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Careful! Don’t Take That Payout Money and Run

Published on Monday, January 27, 2014 | 12:16 pm

It’s sad, but true. For many Californians, the pain of a minor automobile accident only gets much worse after the accident itself is all over, the glass swept up, and injuries patched. Because after being smashed into by another driver, accident victims often head right into another painful collision with their own insurance company. In this first part of a series, Nathan Simmons, President of C & C Collision in Pasadena, gives industry insights into how drivers can protect themselves and get the value and service they deserve from their automobile insurance company.

Most people would agree that Las Vegas casinos do all they can to get visitors to part with their money. Those same people might be shocked to learn that many California insurance companies are doing the same thing – and if you’re ever in a car accident, even a minor one, here’s information you need to know to make sure your odds are better.

First off, realize that most auto insurance companies probably won’t play fair if you file a claim. The recession has worked out well for them, and most have refined new techniques to get you to quickly accept a low payout that means fast money in your pocket – even if that’s only a fraction of what the insurance policy ought to be paying you.

Auto insurance companies likely have discovered that in tough economic times, if a car is still driveable after an accident, its owner is much more likely to grab a fast payoff and put cash into his pocket or her purse than during boom times. In fact, many cars don’t even get repaired before the payout money is gone.

So the insurance companies work hard to get to drivers after accidents, offering them convenient boutique drive-up inspection booths, or by offering to send adjusters to your home or office to “save you time and to trouble.”

The truth is, many insurers are actually trying to intercept you before you can get your car to a shop and discover what the damage is really going to cost to fix!

Many times, in fact, the amount of money drivers are offered during one of these convenient inspections is 70%, even 80% less than you might get if you take your car to a qualified mechanic and have the insurance adjuster inspect your car in the company of the mechanic.

If you accept the grossly undervalued payout and then actually try to get your car fixed, you suddenly have another headache: trying to get it properly repaired on the paltry payout you got.

In fact, after seeing a lot of repair estimates that are much higher than the payout you got, you might jump to a wrong conclusion: the mechanics are ripoff artists. The truth could be totally different.

You might have received as little as $700 for a repair that’s worth $5,000 – and since you had your car inspected at a drive-through insurance boutique office, you never knew (until you hobble into your mechanic) just how under-compensated you’ve been. Now what do you do?

Your best strategy? I think drivers need to look for auto mechanics and collision repair specialists they feel they can trust, because the truth is, those folks can end up being your best advocate.

Here at C & Collision, I see myself as working for my customers, the drivers. I want to be sure that insurance companies pay what they owe, fairly – and believe me, it’s not always easy to resolve. But time and time again, we are able to get auto insurers to admit their payouts were greatly undervalued and to pay out up to thousands and thousands of dollars more.

Remember, you have the legal right to shop around – you definitely do not have to take your car to the repair shops recommended by your insurance company. Those shops often are in bed with the auto insurers, and would rather keep the insurance company as a big customer than you. (So when the insurance company says to use cheaper repair parts, those mechanics tend to do what they’re told.)

A great independent mechanic you trust is your best defense. Here at C & C, we relish our role as advocate for our customers, and help them navigate the muddy waters churned up by their own insurance companies!

So what should you do after you hear that fateful crunch and jolt to a sharp stop?

Well, besides the obvious fast actions to make sure any injuries are taken care of and everyone is safe, and collecting all the data of the drivers involved, I recommend you shoot cell-phone photographs or video.

You will obviously want to make a claim to whichever is the responsible insurance company and you should settle on a mechanic you trust should before the insurer contacts you.

Do some homework – go online, look for references. It’s easy today, with social media; you can even poll your friends. In fact, I recommend you check out all referrals you get except for one group: the list you get from your insurance company.

C&C Collision is located at 518 S. Palm Ave. Alhambra. For more information, you may call (626) 284-2120 or visit their website:

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