After an accident occurs and your insurance company writes a low-ball estimate for repairs, you may find yourself asking, “What if I disagree with my insurance adjuster?”

It is an all-too-common occurrence when, after an accident, an insurance company goes from being your protection, to being your adversary. You pay them every month of every year to take care of you in case of the unfortunate happening. And when you need them most, they cover your loss such a way as to say, “we care enough to do the very least.”

One such instance recently came to our attention. A loyal guest of Nylund’s Collision Center in Englewood, Colorado was involved in an accident, and brought their 2017 Ford Focus RS to the shop for repair.

The insurance adjuster came out and took a look at the damage they could see, and wrote an initial estimate for $6,008.84. Nylund’s then disassembled the vehicle and wrote a supplemental estimate for $11,747.38. That supplemental was sent to the insurance company, who – with an obvious attempt to ignore the proper repair – returned with their modified estimate of only $7,596.21. (A deficit of over $4,150 to repair the vehicle correctly.)

This is a regular occurrence in the day-to-day operations of body shops vs. insurance companies all across the country. The body shops, (highly trained professionals whose sole job is to REPAIR vehicles correctly) have to fight the insurance adjuster (a highly trained professional whose sole job is to PAY for vehicles to be repaired) to come to an agreement of how much a proper repair actually costs.

And day after day, at shop after shop, the insurance adjuster cuts corners in what their company is willing to pay for. Typically, this shows up in the refusal to pay for original manufacturer’s (OEM) parts, instead opting for third-party or aftermarket parts because they are cheaper; thereby padding the company’s profit margins.

The biggest problem (of many) with this process is the fact that aftermarket parts do not have any documented safety and crash test proof of being identical to OEM parts. And therefore, they can put the insured at risk with substandard parts, and they seem to be okay with that. Additionally, when an insurance adjuster refuses to pay for the complete and proper repairs, it typically leaves the insured with a vehicle that has lesser quality parts, which will absolutely affect the value of their car when it comes time to trade it in or sell it.

In the case of Nylund’s guest, the insurance adjuster (and their supervisors) in question absolutely refused to budge or renegotiate their willingness to accommodate the cost of performing the proper repair. And after doing their best to reason with the company, Nylund’s encouraged their guest to invoke the “Appraisal Clause” of their insurance policy.

The appraisal clause is how you (the insured) settle a dispute with an insurance company with whom you have come to an impasse. It requires both parties (the insured and the insurance company) to provide an independent adjuster to survey the damage to the vehicle, and to agree upon an actual dollar amount to be paid for the proper repair. Both adjusters must agree, or the case is moved to immediate (and final) arbitration.

Nylund’s guest called in auto Damage Experts, and the insurance company chose their own independent estimator. Both investigated the vehicle and wrote their estimates. And the amount agreed upon to complete the proper repair: $11,143.54. (Just $603.84 under Nylund’s original estimate.)

It is important for consumers to understand that in situations like the one described above, you have only 3 options:

1. Accept the insurance company’s estimate and receive a poor quality repair.
2. Accept what the body shop says is the correct and safe repair, and come up with the difference (in this case, $4,150.00+) out of your pocket.
3. Invoke the appraisal clause and agree to the final outcome.

The appraisal clause is a powerful tool that can help consumers make wrongs right. In many cases, just the mere mention of invoking the appraisal clause will trigger the insurance companies to pay the proper amount, as it becomes an expensive venture to hire an outside appraisal firm – and in most cases, they end up paying close to the full amount anyway. In essence, it’s a way of calling the bluff of the insurance company, and getting them to accept responsibility for their role: that of paying for the proper repair, instead of padding their pockets with profits.

Consumers need to know their rights, as they exist in the terms of their contract with the insurance company they choose to protect their property. Not all insurance companies are the same. They also should choose a body shop that will stand firm for thorough, proper repairs that put the emphasis on safety, value and quality of repair – none of which should ever be compromised in the name of profiteering.