After you've been in a car accident and reported it to your insurance company, one of the first things that happens is getting an estimate for repairs to your car. An estimate is the amount of money that an insurance adjuster believes will restore the car to its pre-accident condition. There are a few important steps to this process.
If the damage is minor they will ask you to get estimates from several mechanics or body shops for the cost of repairs. However, if the estimate is less than your deductible, you will end up paying for repairs yourself.
Even if you think your damages may cost less than the deductible, it doesn't hurt to make a claim. If you end up injured or find additional damage related to the crash later on, the insurance company will cover that, too.
Remember: Your insurance company can't force you to work with a particular mechanic they might have a partnership with. Listen to any suggestions, though. They have as much at stake in getting your car fixed correctly the first time around as you do.
You may also wish to have additional work done on your car at this time for damages unrelated to the accident, but you'll have to pay for that directly.
All of the appraisers review your claim information, and if they can't agree on the value of your loss, the claim information will be submitted to the umpire. The amount that two of the three of them agree on is the value of your claim. The decision on the value of your claim is binding.
The insurance company is responsible to return your car to the state that it was prior to the accident. However, don't expect them to pay for a problem that was present before the accident. Restoring your car to pre-accident shape doesn't mean they have to make it perfect, only as good as it was right before the accident.
They also can't refuse to pay for additional damage found while the mechanic was working on your vehicle as long as it was related to the accident.
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