After you’ve been in an accident, you have a lot going on. The last thing you need when you’re worried about getting your car repaired quickly, safely, and affordably is a bunch of confusing car insurance terms to work through! Check out our guide to auto insurance words you might hear in a collision repair shop.
Act of God
When something out of human control or influence happens (that damages a vehicle) it’s called an Act of God. Things like forest fires, tornadoes and other storms, earthquakes, floods, or a volcanic eruption fall into this category. Acts of God are generally covered under comprehensive coverage, not collision or liability.
Additional Insured or Additional Interest
A person other than the main insured person who is also covered on an insurance policy is an additional insured. For example, if your car is leased, your leasing company is likely an additional insured on your policy.
The insurance company, or insurance carrier, is the entity that issues an insurance policy. It’s called a carrier because it carries certain risks in lieu of the main insured person.
Any request or demand for the carrier to pay according to the insurance policy is called a claim. The person who makes the claim is the claimant.
The benefits and protections that are named in an insurance policy constitute the coverage. Each portion of the policy is subject to the terms and conditions of that specific policy, so your coverage may not be the same as your neighbor’s even if you use the same carrier.
No Fault Insurance
Some states require insurance companies to pay losses of their policyholders that are covered in the claims without regard to fault in an accident. This doesn’t mean they have to pay for everything, it just means that the policy kicks in when a covered accident happens and not when fault is determined.
This legal principle is applicable in certain states and means that even when a driver is partly at fault for an accident, they’re still able to make a partial claim. The negligence of each party is compared to that of the other party and the claim depends on the percentage of responsibility.
This legal principle is applicable in certain states and means that a driver who is at fault, even a little bit, is not able to make a claim on their insurance policy.
Insurance policies include a deductible, or a set fee that the covered party is responsible to pay toward damages before the insurance can be paid out.
An exclusion is something that is not covered under an insurance policy. It may be a certain event, person, property, situation, or something else. For example, it’s unlikely that damage caused by drag racing is covered under an auto insurance policy, even if an accident occurs.
This is the amount the insurance company pays out on any given claim.
If an insurer tries to get a vehicle owner to use a certain repair shop, it’s called steering. Steering is illegal in most states and vehicle owners have the right to choose their own repair shop.
Your car has been to the collision shop, it’s been repaired, made to look new, and you’ve taken it home. If it had a new paint job, your body shop technicians were meticulous in ensuring that the new paint matched the old paint. Paint is tasked with protecting your car from rust, so it’s up to you to keep it in shape.
Look for Flaws
As with any repair, if you notice something isn’t right, say something as soon as possible. This goes for paint too! One of the hardest parts about painting a car after a repair is matching the original paint.
- Look at the color on a bright sunny day.
- Check up close and from a distance.
- Look for hairs, dirt and overspray.
- The paint should be smooth and even.
Take Extra Care for 30-60 Days
When your car was new, you were probably extra careful with it, protecting its shiny new paint and treating it with some fragility. After a major repair, this is a great way to treat fresh paint! It needs time to cure and harden before it can truly protect your car. While new cars have time in a protected environment before they’re sold, a fresh repair is back out on the road ASAP. Make sure to give your paint a little extra love and care.
The following are some everyday things that can damage your paint.
Dirt Roads & Construction Zones
Loose gravel and dirt is on the road, it’s unavoidable. If you can avoid dirt roads and major construction zones while your paint is fresh, it will go a long way in protecting your paint, which is vulnerable to chips and scrapes from flying debris.
Scraping or Chipping at Snow or Ice
In winter (or long-lasting spring), chipping away at snow and ice on your windshield is necessary. Make sure you’re not scraping it from the paint too!
Splattered bugs on the windshield are an obvious annoyance, but thanks to the acidity of bug splatter (ew!) they’re also damaging to your paint and can become permanently etched into the surface.
As gross as it is go find bird poop on your car, the droppings can also be full of acidic berries, hard seeds, and other grainy bits that can dull and scratch the paint on your car.
Parking under a tree leaves your car vulnerable to more than damage from animals, it might leave your car covered in sap! Sticky and full of chemicals that aren’t meant to interact with car paint, it’s best to find another shady spot to leave your car.
Sunlight can also damage your paint. The UV rays cause paint to dull and fade, just like they can damage your skin.
Commercial Car Washes
Keeping your car clean is an important part of protecting the paint! It’s best to hand-wash new paint in cool water with mild soap with a soft sponge or cloth. Don’t use chemicals, avoid dish or laundry detergent, and make sure your water is clean and not full of dust and pebbles. Avoid leaving it to dry in the sun.
So you’ve been in an accident, you’ve gotten estimates, selected your collision repair shop, and you’re ready to have your car back! Your repair technician brought up something called a pre and post collision diagnostic repair scan, but you’re not convinced it’s necessary. So, what do you need to know to make an informed decision?
A diagnostic scan looks for errors in your car’s computer systems.
A diagnostic scan looks at every computer system, sensor, or automatic feature in your car to make sure they’re working right. Today’s vehicles are full of so much technology that they often have hundreds or thousands of computer systems working together to operate things like cruise control, rear backup cameras, blind spot sensors, or lane departure warnings.
Virtually every car produced since 1996 can benefit from a scan.
The mid-90s brought us the first car with computer systems that did not trigger dashboard warning lights. The number of computers in cars today is so much higher than the number of dashboard warning lights – there isn’t room to put that many warning lights in a car.
Today’s computer systems are so diverse, they change so rapidly, and they aren’t standard among different auto manufacturers that there isn’t one scanning system that works for every vehicle. They require wireless access
Your insurance company may not want to pay.
Insurance companies and auto manufacturers are in disagreement over when diagnostic repair scans are necessary. Most original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), like Ford, Honda, and GM, have released statements saying that diagnostic scans are necessary for most cars after an accident to ensure passenger safety. Insurance companies want more clarity and more specific guidelines so they aren’t paying for unnecessary scans, or scans that don’t find any errors.
Auto manufacturers release repair guidelines for every car.
Every auto manufacturer (OEM) releases repair procedures for every make and model of every vehicle they produce. Your repair technician should always follow the OEM repair procedures. If these procedures state that a diagnostic scan is necessary, it’s likely for your safety.
If you have questions, don’t be afraid to ask your repair technician or your insurance company!
What can you do about diagnostic scans?
You can find many of the official OEM statements regarding diagnostic scans at www.oem1stop.com. If your insurance company states that they won’t pay for a scan and your repair technician says it’s necessary, call your insurance company.
Following a car accident, the idea of finding the right collision repair shop can seem intimidating and overwhelming. Hopefully it’s a process that you don’t have much experience with (unless you work in the collision repair industry).
Remember that you have the right to select your collision repair shop and nobody, even your insurance company, can force you to use a specific shop. It can help to get a few estimates from different repair shops so you can find the right one for you. The following steps can help you with collision repair estimates.
Research and Ask Questions
Don’t be afraid to ask questions when you’re speaking with representatives at the repair shops you’re considering. One sign of a great repair shop is one that is willing to explain what they do and what you’re paying them for. An estimate might take some time to create, but should include a breakdown of repairs, including the costs for parts and labor.
Consider more than the Total Cost
Remember that parts, labor, and overhead costs can vary from shop to shop. Higher costs do not necessarily mean better repairs or better parts. If you’re looking at shops in the same area and you find one that is a lot higher or lower than the others, ask why. Sometimes, different shops use different kinds of repair parts, and the parts you choose to use can affect the cost just as much as the shop’s location or labor charges.
Shops should always use the OEM repair guidelines, be willing to answer your questions, and have a record of good reviews.
Trust the Experts
While the Internet is a useful tool and it can help you find advice to get a great collision repair estimate, it is not an estimating tool. Every make and model has a specific set of repair procedures created by the manufacturer, and only by following these procedures can an estimate or repair be done correctly. Access to these procedures isn’t free online, so you’ll need to take your car to a repair shop and have it examined by a professional. If possible, take it to more than one so you have something to compare your estimate to.
While your insurance company may have an estimator, they too need to look at your vehicle in order to correctly estimate the cost of repairs. It’s not a process that can be done remotely.
Your Vehicle’s Computer Systems May Require Diagnostic Scanning
Why? Auto manufacturers require scans of vehicle’s electronic systems in certain situations to ensure they’re calibrated and working properly for passenger safety.
Your auto body repair shop can refer to the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) repair procedures to determine whether your vehicle requires pre- and post-repair diagnostic scans.
(Ford, Toyota, and Volkswagen are examples of OEMs. These companies create specific repair procedures for the vehicles they design and produce. Auto repair shops should always follow these instructions.)
What does a ‘Pre- and Post-Repair Diagnostic Scan’ do for you?
Your vehicle is composed of many parts, including computers and electronic systems. Diagnostic scans identify issues in all of your vehicle’s electronic systems. These problems can’t be identified any other way (until they cause serious safety issues).
The pre-repair diagnostic scan identifies all computer systems and diagnostic trouble codes (DTCs) that exist after an accident. DTCs show which systems need to be repaired or calibrated. Accident damage, including dents, broken glass, or battery or electrical problems, can cause problems in computer systems that trigger DTCs!
The post-repair diagnostic scan ensures that all the computer systems are working properly after your repair so your car is safe for you to drive. (No DTCs should appear.) Taking your vehicle apart and putting parts back together can trigger DTCs, even if it’s just a bumper or a door handle!
What kinds of computer systems does your car have?
If your car was manufactured after 1996, it has enough computer systems that a diagnostic safety scan can find issues that can’t be found any other way. These computer systems and sensors run through nearly every part of your car, from your windshield and door handles to the inside of your gas tank and your engine.
Think of your fuel tank distance notification, your automatic headlights, your windshield wipers, your rear parking camera, or keyless start or auto-lock features.
Isn’t that why cars have dashboard warning lights?
Scans can identify specific problems in computer systems – warning lights only show that a problem exists. Not every computer system triggers a dashboard warning light.
In 2017, the entry level Honda – the Honda Fit – had up to 500 possible codes that can come up on a scan. The most elite option, like a Honda Pilot, can have 1,000! It’s not possible to have a warning light for every system, and it hasn’t been since before 1996.
Why are we telling you this?
Although these scans are only required for your safety, insurance companies aren’t always willing to pay for them. The decision to scan or not is yours and we want you to make an informed decision.
Will your insurance cover it?
Depending on your policy and your insurance company, diagnostic scans may be covered.
Insurance companies who won’t cover the costs of these scans in any policy are primarily concerned with their business, not your safety. Covering the cost of diagnostic scanning will cost them money and may lead them to increase their prices, which isn’t good for business.
If you believe your insurance company should cover the cost of your diagnostic scans, call them.
For More Information
OEM1Stop.com is a website created by a group of auto manufacturers. It lists their opinions on diagnostic scanning and is available to you and your insurance company.
According to the CDC, car accidents are the number one cause of death and injury in children. AAA reports that when compared with seat belt use, using safety restraints specifically designed for children, like car seats, can reduce the risk of injury by up to 82 percent. The older a child is at the time of an accident, the less difference a child safety seat makes, but the difference is still significant up to certain heights and weights.
To ensure your child is safe, safecar.gov recommends the following four steps:
- Find the right car seat based on age, weight, and height. There are four main types of safety restraint systems for kids: an infant car seat, a forward facing car seat, a booster seat, and a seat belt.
- Make sure it is correctly installed. Sometimes this can be tricky, so make sure to read the instructions carefully.
- Register your car seat online.
- Receive recall notifications (if any exist) and take the necessary steps to keep your child safe.
But, what happens when you’re in an accident? Hopefully, if you’ve followed the above steps, your child is safe. But does a car seat need to be replaced after an accident?
If you’ve been in an accident, it’s time to inspect your car seat, do some research, and make an informed decision.
Do Car Seats Really Need to be Replaced Following an Accident?
One of the basic rules of car accident and child safety has always been that after an accident, always replace your car seat. But as car safety and car seat safety has improved, this rule has become fuzzier.
The NHTSA says that in some instances, yes, it should be replaced, while in others, it’s not necessary. They recommend that child safety seats and boosters are replaced after a severe r moderate crash, but after a minor crash, it’s not always necessary.
So, what defines a minor crash?
- The car was able to be driven away from the site of the accident,
- The door nearest to the child safety seat was not damaged in the accident,
- The vehicle occupants suffered no accidents,
- The airbags did not deploy in the accident, and
- There is no visible damage to the child safety seat.
If the accident did not meet all of these requirements, it was probably severe enough that the child safety seat needs to be replaced. However, always make sure to look at the safety seat for obvious signs of wear or damage! Your child’s safety is not worth the risk.
Does your Auto Repair Shop Perform Pre and Post Repair Scans?
When you take your car to a repair shop after it’s been in a collision, your repair technician should walk you through the repairs and have your approval before moving forward. Depending on your insurance policy, your insurance provider will also be made aware of the repairs to be performed and their cost.
But, as a consumer, are you aware of the auto manufacturer requirements for safe repairs? Your repair technician and your insurance company should be. Currently, there is an industry-wide discussion over the need to scan vehicles electronically before and after performing repairs.
So, what is the discussion about pre and post-collision repair scans?
As automotive technology develops, advanced safety features are introduced, and vehicles are designed to automatically prevent accidents based on information from various computers and sensors, the proper repair and calibration of these sensors and computers becomes vital to the safety of drivers, passengers, and pedestrians.
There are two main sides to the argument: the original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), which are the automotive names you know: Honda, Toyota, Nissan, GM, Ford, Chrysler, et all, and the auto insurance companies.
The discussion is ongoing, but came to light when Mike Anderson, owner of Collision Advice, moderated a panel discussion regarding repair scans at NACE in Anaheim, California, in 2016.
Original Equipment Manufacturers
Many OEMs have released official statements saying that in order to be sure that repaired vehicles are safe to drive and the sensors and computers within them are reliable, they need to be scanned before and after repairs.
OEM1Stop, a website dedicated to providing accurate repair information directly from OEMs, contains a collection of official OEM position statements regarding Vehicle Repair Scanning. While not every position statement is exactly the same, all OEMs do recommend scans and some require them. The specifications for when they’re required vary.
The pre-repair scan should tell repair technicians whether the computers need to be repaired, replaced, or recalibrated when the vehicle comes into the shop. The post-repair scan will tell them whether the repair itself corrected (or caused) any errors before the vehicle is returned to its owner.
During the panel discussion at the 2016 NACE event, the OEM panelists agreed that performing diagnostic scans is necessary. Brian Wayne, the representative from Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, stated that the Chrysler Pacifica contains over 200 computers, many of which don’t trigger dashboard warning lights for every little problem.
Imagine having a separate dashboard warning light for every issue or even every system within the vehicle! According to OEMs, it’s not realistic and scanning vehicles is the only way to identify and diagnose every issue.
Auto Insurance Providers
Insurance providers, who are often required to pay for these scans, argue that they may not always be necessary, and although they prioritize consumer safety, they’d prefer if OEMs provided more specific guidelines regarding the need to perform the scans rather than stating that they’re needed for every single repair.
For example, during the panel discussion, Chris Evans of State Farm argued that scanning the vehicle after a repair can be a waste of time and money. He said, “A scan isn’t always necessary… we don’t always want to have to pay for it. What if you replace something where no embedded technology exists? No technology has obviously been affected.”
In other words, when the damage and repairs done on every vehicle are unique, how can the scan requirements always be the same? Does requiring these scans raise the cost of repairs? If so, does that additional cost fall on insurance providers, OEMs, repair shops, or consumers?
Insurance providers also argue that not every vehicle out there has advanced safety features that rely on the proper calibration of sensors or contains over 200 computers. In some vehicles, there are dashboard warning lights for any issue that would arise. American Honda Motor Company’s representative, Chris Toby, had a response to this argument during the panel discussion.
“We looked into establishing a… first year and a last year for this… we actually started triggering codes without [dash] lights in 1996.” said Toby, “Realistically, any car that you’re going to… do a repair on is going to need a scan.”
Stuck in the Middle of the Argument
Unfortunately, the debate is ongoing, putting consumers and repair technicians in the middle. If OEMs require scans and insurance companies refuse to pay, repair shops and consumers may be left with a tough decision and a hefty bill. Both the hardware and software needed to perform the scans is expensive and requires updates in order to be accurate, and accurate calibrations can be tricky to perform without the right tools and training.
Ultimately, discussing the issue and spreading awareness of the cost and safety issues is the first step toward resolution. In the meantime, it’s important to stay in touch with your repair technician and be aware of the repairs and safety features on your vehicle.
Chances are, if you’ve been in an accident or if your vehicle was vandalized or damaged by weather, you’ve been shopping around for repairs. You may have noticed that lots of the advice online recommends comparing estimates at different repair shops. But, if your car has the same damage, why would different repair shops give you different estimates? Which one should you trust?
There are a lot of reasons an estimate may vary from shop to shop, and understanding what they are can help you make an educated decision about which shop should repair your car.
The materials used can vary.
Different shops use different tools, different materials like paints, plastics, screws, welding, etc. and different hardware and software in their computer systems. All of these can add up to varied estimates.
Not all replacement parts are created equally.
There are several different options when it comes to materials used for replacement parts, and some are better than others, depending on your needs. The cost of these replacement parts varies too! Usually, your options are OEM (original equipment manufacturer) parts, non-OEM parts, or recycled parts.
Different locations cost different amounts.
If you’re taking your car to the middle of town, rent prices or taxes or general overhead for your repair shop are likely to be higher, as is the cost of hiring employees who can afford to live nearby. Taking your car to a less expensive area means the shop will have lower overhead costs.
Experience and the need to get your business.
More experienced shops with loyal customers and an established reputation can afford to charge more because they have too many clients, while newer, less experienced or less established repair shops may need to take any business they can get at any price.
Estimate qualities aren’t always the same.
There are a lot of debates going on in the automotive industry at the moment about how to correctly estimate and perform repairs. Most of this is due to the rapid evolution of automotive technology, but the standard hasn’t yet been set. Some shops may perform a more thorough repair that requires them to dismantle your vehicle, some may have fancy equipment and use sensors, some may base estimates on photographs, and some may rely on insurance company regulations more than others. Some shops may tend to overestimate while others tend to underestimate. It’s always a good idea to ask questions so that you understand exactly how your estimate was done and how it could change as repairs start.
Car insurance is a legal requirement for drivers in most states, but understanding an auto insurance policy is not an easy task. It’s important to know what your coverage includes now whether you’re choosing a new policy or you have one that you’ve never (or rarely) used, before you’re in an accident, so we’ve put together a basic explanation to help you get started.
Generally, liability coverage is the minimum required insurance. It covers accidental damage to property or personal injury caused to an accident to the other party involved in a crash but not for you, your vehicle, or your passengers.
Injury and property damage can include medical expenses, lost wages, property in addition to a damaged vehicle, or court costs, depending on your policy.
When your vehicle is damaged in a collision with another vehicle or an object, this covers the cost to repair it, up to your policy limit.
If your vehicle is damaged from something other than a collision with another vehicle or an object, this covers the cost to repair it, up to your policy limit. Comprehensive coverage includes things like vandalism, theft, floods, or storm damage.
Personal Injury Protection (PIP)
Sometimes, PIP is required by law. It covers your medical costs if you’re injured in an accident.
Uninsured Motorist Coverage
If you’re in an accident with an uninsured driver and they can’t afford to pay for things like your medical costs or repair bills out of pocket, this covers it. It’s meant to cover what the other driver’s liability insurance would have covered if they had it.
Underinsured Motorist Coverage
Similar to uninsured motorist coverage, underinsured motorist coverage covers what the other driver’s liability insurance is unable to cover. If the other driver is underinsured, it means that the money they owe you is beyond their policy limit, and this policy kicks in there to make up the difference.
Other Kinds of Insurance Coverage
There are many kinds of auto insurance coverage available, and you can often choose to combine them in personalized ways. Your insurance provider can help you to understand them better!
If you are in an accident, remember that your insurance policy may or may not cover the cost of the damage, and the other driver’s insurance may or may not, depending on the policies and on the accident. However, your insurance company can never tell you where to have your vehicle repaired – that’s always up to you.
Car accidents are stressful at any time of the year, in any weather, no matter where you’re driving. But during the summer, with so many more drivers on the road, driving in unfamiliar places, an out of state car accident is much more likely!
Do you know what to do when you’re in an accident out of state? Do you know if your insurance covers you when you’re out of state? What about finding a new auto repair shop, or visiting a doctor?
Auto Insurance Check-Up
Before you embark on a road trip, call your auto insurance company to verify that they cover you where you’re going. Most policies cover you in the 48 contiguous states. Your insurance company can provide you with out-of-state policy details.
Traffic Laws Check-Up
Do a quick google for the states you’ll be driving through and verify that the traffic laws are the same. It is unlikely that they’ll be much different, but some states do have varied laws. Keep an eye out for road signs while you’re there!
Document your Accident Thoroughly and Immediately
You are in a new place, you’re not a local, and it won’t be as easy for you to get information and documentation later as it would if you were home.
● Call the police and make a police report. Make sure to get a copy or have one sent to you as soon as possible.
● Get the contact and insurance information from the other driver and make sure it is accurate. Write down their license plate number and vehicle make and model.
● Take photos of the scene, including the street signs, the vehicles, the location, and any people who are nearby.
● Talk to anyone who witnessed the accident and get witness statements, names, and contact information.
● Write down what happened as best as you can remember it.
Do you need a doctor?
If you need to go to the hospital, go. If you are concerned that you might need to see a doctor, do it now. Don’t risk your health because you are in an unfamiliar place.
Consider a Lawyer
If you think you might need a lawyer, you’ll need one in the state where the accident occurred. You can ask for references or you can ask a lawyer in your home state for a referral, but don’t give an official statement to anyone except the police if you’re considering a lawyer, even if an insurance adjuster shows up.