With every mile you drive, so comes the increased likelihood of being involved in a car accident. Here are some things that you should be aware of if you are unfortunate to be involved in a collision loss and find yourself having to deal with your insurer and a repair shop.

Your insurer has the sole power to elect to repair your vehicle, replace your vehicle or declare it a total loss. Their main concern is keeping the amount of the loss to a minimum.

There are no “industry standards” of repair. The only reference to a standard of repair is found in regulations governing auto appraisers. That regulation requires the auto appraiser to “itemize all parts, labor, and materials needed to return the vehicle back to preloss condition.” Although the regulations define many terms such as “repair shop” “claimant” “insured” etc., there is no definition of “preloss condition” given in the regulations.

There are no federal standards, virtually no state standards and no mandatory industry standards of repair. There are likewise, no regulatory or licensing provisions declaring who may engage in the practice of repairing motor vehicles. As a result, the person repairing your vehicle may be an accomplished professional, or this may be the first time he has ever held a welder.

Massachusetts auto body shops are required to be registered. Registration, however, appears to be directed toward ensuring that workers compensation premiums are paid, sales tax collected and that the shop has a method of disposing of hazardous waste.

With no standards of repair, or who can repair them, there is the likelihood of tremendous disparity in the quality of work performed, the safety of repairs, the tools used and the available equipment.

Driven by cost saving concerns, insurers may encourage the use of services by body shops willing to perform repairs at the lowest possible price. That typically means the shops with the lowest overhead, lowest employee costs and lowest capital expenditures (i.e. tools and equipment) will be the shop able to offer to repair vehicles for the lowest price. With no oversight to check the safety and quality of repairs, and with no minimum training, education or experience required to ensure that the repairer has at least some idea of how to repair the vehicle, there is nothing to guarantee that the vehicle is safe upon completion.

Once you wreck your vehicle, it will never be the same, contrary to what your insurer or shop might tell you. There are a variety of reasons why. They include such things as your factory warranty being voided, a different paint that may not age and wear in an identical manner, missing VIN tags that cannot be replaced, rustproofing techniques that cannot be duplicated and a reduced market value. Another important concern is that the manufactures “safety rating” may no longer be valid.
Although safety is a critical factor in vehicle repairs, consider that the person who cuts your hair has more licensing requirements than the person repairing and welding the frame in your two ton vehicle.

Look closely at the qualifications of your chosen repair shop. Recommendation from family and friends are best.

Ask the repair shop for an explanation of the exact process it intends to use in your vehicles repairs. Ask questions. Be involved.

Having an accident can be a stressful and nerve-racking experience. While no vehicle can ever be repaired to a standard as received from the factory, taking precautions to assure proper repairs will mitigate losses to its value.

Bob Collins is owner of Wreck Check of Boston, a collision repair consulting firm. Wreck Check of Boston provides a clear and credible alternative information source to assist consumers in the loss recovery process of collision damaged vehicles. Bob can be reached at BCollins@wreckcheckboston.com