California law on auto body shop repairs are very consumer-friendly in my opinion as a consumer attorney who represents auto accident victims. If you are involved in a traffic collision in the Golden State, you will obviously have questions about the repair of your vehicle. I thought I would post some of the more common questions that I am asked as an auto accident lawyer in CA and the answers in this blog post.
- Do I have the right to take my car to the repair facility of my choice or do I have to go to the one the insurance company “recommended”? This is probably the most common question I am asked by crash victims. We all know that auto insurance carriers, like any other corporation, are trying to always save on “the bottom line”. One of the ways they do this is to steer consumers towards their “preferred” or “direct repair facility”. While many of these facilities do fine work, the California legislature decided a few years ago that this it was inherently unfair to force consumers to go with the auto body shop recommended by the insurance company. Therefore, the CA Insurance Code was supplemented to add CA Ins. Code § 758.5, which states, in pertinent part, as follows: “No insurer shall require that an automobile be repaired at a specific automotive repair dealer.” In addition, the car insurance company can only recommend a specific place of repair under the following conditions: (a) The consumer specifically requests a recommendation; (b) the consumer has been informed in writing of the right to the repair shop of their choice; (c) if the insured chooses the facility recommended by the carrier, the vehicle must be fully restored to its original condition and the customer should not incur any additional charges that would not otherwise be charged or allowed by law if they had used a different shop; and (d) if the auto insurance company gives an oral recommendation for a particular body shop, they must follow up with a written notice of consumer rights within five days of the verbal recommendation.
- Does the body shop have to guarantee the quality of their work? By law, auto body repair businesses are not required to guarantee their work but, most reputable repair facilities will provide such a guarantee. If a warranty is provided, it must be in writing.
- Are Auto Body Shops and Auto Insurance Companies required to provide written estimates of repair and what happens if the estimate comes in higher than what the insurance company claims it should cost? Yes. California law requires these facilities to provide the customer with a written estimate of repair of their vehicle. In fact, California Code of Regulations 2695.8(f) (the California Fair Claims Settlement Practices Act) requires the car insurance carrier and body shop to provide a written estimate of repair with a breakdown of the repairs with reasonable costs for “workmanlike” restoration of the vehicle. Furthermore, if the initial estimate doesn’t cover all of the repairs according to supplemental estimates obtained by the insured, the carrier must do one of the following: (a) pay the difference between their estimate and the higher estimate; (b) provide other facilities where the repair can be done for the original written estimate with assurances, in writing, that the repairs will be done at the same level as the shop where the higher estimate was made (note: if the carrier doesn’t provide at least 3 or more other options for facilities, additional communications must be provided); or (c) “reasonably adjust” any repair estimates provided by the body shop of the consumer’s choice.
- Can the Insurance Company force me to use “after market” parts to repair my vehicle? Repair facilities are allowed to use after market parts but, only under the following conditions: (a) the parts must be equal in “quality, safety, fit and performance” as original parts; (b) the insurance company must pay for any reasonable cost to modify the parts to make them safe; (c) a warranty must be provided that assures that the parts are safe for use; and (d) the parts must carry proper manufacturer identification.
- Does the car insurance company have to let me know if there is coverage for a rental car while mine is in the shop? Yes. The insurance provider must fully communicate the extent of coverage for a substitute vehicle including the daily rate and maximum number of days covered under the policy.
Importance of seeking the assistance of a car accident attorney in California to get a complete and fair repair of a wrecked vehicle
Most personal injury lawyers (including Steven M. Sweat, APC) will provide assistance with obtaining proper repair of a vehicle, towing and rental cars as part of their representation of persons injured in traffic collisions. The law firm will usually provide this as a courtesy to the injured party or their family and charge a fee only on the bodily injury recovery and not the property damage claim, with certain conditions. Lawyers know the legal requirements in California for repair of automobiles that have been involved in collisions and can make sure the “keep the insurance company honest!”
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