How to Get Your Car Repaired After an Accident (California)

California Auto Body Repair Consumer Bill of Rights

California Automobile RepairOne of the most often asked questions we hear each week is

“What’s the best way to get my car repaired?”

The following information answers this question and most related questions. We’ve also included phone numbers and website links. Always feel free to call if you have any additional questions or concerns.

In California, a consumer is allowed to:

1. Select the auto body repair shop you want to repair your vehicle. An insurance company may not require you to have the repairs done at a specific auto body shop.

2. An itemized written estimate for auto body repairs and upon completion of repairs, a detailed invoice. The estimate and the invoice must include an itemized list of parts and labor along with the total price for the work performed. The estimate and invoice must also identify all parts as new, used, aftermarket, reconditioned or rebuilt.

3. Be advised about coverage for towing and storage services (hint- ask your insurance agent or claims adjuster).

4. Be advised about the extent of coverage if any, for a replacement rental vehicle while a damaged vehicle is being repaired (ask agent/adjuster).

5. Be advised of where to report suspected fraud or other complaints and concerns about auto body repairs (ask agent/adjuster).

6. Seek and obtain an independent repair estimate directly from a registered auto body repair shop for repair of a damaged vehicle, even when pursuing an insurance claim for repairing the vehicle.

Insider Tips: We almost always encourage our clients to get their car repaired through their own insurance company. Even if the accident was not their fault. The reason we make this recommendation is that your own insurance company has a fiduciary duty to handle your claim in good faith and to place your interest before its own. The other party’s insurance company does not owe you that same duty. Even though you may be initially out of pocket on the deductible, your insurance company will get your reimbursed from the responsible driver’s insurance company.

Some clients think that if they use their own insurance company to get their car repaired, their rates will go up, even if they were not the at fault driver. This is not the case. In California your insurance carrier is not allowed to raise your rates just because your processed a property damage claim in an accident that wasn’t your fault. After all, that’s the reason you’ve been paying premiums all these years. To get help when you need it.

Complaints within the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Automotive Repair

Complaints concerning the repair of a vehicle by an auto body repair shop should be directed to:

Toll Free (866) 799-3811
California Department of Consumer Affairs/Bureau of Automotive Repair
10240 Systems Parkway
Sacramento, CA 95827
Complaints are also accepted at the Bureau of Automotive Repair web site.

Complaints within the jurisdiction of the California Insurance Commissioner (Bad Faith and Fraud Concerns)

Any concerns regarding how an auto insurance claim is being handled should be submitted to the California Department of Insurance at:

(800) 927-HELP or (213) 897-8921
California Department of Insurance
Consumer Services Division
300 S. Spring Street
Los Angeles, CA 90013
Complaints are also accepted at the California Department of Insurance web site.



Property Damage Repair and Insurance Fraud (reported by CNN tonight)

CNN Reports Insurance Companies are Defrauding Consumers

Tonight on CNN it was reported that insurance companies are forcing automobile body repair facilities to use used and broken parts to fix your damaged vehicle. The reason is to save these insurance companies money.

If auto body repair shops refuse to use substandard parts to repair your vehicle, their owners are reporting that these same insurance companies are threatening to direct business to other shops who will agree to improperly repair your car. Consumer lawyers are now filing lawsuits against these insurance companies to force them to stop putting profits over people and to properly repair their insured’s vehicles.

You have the right to have your car properly repaired. There is no reason in the world, other than greed and profits, for your insurance company to use substandard and even dangerous parts to fix your car. And there is no excuse in the world to place broken or substandard parts on your vehicle placing your life, and the life of your family at risk.

California Citizens Have Rights

In California, consumers have rights and in this 6 minute podcast, we share 6 things you need to know and do when getting your car repaired after a collision.  We also share info and contact information giving you easy access to the California Department of Consumer Affairs  (Bureau of Automotive Repair) and the California Department of Insurance (Consumer Services Division) that you can use to help protect your rights and the safety of your family.

If you think you are the victim of property damage repair by an insurance company, contact the above agencies or an experienced lawyer to help. The bottom line in these types of case is to make sure your car is safely repaired to that you life, and the lives of those you care about are safe. Use the player below or click here to listen to the podcast..

A Basic Overview of Vehicle Repair After a Collision in California

orange county personal injury and wrongful death lawyersAfter a collision involving your automobile, truck or motorcycle, an insurance company has an obligation to either…

  • repair your vehicle or
  • determine that your vehicle is a total loss and pay the reasonable value of your vehicle.
  • Not surprisingly, the insurance company has the right to select the least expensive option.


    For example, let’s say another driver runs a red light, collides with your vehicle and causes extensive damage. A qualified auto body repair shop determines that it will cost $20,000 to repair your vehicle. At the same time and according to a market analysis, the fair market value of your vehicle may only be $15,000. In this case the insurance company can elect to deem your car totaled and pay $15,000.

    If the car is totaled, then you have the right to keep the salvage value. Let’s say this is $500. Then the insurance company in the above example would only have to pay you $14,500. If you let the insurance company keep the salvage value, then they would pay the full $15,000. This is usually the easier way to go.

    Note- We usually recommend that regardless of who caused the collision, it is best to have your insurance company coordinate the repair or total of the vehicle. Your insurance company has a fiduciary duty to treat you and your claim fairly and in good faith. The other side’s insurance company does not. Keep in mind that if you were not at fault in the accident, your insurance company may not raise your rates.

    You may also be entitled to be reimbursed for portions of your unused DMW registration because the vehicle was totaled.

    Your insurance policy may also allow you to have a rental car while the above estimates or repairs are taking place. The other side’s insurance company may be responsible for reimbursing you for the reasonable rental car expenses while the above is taking place.

    Despite what the insurance companies tell you, this is not a fire drill and you may take a reasonable period of time to make decisions. What is reasonable depends on your unique circumstances and facts of your claim or case.

    Get copies of all documents supporting estimates and confirming all repairs or the value of your totaled vehicle before making any final decisions. Also take as many pictures of the interior and exterior your vehicle before the repairs are started or vehicle is totaled.

    Make sure any documents you sign are limited to only the property damage portion of your claim or case. Bodily injury claims are a completely separate claim and are handled differently.

    Useful Links:

    Here is a link you can use to give you an idea as to the value of your vehicle. Note that insurance companies use a different database and can print out and share their findings with you. Usually their numbers are different than KBB but this will help.

    At our website we have an article explaining some of the above. It also shares state agencies you can contact if you are a victim of auto repair fraud:

    Here’s the podcast version

    Frequently asked questions and more good consumer resources (articles, books, podcasts and videos) can be found at our website using the links above.

    Call or email anytime!

    Please Share Your Questions or Comments...

HURRICANE SANDY VICTIMS BEWARE- Remember How Insurance Companies Took Advantage of Hurricane Katrina Victims?

Victims of Hurricane Sandy (and their lawyers) would be smart to learn how insurance companies took advantage and mistreated many of the victims of Hurricane Katrina

“If history repeats itself, and the unexpected always happens, how incapable must Man be of learning from experience. “ — George Bernard Shaw

Hurricane Sandy is estimated in early calculations to have caused damage of at least $20 billion. Preliminary estimates of losses that include business interruption surpass $50 billion. Tragically, at least 193 people were killed along the path of the storm and the lives of their families have forever been changed.

Victims of Hurricane Sandy (and their lawyers) would be smart to learn how insurance companies took advantage and mistreated many of the victims of Hurricane Katrina which hit the Gulf Coast back in 2005. Knowing what tactics big insurance will use to delay or deny should allow you to protect your rights and force insurance companies to honor their contracts.


If you recall, Hurricane Katrina swept across the Gulf Coast leaving historic levels of death and destruction in its wake. The storm caused an incredible $135 billion in damages, leaving thousands homeless, jobless and bereft of hope.

After this tragedy and while facing their darkest hours, many survivors found themselves victimized a second time. What happened is that insurance companies started offering pennies on the dollar, refused to honor many agreements, and claimed that the destruction had nothing to do with wind damage, which is covered under most policies, but was caused by floodwater, which is not.


Shockingly, during the two year period of time after the Hurricane Katrina disaster, insurance companies reaped more than $100 billion in profits.

While the facts of Hurricane Sandy are unique, many of the same issues that existed during Hurricane Katrina have come full circle and are back again. Every person and family who suffered a loss because of Hurricane Sandy should get and read these two ebooks provided by the American Association of Justice.


Simply click on both the above images to download and read right now. You can also get Pattern of Greed 2006 and Pattern of Greed 2007 here.


Thomas Jefferson once said, “Information is the currency of democracy”. Become more informed and also make sure to download, “Tricks of the Trade: How Insurance Companies Deny, Delay, Confuse and Refuse”