If you were recently involved in a car accident that wasn't your fault, you may already be upset at the prospect of being without your primary source of transportation while your vehicle is in the shop being repaired. This frustration can be made much worse when your car is damaged by the body shop or mechanic attempting to repair it. What are your options when you find yourself in this situation? Will your insurance (or the body shop's insurance) pay for this damage or will you be required to pay out of pocket? Read on to learn more about your options when your vehicle is damaged during the repair process.
Who pays for a vehicle damaged during repair?
Although you may assume that any damage to your vehicle while it's in the care and custody of the mechanic is paid for by the mechanic's insurance, this isn't always the case. Mechanics and body shops have commercial insurance policies that generally cover any liability incurred by the insured itself (such as damage caused by an employee or piece of equipment) but not damage caused by outside parties or acts of nature. For example, if your vehicle is vandalized or suffers hail damage while parked outside during repair, the mechanic's insurance policy may not pay for this damage. You may also have been required to sign a hold-harmless waiver when you left your vehicle in the care of the shop, releasing it from any liability for damage to your car or truck.
While you may be able to force restitution through a personal injury lawsuit, you'll need to establish that the mechanic or body shop was negligent in permitting your vehicle to be damaged and should incur liability beyond what their insurer is willing to cover. For example, if body shop parks your vehicle on a street with known vandal activity when it could just have easily parked your vehicle inside, it may be liable for these damages. However, if your vehicle is vandalized in the body shop's well-lit and roped-off parking lot, it's unlikely the shop will be deemed negligent enough to have to pay for further repairs.
Fortunately, in some cases your own auto insurance policy may help cover damage during repair. If you have comprehensive coverage, your policy will generally cover non-collision damage, including fallen trees, vandalism, and other damage that isn't your fault. This type of coverage is generally required by your bank or credit union if you have a loan secured by your vehicle. If you have collision-only coverage, you may be required to pay out of pocket for the necessary repairs to your vehicle.
Should you take your vehicle to a new shop for repair?
If the damage to your vehicle was due to the body shop or mechanic's own negligence, you may be understandably reluctant to put your vehicle back into this company's care for further repair. However, before having your car or truck towed to a new repair shop, you'll want to sort out the insurance coverage. In some cases, especially if the mechanic's insurance policy is covering the damage, you may be required to pay for at least the tow out of pocket. You could also find yourself disputing various labor or part costs if these prices are higher at the new mechanic than the original one. Often, you could find it's more cost-effective to have your vehicle repaired at the original repair shop than having it transported somewhere else.
However, if the insurance coverage paying for this damage poses no restrictions, you should be free to select any other shops within a reasonable radius to have further repairs performed. If you've purchased insurance that includes towing coverage, you may be able to have your vehicle transported and repaired at no cost to you.
For more information or options for covering the damages to your car, contact your car insurance agency.