You Have the Right to Choose Your Own Auto Body Repair Shop
A major car accident can happen to anyone at any time. According to the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT), there were nearly 120,000 motor vehicle accidents reported in 2015 alone. Even the safest and most cautious of drivers could be involved in a serious collision.
All traffic accidents have the potential to cause significant damage. A seemingly minor fender bender could leave a driver with thousands of dollars in auto repairs. If you have been involved in a traffic accident in Washington, it is imperative that you know your rights under our state’s insurance regulations.
In Washington, the insurance company cannot tell you where to repair your vehicle. You have the legal right to choose your own trusted mechanic. If you are having any trouble getting the insurance company to cooperate, or if you suffered serious injuries in your wreck, please do not hesitate to speak to an experienced Seattle car accident attorney.
Know Your Rights: Car Accident Claims and Auto Repairs
- You Can Choose Your Own Repair Shop
Under Washington State law (WAC 284-30-390), auto insurance companies owe certain legal duties to claimants, the most important being its legal duty to handle all auto repair claims in good faith. It is not the insurance company’s decision to determine where a vehicle gets repaired, and regardless of the selected auto body shop, the insurance company still owes the claimant fair market value for any damages.
If your vehicle sustained significant damage in a car accident, the insurance company may offer you a list of ‘recommended’ or ‘preferred’ auto body repair shops. You are under no obligation to use any of these shops. Of course, you certainly can choose to use the insurance company’s auto repair option. In some cases, there can even be advantages to doing so. For example, it is generally less likely that a dispute will arise over the cost of the repairs if you are working with an insurance company’s preferred repair shop. Still, the insurance company cannot treat your claim any differently simply because you declined to get your repair through its preferred auto body shop.
- Your Vehicle Should Be Restored to Its ‘Pre-Accident’ Condition
If the insurance company is liable to pay for your vehicle damages, you have a right to have your car restored to its ‘pre-accident’ condition. All necessary mechanical and bodywork should be provided to complete the job. Though, it should be noted that the insurance company does typically have the right to use ‘aftermarket’ parts for the repair.
In the event your vehicle damage is so extensive that a repair would cost more than a repair, your claim will be defined as a ‘total loss’, and your vehicle will be referred to as ‘totaled.’ If your total loss claim is approved, you should be offered a settlement check that is equal to the full value of your damages.
- You Should Receive an Itemized Repair Estimate
The vehicle repair claims process should not be a black box. Transparency is crucial. You have a right to know exactly what is being done to fix your vehicle. In Washington, the insurance company is legally required to provide you with a written estimate of the total repair costs. This written estimated should be properly itemized so that you can have full knowledge of the vehicle repair process.
- You Can File a Supplemental Claim
In some cases, the full value of the vehicle damage may not be apparent immediately after the crash, and sometimes the vehicle could be repaired without certain issues ever being noticed by the car owner or the mechanic. In these cases, claimants generally have the right to file a supplemental insurance claim. A supplemental claim can be used to cover damages that were not reasonably discoverable at the time of the original repair but that were related to the accident.
Get Help From a Washington Car Accident Lawyer
At The Walthew Law Firm, we are committed advocates for injured victims. If you or a family member was hurt in a traffic collision, our Washington car accident lawyers are ready to help you fight for the full and fair financial compensation you deserve.
To arrange a free, no obligation car accident consultation, please contact our legal team today. We have offices in Seattle and Everett, and we represent injured victims throughout the region, including in King County, Snohomish County, Pierce County, and Island County.