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Saturday, March 16, 2013

Making the most of a bad situation.

A car accident can be a traumatizing experience.  Even if the accident was not your fault, it can end up costing you money if you are not careful about how you approach the situation.  Insurance adjusters sometimes count on your emotional state and will use that against you when determining how much to pay out.  A key take away here is good advice for all aspects of life, "Wait until your emotions are calm before you make any big decisions."  Make sure you are in a calm a clear state whenever you talk to the adjusters, or else have someone else talk to them for you.

My second thought on this topic is that there is usually more money available to you in an accident payout situation than will be initially offered.  A little patience on your part can get you a bigger check.  Let's look at a real world situation that I just went through and see how everything played out.  My one of past girl-friends got backed into in a parking lot.   Parking lots can be a strange place as far as traffic law goes, and the other person would not claim full responsibility even though the accident was totally her fault.   The other person's insurance would only offer to cover 80% of the damages to my girl.  That meant she would have to make a claim with her own insurance and pay a $500 deductible.   My girl was more distraught over that than the accident or the damage to her car.   Fortunately, she was too broke to pay the $500 and she followed my advice and haggled with the other driver's insurance company.

She did get some work done on her back and the lady who worked on her spine said that the stiffness was definitely from the accident.  Armed with a potential bodily injury claim, we began to haggle with the insurance company and threatened to hire a lawyer if they didn't at least send someone out to assess the dollar amount of damage to my girl's car.   After two months of crawling in from the passenger side, we finally got the other insurance company to cave.  They assumed 100% liability for the accident which was fair based on the way the accident occurred.  Their adjuster gave an estimate of about $3000 to repair the damage to both doors on the drivers side of my girl's car.

Now, there were two options for making repairs to the car.   One, we go to a body shop that works with the insurance company on a regular basis, and they would bill the insurance company directly, or two, we take a $3000 check and get the car fixed our-self.   We went shopping at various body shops and we found some that would fix the damage for slightly less, but they wouldn't make any promises if they found more damage than what was visible on the outside.  This was a little intimidating for us and we almost  went with option 1.  Option 2 is where you can pocket some money though.  You just have to make sure you can get the car fixed cheap ... and if you are willing to do some work yourself, you can save even more money.

For parts, I recommend for any parts that you can't find off Craigslist or local pick-part businesses.  Again, only because my girl was broke did she let me talk her into fixing it our-self.  I drove about 200 miles to get two doors that were the wrong color, and they cost $500 each, but we still pocketed $1100 after the whole job was done.   I did all the work that I was capable of doing ... removing panels and trim and test fitting the doors.   Then I shopped for a body shop that wouldn't turn his nose up to me bringing in my own replacement parts.   He was a guy that understood we were on a tight budget, and he gave us a very competitive quote to paint and mount the replacement doors.  We got the body work done for only $900, and the car is back to original condition.

My last tip is to save any parts that you have left over and then resell those after the job is done.  I have a side mirror for a 2008 Saturn Aura, two glass windows, and the electric window regulators to sell now.  I should be able to recover a couple more hundred dollars once I sell those parts.

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