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Attorney Van O'Steen

Car Insurance Claim Rights Vary

Van O'Steen

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Insurance companies, like all other businesses, want to minimize their expenses. Claim payments are large expense items for all insurance companies, especially personal injury claims. Naturally, they want to carefully control claims.

Automobile repair costs also account for a substantial portion of the claims expense for those insurance companies that issue automobile policies. The desire to keep these expenses down causes most insurance carriers to play an active role in the repair process.

Repair shops, often at the direction of an insurance company, sometimes fix damaged cars with used parts or with parts made by a company other than the original manufacturer of the car.  If you object to this practice, you should understand your legal rights.

Repairs paid for by an insurance company can be from one of two sources: Either your carrier will pay for the repairs (subject to any deductible on your policy) under the collision or comprehensive coverage, or the insurance company for the person who caused your damage will pay the repair cost.

If your company will be paying the bill, you generally are bound by the terms of your policy.

An insurance policy is a contract.  You agree to pay a premium to the company; the company agrees to pay for certain losses subject to the terms and conditions of your policy (contract).  If the terms are not unreasonable, they generally are considered valid and binding.

Many auto insurance policies contain provisions limiting the company's obligation regarding the type of parts used for repairs. These policies typically bind the company to pay only the cost of comparable replacement parts, which may include used or substitute parts if they are equivalent to the auto parts damaged in the accident.

If your insurance company will be paying for your repairs, carefully examine your policy to determine your rights.

If another person's insurance company will pay for your repairs, you may be in a slightly better bargaining position with parts. You are not constrained by the terms of a contract, because you have no contract with that company. Still, you generally must be reasonable. The parts being replaced in your car also were used.

You never are required to accept parts that are inferior in quality to yours. Your repair technician may assist you in making comparisons between your old parts and those the insurance company wants to use. If you can show that the proposed parts are inferior to yours, you can insist that other, comparable parts be used.