Body damage - how much?
January 14, 2012 6:18 PM   Subscribe

My car was hit while parked on the street. No witnesses, but I suspect a snow plow. I have no experience with body damage - what am I looking at?

Here are some pics. Claims guy said to wait to file a claim until I am sure I want it processed. I'll go to a collision centre on Monday, but any guesses folks might have in the meantime will help me in dealing with my anxiety about it til then. Thanks! Oh, and yes, I filed a police report (nothing will come of it, though).
posted by analog to Travel & Transportation (6 answers total)
If you have collision insurance coverage, at the most it will cost the amount of your deductible. Do you know how much your deductible is? I'm not an expert, but it looks to me like it's likely not just a dent that can be popped out, so you might be looking at the cost of your deductible, if your deductible is relatively low. However, if you have a $1000 deductible, it looks like you might be paying less than this out of pocket. Again, though, I'm not an adjuster (although I have seen a lot of car damage), and it's hard to tell from the picture exactly what the damage is.
posted by SpacemanStix at 7:30 PM on January 14, 2012

It's hard to tell what the damage is, but I would recommend calling your insurance company to file a report or a claim at this point. Insurance companies have an after hours call service which is probably how you reached the claims guy, so dial that same number and file a report then expect to hear a call back from an adjuster on Monday (the next business day).

You can always change the report to a claim or claim to a report which is the good news. A report is a simple notification saying that you are going to deal with the repairs on your own and a claim means that you are going through insurance for the repair process.

Typically, collision deductibles are $500; the adjuster determines who's at fault (the third party in this case) and how things will play out for you, but it's better for an adjuster to help guide you at this point because the damage seems pretty bad.

There are also preferred body shops associated with the majority of insurance companies. These body shops offer a guarantee on workmanship and repairs for as long as you own the vehicle and the insurance company would rectify repairs if anything were to happen to your vehicle. They also do the free on-site appraisal and communicate directly with the adjuster which would speed up the claim process for you (if you choose to go that route).

Note: I work in the insurance field, but am not an adjuster.
posted by livinglearning at 7:54 PM on January 14, 2012

FWIW, that's very unlikely to be snowplow damage unless a plow truck happened to back its rear bumper into your car. The blade of a plow would do a lot more damage, and it would be a long horizontal scrape rather than a dent.

A body shop could pop most of that dent out. It would probably require removing the interior door panel and leave a slightly wrinkled surface, but it wouldn't be expensive. Making it look as if it never happened will require repainting the door and might cost in the $500-$1000 range.

I'm not sure how it works in Ontario, but on the other side of Lake Erie a lot depends on whether the adjuster decides that it was caused by a collision or by something like a baseball bat. Vandalism is handled differently from a collision, and claims are likely to have different deductibles and different effects on your future premiums.
posted by jon1270 at 4:19 AM on January 15, 2012

A few years ago my car was damaged by a snowblower shooting snow onto it (damaged roof, windshield and hood). I filed a police report and claimed it on my insurance. A few weeks later, the police sent me a report saying that they were pretty sure they knew who it was, with the person's name and name of snow removal contractor, but it wasn't solid enough to prosecute for hit-and-run. Anyways, I called my insurance company and told them, so that they could sue the contractor, give me back my deductible and remove the claim from my record. They refused, saying that insurance companies don't sue each other. If I had known, I wouldn't have filed a claim until the police got back to me, then I would have sued them myself. It would have avoided a deductible and a claim on my insurance, both of which cost me a pretty penny. This was in Quebec, FWIW.

My point is, if you think it's the fault of a snow removal contractor, and you can pay out of pocket for now, it might be worthwhile to not claim it right away and wait for the results of the police investigation. They may be able to dig up someone's name or company (esp. if it's the city's crew or a local parking lot), in which case it would allow you to sue instead of claiming on insurance. If you don't have the money to pay out of pocket, you don't have much of a choice.
posted by Simon Barclay at 5:46 PM on January 15, 2012

Oh, given the damage in the pics, it looks like you might be able to wait a while before repairing it. Talk to your insurance agent and/or the police to see what your options are. You may also want to call a lawyer.
posted by Simon Barclay at 5:48 PM on January 15, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks for your responses, everyone. Simon Barclay, the police said that they were not going to investigate, but your point would be a very good one if they were in fact investigating. However, it is a darn good thing that I did make the police report, as I was told by my insurance broker that if I hadn't made the police report within 24 hours of noticing the damage, they would (if I chose to make a claim) classify it as 'at fault.' As it stands, they would allow me to make a claim under the collision section and not classify it as 'at fault' (plus, I wouldn't have to use up my accident forgiveness). But my deductible is pricey.

I took my car to a collision centre today. They said the cheapest option is to replace the door. The estimate was about $1600. I am not sure whether I am going to go through insurance or not. However, my broker said that I had some time to make the claim, so that is good.

And to top things off, my car wouldn't start this morning. Too cold for my little diesel. Glow plugs were all replaced not too long ago, and the fuel is winterized, but the battery is a bit on the tiny side, I think (was replaced in an emergency by the auto club). So I'll be looking for a bruiser of a battery as a replacement.

Cars cost a ton of money!
posted by analog at 3:15 PM on January 16, 2012

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