damage Claim” are presented on each of the documents requiring signature.  Do not deposit any check or sign any document that reads General Release” or does not clearly indicate “Property Damage.” If you are not certain that either the settlement check or release is properly marked, ask the insurance adjuster to add “Property Damage Only” on the documents and to write you a separate letter confirming that this settlement amount is only for the property damage part of your claim.

This release is FOREVER and if you sign a document which covers your personal injury, you will no longer be compensated for your injuries and your case is closed.  A lot of insurance companies will pressure you to settle your injury claim, but do not do so until you are advised by your doctor that you are indeed finished with care.  Also, there may be future problems with a car accident injury that may not look like it is attributed to the past accident.  Try and make sure to negotiate future medical expenses in your settlement.  If you are not comfortable with the settlement, you may want to contact a lawyer, continue your treatment and have them negotiate with the insurance company.

Check your insurance policy today and find out if you have medical coverage on your policy, you won’t regret it.


Animal Therapy Is More Popular At Hospitals

For those of you who may not know, animal visits at hospitals lower blood pressure and help reduce stress during a hospital stay.  Here is a great article I f0und online.  A year and a half ago, Ruth London lay in intensive care in a hospital in Boca Raton, Fla., with severe pneumonia, delirious and hallucinating that she was in jail.

With the permission of a doctor on the unit, Ernest London, 81, cooked up a plan. He would bring the family dog, Delilah, a fluffy white Maltese, to see if the pet could calm his wife down.

At the entrance of the hospital, Mr. London was met by volunteers who stopped him cold. No dogs from home are allowed, they told him. But a call to the doctor was made, and eventually Mr. London and Delilah were allowed to go upstairs.

In the hospital room, the dog ran to Mrs. London’s side and nuzzled her hand. She stirred from her delirium “just a little bit,” Mr. London recalled, and began to remember where she was. “It was a turning point,” he said. “From that point on, she seemed to take a turn for the better.”

“I love that dog. I love her so much,” said Mrs. London, now 74.

It was a one-time deal: after a hurried meeting, hospital staff members decided they wouldn’t allow Delilah to come again, nor would they let other family members bring family pets to see other patients, Mr. London said.

That’s the policy at most hospitals across the country.

But a few medical institutions have taken a different approach and thrown open their doors to patients’ own dogs and cats, letting them visit along with spouses, children and friends. (Lots of hospitals have pet therapy programs using trained dogs, but that’s a different matter.)


The University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore lets family pets visit their owners, so long as certain requirements are met, as does the University of Iowa Hospital and Clinics in Iowa City; Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center in Richmond; Rush University Medical Center in Chicago; two hospitals associated with the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.; and more than a dozen other medical centers.

On Long Island, North Shore University Hospital allows personal pets to stay with patients around the clock in its 10-bed palliative care unit, as does Hospice Inn, a freestanding 18-bed hospice facility that’s part of North Shore-LIJ Health System.

Policies vary at the institutions that allow visits by patients’ pets, but many share some of the same requirements. A doctor’s order allowing the family pet to visit is typically necessary, as is an attestation from a veterinarian that the animal is healthy and up to date on all its shots. Most institutions require that dogs — the most common visitors, by far — be groomed within a day or so of a visit and on a leash when they walk through hospital corridors. Cats must be taken in and out of the institution in a carrier.

If a dog or cat wants to get up on a patient’s bed, a covering is laid down first. If an animal seems agitated or distressed when it comes into the hospital, staff members who meet the family and escort them to the patient’s room have the right to turn it away. If the patient shares a room with someone, that person must agree before a pet may visit.

“We have not had any problems,” said the Rev. Susan Roy, director of pastoral care services at the University of Maryland Medical Center, whose “your pet can visit” policy has been in place since 2008. If anything, she said, the visits can be hard on dogs, who often respond viscerally to an owner’s illness and may take a day or two to recover from a visit.

Rush University Medical Center spent three years studying the issue before its new pet visitation policy went into effect in February. Diane Gallagher, the hospital’s associate vice president of nursing operations, described some of the questions: Would animals transmit infections to patients, or vice versa? What were the liability issues? Could allowing pets to visit interfere with patient care — if, for instance, a family dog became alarmed and protective of the sick person when a doctor, a nurse or a technician came into the room?

In the end, officials decided that the benefits — comfort and reduced stress for patients — were more substantial than the risks.

Although research has shown that hospital therapy dogs can pick up germs and potentially transmit bacteria that can cause dangerous infections, those animals typically wander from room to room, while people’s own pets are expected to stay with the patient they are visiting. If someone has an open wound or an active infection, a visit from a family pet is discouraged, according to most hospital policies.

Research on the value of personal pets visiting patients in the hospital hasn’t been done. One small 2010 study of 10 healthy dog owners by researchers at Virginia Commonwealth’s Center for Human-Animal Interaction found that both unfamiliar and familiar dogs provoked similar reactions: a relaxation response and reduction in blood pressure and levels of cortisol, a stress-related hormone, according to Dr. Sandra Barker, director of the center and a professor of psychiatry.

But personal anecdotes abound. Anne Mahler, 57, a clinical nurse specialist at Hebrew SeniorLife, the largest provider of elder care services in the Boston area, remembers how depressed her elderly father was after breaking a hip and trying to recover in a rehabilitation facility. That institution wouldn’t allow his beloved dog Molly, a springer spaniel, to come to his room, but a visit was arranged in a back room off the lobby.

“My dad sat there sobbing,” Ms. Mahler said. Afterwards, the older man began eating more regularly, his attitude lightened, and he seemed determined to do everything possible to return home to join Molly.

More than 400 seniors live on the long-term care unit at Hebrew SeniorLife’s Roslindale campus, and staff members strongly encourage pet visits, Ms. Mahler said.

Harry Grandis fought off bladder cancer for seven years before finally succumbing to the illness last October at the age of 91. The final year of his life he was hospitalized five times at Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center, and during two of those stays had regular visits from Minnie, his beloved Yorkshire Terrier.

“Minnie would come into Harry’s room and his eyes would light up,” said Ann Grandis, his widow. “It was like bringing home to him. It just made such a difference.”

Harry returned home to die, and on the last day of his life Minnie lay in bed at his side until close to the end. Now it’s Ann who relies on Minnie and would want her there if anything untoward were to happen. “I would be lost without her,” Ms. Grandi, 70, said. “She’s family.”

References: When Best Friends Can Visit: