car owner takes photo of damaged car with smartphone.

Everyone knows dealing with any type of insurance company is a hassle, especially after being involved in an auto accident, so anything to make that process easier is a good thing, right? What major insurance companies pitch as a way to save you time certainly appears too good to be true.

Documenting damage to your vehicle with your smartphone is a good idea, but not the best way to get an accurate estimate to repair the damage to your car. Photo estimates for auto insurance claims leave drivers at a disadvantage, potentially driving an unsafe vehicle and stuck with large out of pocket expenses. After an accident, it’s always best to get any damaged vehicle checked out by a mechanic to confirm it is safe to drive.

What Is a Photo Estimate?

Most of the major auto insurance companies like Allstate, Liberty Mutual, Greco and Progressive give their policy holders the option to quickly get an estimate for vehicle damage by taking photos and video on their smartphone, then uploading them via the company’s app.

While this is a convenient feature for drivers, there are many reasons why it might not be the best idea. Bypassing a mechanic’s physical inspection of a vehicle following an accident can be a risky and costly decision. At the very least, getting a check from your insurance company that doesn’t cover the full cost of repairs leaves you paying the difference.

Depending on where you live and the car insurance policy you have, you may have the legal right to choose where your car is repaired. Just as importantly you also have the right to pick who inspects the damage to your car and writes up the repair estimate. Utilizing a photo estimate feature forfeits these rights.

Related Article: What to Ask When Looking for a Reliable Auto Body Shop.

Are Car Insurance Photo Estimates Accurate?

Not always. There are instances where photo estimates result in an accurate amount being paid out by the insurance company. But more often, one will find examples of underpaid auto body insurance claims as a result of the photo estimate system. Not only is this idea frustrating, but in some cases, it can be outright dangerous.

Often times, damage to a vehicle from an accident is much worse than it looks. The only way to make sure your car is safe to drive after an accident is to take it to a trusted auto body shop in person. What might look like a minor dent to the naked eye could actually be major damage. Skipping taking your car in for an estimate puts you and everyone else in your car at risk.

Writer for Body Shop Business, Josh Cable was rear-ended and shared his less than ideal experience after he compared his virtual photo estimate to the one he got at his local body shop. He took some photos of his damaged pickup, sent them to his insurance company via their app, and just a few hours later got a direct deposit check for just over $350. The next day, he took his truck to a local mechanic, and got an estimate for a $1,773.20.

Insurance companies are right to seek out ways in which make the claims process quicker and easier on their policy holders, but speed and ease of use don’t matter if the end result is an inaccurate estimate. Without a professional inspection, it is impossible for photos alone to accurately represent the extent of damage to a vehicle.

Related Article: Don’t Get Ripped Off for Auto Body Repair.

What Happens When a Car Insurance Estimate Wrong?

If an auto insurance estimate is too low, you can file a supplemental claim to reimburse your costs, but you still must pay the difference up front. It’s not the end of the world if you’re already used a photo estimate feature to get a damage claim. As long as your insurance policy has agreed to cover the costs of repairs, you’ll be able to get your money back.

The best way to notify your insurance company you’d like to submit a supplemental claim is in writing, via certified mail. Check with your insurance company to see what specific information you’ll need to include in order to expedite the process. Be sure to keep all the paperwork from your repairs and original repair.

In some cases, problems related to an accident don’t become known until weeks or months after the initial repairs are completed. If a policy holder can prove the damages were directly caused by a previously claimed damage, a supplemental claim will be paid out.

Submitting a supplemental claim after the fact is a headache, but worth the time to get back money you are entitled to.

Badell’s Collision: Working with You, for You

Badell’s Collision is the body shop trusted by thousands of car owners in the Aston and Malvern, Pennsylvania area. Our quality collision repair process makes sure the job gets done right the first time, while keeping you updated every step of the way. We welcome any questions you may have about how we do business, the services we offer and getting an estimate. Get your online estimate stated today!

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