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Where To Take Your Vehicle For Repairs - California's Anti-Steering Law

You've been in an accident and have contacted your insurance carrier as you wish to have your car repaired as soon as possible. You may have had your car for years and have babied it, or perhaps your vehicle was fresh off the lot. Regardless, you want your vehicle repaired to the highest degree of quality possible. Thus the issue of where to take your vehicle arises.

California Insurance Code 758.5 prohibits an insurance company from requiring an automobile be repaired at a specific shop. They are not even to suggest one unless a referral is requested by the claimant or they have informed the claimant in writing of their right to select their own shop. Enter the Direct Repair Programs, aka DRPs. DRPs are shops that an insurance company has a deal with to provide repairs at a certain cost. It has been alleged that these shops can only meet the insurance company's estimates by doing less than thorough work. To compound matters, if a claimant wishes to take his/her car to a shop of their own choice the insurance company may refuse to pay the hourly labor charge, effectively steering the claimant back to the DRP shop where inadequate repairs may occur. This would seemingly be a direct violation of 758.5.

As recently as 2009 California courts have held that 758.5 does not require an insurer to pay 100% of reasonable repair costs incurred at a repair facility of the insured's choice and that an insured may not sue for steering the insured away from their shop of choice. Thankfully this has recently changed; just last month a California Appellate ruling in Hughes v. Progressive Direct held that an insured does have a cause of action for unfair competition based on an insurance companies alleged violation of 758.5. This, in essence, forces an insurance company to comply with the intent of 758.5.

If you've been in an accident do your own homework; get your own quote or maybe even two quotes. Get a good idea of the extent of damage to the vehicle. If the DRP shop's estimate seems to be in comport with the other estimate(s), proceed. If you wish to select your own shop for repairs the recent holding in Hughes v. Progressive is terrific ammo to get your insurance company to pay all of the repair costs.

Additional resources provided by the author

Chris Hughes v. Progressive Direct Insurance Company, No. B224990, Second Dist, Division Seven, June 15, 2011

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