Being involved in an accident can be traumatising, especially if you or someone else got hurt. Once you have taken care of bodily injury, you'll be interested to know how to get your car back on the road with as fast as possible. The following is a guide through the crucial steps and how you can avoid snugs along the way.
Step 1: Get a damage estimate
This is where you will be told how much damage your car sustained and how much it might cost to fix it. The insurer usually takes care of this, though you may be asked to drive to a facility if the vehicle can still be driven safely. Alternatively, you may have a repair-and-reimburse arrangement with the insurer that means you'll do the legwork yourself.
To get accurate estimates, you should seek estimates from established body shops with good references. Ideally, you should have at least three estimates for comparison, and the written estimates should include details about damage, cost of parts and labour hours. High prices are not necessarily indicative of overcharges, nor are low prices indicative of suitability. Instead, consider other factors in addition to price when comparing estimates. Be wary of overly low pricing on estimates: they could be using fake parts for instance.
Step 2: Choose the body shop
Even though it may not help you now, your insurance policy shouldn't have a clause forcing you to use a specific body shop or else forfeit reimbursement. If it does, plan to negotiate that clause out when renewing the policy.
If the policy gives the insurer the right to choose the body-shop, you may still benefit if the body-shop has final say on how the vehicle is repaired, especially if you're dealing with ethical and reputable dealers. If the decision is given to the insurer, they may force you to use cheaper and less safe parts to reduce their costs. In such cases, you're safer putting up the difference from your own funds to cover the shortfall. Do not compromise on your own and your passengers' safety.
Step 3: Find out what repair parts are used
It is possible that the repairer won't use new parts or those from your manufacturer. This is alright provided they still use Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) parts. Knowing your rights can greatly help you in this case.
If the other party's insurer is taking care of your vehicle repairs, insist that their job is to get your car in the condition it was prior to the accident. Installing cheaper reconditioned or used parts may be acceptable if their quality is assured. However, using non-OEM or aftermarket parts can be a safety risk, and you should fight against this.
If your insurer takes care of the repairs, your policy probably entitles you to LKQ parts: 'like in kind and quality' (or something close to that). You should hold the position that non-OEM parts cannot be deemed to be LKQ, and demand that at the very least OEM used or replacement parts should be put in. If they insist on non-OEM, ask the insurer to issue written guarantee that the parts will work as long as you have the car.