Earl Stewart is the owner and general manager of Earl Stewart Toyota in North Palm Beach. The dealership is located at 1215 N. Federal Highway in Lake Park. Contact him at www.earlstewarttoyota.com, call (561) 358-1474, fax (561) 658-0746 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Listen to him on Seaview AM 960, FM 95.9 and FM 106.9, which can be streamed at www.SeaviewRadio.com every Saturday morning between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m.
The article below was written by Alan Napier, the manager of my body shop, for my Toyota customers. However, the advice Alan gives applies to any make of car.
"This is supposed to be easy." Dealing with your insurance company has never been as difficult as it is right now. The year 2008 was a disaster for most insurance companies. Falling revenues, catastrophic disasters, poor investments and last year's financial meltdown led to losses for most major carriers. Why should you care?
Because now that the horse is out, they've slammed the barn door. This means that they are utilizing more aftermarket, remanufactured and junk yard parts to repair your vehicle. It means that insurance companies are applying discounts to their estimates that were not there prior to the collapse of Wall Street. It means that they are not negotiating in good faith with your repair facility to bring your vehicle back to its pre-accident condition.
"What can I do?"
Most importantly, insist that your damaged parts be replaced with new genuine Toyota replacement parts. Toyota only provides warranties on new OEM parts. If necessary, involve your agent. Remember, your agent works for you and should be your advocate when dealing with claims staff.
Second, insist that the insurance appraiser explain the estimate they are providing to you. Many times, the estimate will not come close to paying for all of the vehicle damages. It's not a mistake when this occurs, but a calculated tactic. Many people don't repair their vehicles and have no idea that their insurance company did not provide enough funds to repair the car properly. Point out any damage that the appraiser doesn't acknowledge on the estimate and insist that it be added to the appraisal right away.
Often the appraiser will tell you he has already written the check, so he cannot change the estimate until the vehicle is at a repair facility. This is not true. The appraiser is obligated to pay for all of the visible damage regardless of how many estimates and checks he has to write. As with any negotiation, be polite, but firm.
"I don't have time for this. Somebody help me!"
If you just really don't want to deal with all of that, that's where we come in. Your insurance company will advise you to repair at a shop that "works with us." Translation: "They do what we tell them."
A good car dealership will insist that your insurance company pay to repair your vehicle properly, per the manufacturers' recommendations, to its pre-accident condition. Bring in your car, show them the related damages, sign a repair authorization, hand them the keys and you are done. It's that easy. They take care of everything from that point. All they ask is that you support our efforts to negotiate with your insurance company. They will do everything from using scare tactics to telling outright falsehoods to save a few bucks.