Jimmy Caylor is a claims adjuster at Vault, specializing in auto insurance —a.k.a., the professional who works with policyholders after an accident to help with vehicle repairs, deal with other covered expenses like rental cars, and generally be a sympathetic guide during a difficult time. Below he shares some of what he’s learned:
- What you say after a crash can hurt you.
“After an accident you may feel the urge to connect personally to the other party, but don’t get too friendly. That can cause trouble. Of course, you should make sure everybody is OK and call for help if needed. But don’t discuss details of the accident with anyone other than the police, your insurance company or agent, and your attorney. And calmly gather as much information as you can—get the names of the other drivers, occupants, and witnesses, take lots of pictures and write down everything you remember about the incident.”
- Your luxury car might be repaired with inferior parts.
“If your car needs to be repaired, pay attention to where it’s towed. Only certain body shops are certified to repair select foreign and luxury vehicles. Some mass-market insurance companies will pressure even certified shops to use cheaper aftermarket parts rather than those from the original manufacturer. You can often ask the repair shop if this is likely to happen with your car, and if it is you can appeal to your adjuster’s supervisor. Or, better yet, buy insurance from a company that covers original manufacturer replacement parts.”
- Your windshield can be fixed in your driveway—but you may still need to go to the shop.
“If you damage a window glass or windshield we can send someone to repair or replace it in the field. But some high-end cars today have all kinds of advanced systems that must be reprogrammed or calibrated at a dealer or certified collision center if the glass is removed. Your windshield might be fixed in a couple of hours, but reprogramming can take a couple of days depending on the shop.”
- If you have a lot of cars, you may not want to submit every claim.
“Your agent is your best guide to understanding how an accident might affect your future insurance rates. As an adjuster, I don’t set the rates you pay; that’s a job for underwriters and the actuarys. But I can tell you how the system works. If you file an at-fault claim, your rates will probably go up at renewal. This is especially relevant for families that have several cars and drivers named on the policy, because the rate goes up for all of them. That’s why it’s important to speak with your agent before filing a claim, to make sure that you’re considering the bigger financial picture.”
- The repair may take longer—and cost more—than outlined in the original estimate.
“Say you were rear-ended. The shop will only estimate for repairs to visible damage. If the estimate says it will take five days, it’s probably wise to plan for a week and a half. Because when they take the bumper off they will often find more damage. And, don’t forget, the timeframe given is business days. If they do find additional damage, it will cost more than the original estimate. Basically, you have to expect the unexpected.”
Joining Vault was the best decision for me. Of course I like that our policies offer significantly better standard coverages than those of a mass-market insurance company. We cover those original manufacturer replacement parts, for example. But for me, what’s most special about Vault is the culture of respect for people—our customers and our team. We do what’s right. At some insurers, an adjuster might be pressured if a customer keeps a rental car for, say, a day longer than it took to repair a damaged vehicle. But Vault knows that its customers lead busy lives and aren’t just waiting around for a car to be fixed. So I can okay that extra day. I’m empowered to do what it takes and treat our customers as people, not numbers.”