Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Auto Body Repair and the Right to Choose

What should I do if I am involved in an accident?

No matter how minor, it is wise to report every accident to the police. Then, contact the registered collision repair shop of your choice. Your independent repair shop can assist you with the processing of your claim, answer your questions, and advise you to ensure safe and proper repairs are made to your vehicle.

Do I have to take my vehicle to a drive-in claims center or get multiple appraisals?

No. If you request it, your insurer must inspect the damage to your vehicle at your chosen collision repair shop rather than at their drive-in claims center. They are legally prohibited from coercing or using any tactics intended to prevent you from seeking damage appraisals from your own body shop rather than their drive-in facility. [MGL 26 8G]

What is "steering"?

Steering, as defined by the Massachusetts Auto Damage Appraisers Licensing Board, is the act of directing a claimant to or away from any specific repair shop or requiring that a specific repair shop or individual make repairs. Steering is illegal in Massachusetts.

How do I know if I am being steered?

If you are told that it will take longer to get your car repaired or cost more if you choose your own shop, BEWARE. You are probably being steered. Comments such as "We won’t reimburse paint and materials," "We don’t pay that rate," "We won’t guarantee the work if you bring the car there," or "We won’t pay the difference" are misleading and usually untrue.

Massachusetts has strong consumer protection laws that require insurance companies to expedite appraisals within specific timeframes. Insurance companies are required to negotiate in good faith with any registered collision repair facility on the proper cost to repair the vehicle to pre-accident condition. You pay insurance premiums and contract to pay a specific deductible in the event repairs are required. In effect, you’ve already paid for proper repairs. Don’t be intimidated. Steering is illegal in Massachusetts.

Why should I choose my own collision repair facility rather than one "suggested" by the insurance company?

There are compelling reasons to choose an independent, trusted repair shop that you know will make sure the vehicle is truly restored to its pre-accident condition. Insurance appraisers work for the insurance company. Independent auto collision repair facilities work for you. They are looking out for your best interest. They will negotiate directly with the insurance company for the proper repairs so that your vehicle is safe for you and your family. Independent collision repairers look out for your interests and will serve as your advocate in the repair process.

Preferred or referral repair shops represent the insurance company in both negotiations and the repair of the vehicle. They contract with insurance companies regarding the repairs, the costs and the repair procedures. The insurance company sets the rules and the repair shop simply follows them to keep the insurance companies’ costs down. These cost reductions have to come from somewhere. They may affect the quality and thoroughness of the repair service and/or the quality and condition of the parts used. You have paid your insurance premiums with the expectation of receiving safe and proper repairs – not cheap repairs.

What are imitation or non-OEM parts?

Imitation parts (a.k.a. generic, aftermarket, quality replacement or non-original equipment manufacturer) are "knockoff" parts made by a company other than the manufacturer of your vehicle. These parts are made to look like your vehicle’s parts, but may never have been crash tested and are not covered under your vehicle manufacturer’s warranty. In its February 1999 issue Consumer Reports, published the results of its extensive study of non-OEM parts. The cover story was entitled, Shoddy Auto Parts: How to beat car repair rip-offs, Bumpers that shatter, Parts that don’t fit, Fenders that rust.

In addition to these concerns, there are no provisions for recalls based on the safety or performance of these parts. Your insurance company may attempt to use imitation parts to save money on your vehicle’s repairs. An independent collision repair facility will help you negotiate with your insurance company for the appropriate original equipment manufacturer’s parts to maintain the integrity and value of your vehicle.

Who guarantees the workmanship for the repairs?

The repair facility is responsible for the workmanship. Insurance companies do not repair automobiles. If there is a concern, even with a facility selected by the insurance company, the facility itself is responsible. Every collision repair shop registered, as a Motor Vehicle Repair Shop with the Massachusetts Division of Standards is required to have bonding and is responsible for safe and proper repairs. If your insurance company claims, "they will not guarantee the repairs," don’t worry. The repair facility must guarantee them, as required by law.

What can I do, if I believe my insurance company has infringed upon my rights?

You can file a written complaint with the Massachusetts Office of Consumer Affairs 617-521-7777. You can also call the CARE consumer hotline, toll free, at 1-877-294-3368 FREE for a free brochure or for information about filing a complaint.

What can I do to protect my rights?

Let your state representative and senator know how you feel about big business trying to take even more control of your life. Let them know that you value your rights and do not want to lose them. Remember, you pay for insurance. No one has the right to deny you the repairs necessary to restore your vehicle to pre-accident condition. It is important to voice your opinion and retain your rights!

CARE’s voice is small compared to that of the insurance companies’, but with your help we can protect your rights before it’s too late.