Alicia wrote in with a question about making some additional repairs on her vehicle:

Recently, my driver’s side fender flare was ripped off and my vehicle was keyed. I reported the damage to my insurance company so it could be repaired right away. In addition to the damage, my vehicle’s paint job is starting to show some wear and tear…the clear coat and paint on the roof and hood is was wearing away, and I’m wondering if the body shop can also paint my hood and roof to make them look better. When I ask them about this, they tell me that they can not paint the hood or roof as that would be insurance fraud. Is this true?

Body shop repair process basics
A quick overview of the body shop repair process, plus an answer to an interesting question about what constitutes “insurance fraud.” Image copyright Larry Page. Click image for more info.

The answer depends on what you asked the body shop to do.

If you asked the body shop to repaint your hood and roof and bill it to the insurance company, than this would be considered insurance fraud. The insurance company is only supposed to be billed for repairing the damage to your car.

However, if you asked for a paint job and offered to pay the costs of out of your own pocket – or if the body shop has offered to paint these areas free of charge – than there is no insurance fraud. You’re welcome to work out any special arrangements you can when you have your vehicle repaired, and I would encourage you to do so…the cost of getting the roof and hood painted as part of a larger repair is usually quite a bit less than a stand-alone paint job.

Here’s a brief overview of the body shop repair process whenever you have an insurance claim. First, after you file a claim with your insurer, they will ask you if you want to either a) get an estimate on your own or b) use one of their approved shops.

If you want to get an estimate on your own…

  1. The insurance company will send an adjuster to look over your car and provide an estimate. Often times, the ajduster will try to convince you to take your car to their approved shop. If you say that you want to find your own shop, than they will give you an estimate and offer to “settle the claim” on the spot. DO NOT settle the claim without getting outside estimates.
  2. Start going to different body shops to get damage estimates. If you have estimates from at least two (2) body shops that are higher than the adjuster’s estimate, you can ask the insurance company to revise their estimate upwards.
  3. If the insurance company refuses to increase their initial estimate, you must call and complain. You may also have to call and complain to your state’s insurance regulatory authority (only the threat of a complaint is usually enough to get them to raise their estimate).
  4. Once you have a fair estimate from the insurance company, you can request a check for the damage. The insurance company may cut the check either to you and your lender or to you and your preferred body shop…in some cases, this is the way it has to be. However, you may be able to force the insurance company to pay you directly (only you may have to complain a bit more).
  5. With your check in your hand, you can do whatever you wish. I would recommend repairing the car using the best price possible and then paying down your loan with the remainder.

If you use the insurance company’s preferred shop…

  1. You drop the car off at the shop
  2. They begin repairs
  3. They bill the insurance company
  4. You pick up your car

The downside to using the insurance company’s preferred shop is that you won’t be able to choose how to use your insurance claim money as you see fit. The upside is convenience.

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