After a severe auto accident, your vehicle will definitely need to be repaired. In California, you have the right to take your vehicle to any body shop of your choice. While that sounds like a great idea, you have to be very careful. Whether you proceed through your own insurance company to fix your vehicle or you proceed through the responsible party's insurance company, you should try to choose one of the body shops that's on their "preferred provider" list. It's kind of like going to a doctor that is in your health insurance network. If you go "out of network," or off the "preferred provider" list, that can cause problems.
Body shops that are within and insurance company network already have arrangements with that particular insurance company regarding fees they can charge, whether they be storage fees or tear-down fees (these are fees charged when the body shop expends time and effort tearing down your vehicle to look for additional damage that might be hard to see). They have a trusted relationship and you are less likely to run into problems.
While you can indeed use a body shop of your choice, said body shop may not have those same agreements with the insurance company. Therefore, It is very likely the insurance company will squabble with your chosen body shop over charges the insurance company deems unfair or unreasonable. For example, many body shops will not charge you "storage fee" (a huge profit center for many body shops and tow yards) while the vehicle is waiting to be repaired. Others will charge of storage fee ranging from $50 a day to well over $100 a day. As such, if you choose a body shop that is not within the network, your vehicle might be held hostage as it sits there while the insurance company and the shop squabble over this fee or the other fee.
Therefore, ask the insurance company (whether it be your insurance company or the other insurance company), which local body shops are within their network (i.e., preferred shops). Jot down the 3 or 4 shops they provide. Then research those shops online and decide which shop you're going to pick. In most cases, the shop you choose will be a reputable shop as insurance companies don't like to do work with questionable body shops. They want to work with body shops that will do a good job and will follow through on their work. As such, it is usually preferable in my opinion to choose a body shop that is on the insurance company's preferred provider list.
by Robert Mansour
Robert Mansour is a personal injury lawyer serving Santa Clarita, Valencia, Saugus, Canyon Country, Newhall, Stevenson Ranch, Castaic and surrounding communities.