One of the most stressful situations people encounter with auto claims is determining the value of the vehicle or damage.

The Process

When you file your claim it will be referred to a claims adjuster who will verify the loss and determines the costs to make the necessary repairs.  The estimate provided by the adjuster can then serve as a benchmark to do your own comparisons.

Insurance companies will not require you to sign an agreement accepting their estimate as total claim payment until you feel comfortable with the offer. If you are not satisfied with the provided estimate, then it is highly recommended that you get at least one estimate from a trusted mechanic.

While your insurance company cannot require you to have repairs done at a particular shop, they can require you to obtain more than one estimate for the damage.  The insurance company will want to verify they are not overpaying for the damages.

Don’t be surprised when your insurance company chooses to pay for the lowest bid.  Remember you don’t have to accept the lowest bid, but that you will need to prove that bid doesn’t adequately provide the necessary repairs.

Also, one of the reasons why your bid may be lower than anticipated because of betterment.  Betterment is when repairs performed actually increase the value of your vehicle leaving you in a better position than before your claim.

It is up to your insurer to decide whether to pay for repairing your car or to declare it a total loss and pay you its book value. Most standard auto policies will not pay to repair a vehicle if the repairs cost more than the cash value assigned to the car.

There won’t be any dispute about whether to repair the car if it was completely totaled. But you may argue about what the pieces of the car were worth when they were assembled as a car.  There are several standard guidelines used to determine the value of a vehicle.  Guides published by the National Association of Automobile Dealers and Kelly Blue Book are good places to start.