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Car doctors? Get a second opinion!

Whenever you set up a system, it's only as strong as the weakest link. Sometimes, the cause of the problem is inside the organization. Other times, the problem is a conflict of interest in the middleman. Whatever the cause, you can get trampled on unless you stand up for yourself.

 
   

Most days, when you're driving on the freeway, you get to see the wreckage from traffic accidents. You pass by because it's not your problem. Auto insurance companies pick up the pieces. At least, that's what all the ads say. Out of interest, I tracked down one of the drivers to see how it really goes down.

Sarah from Wisconsin was making her usual commute when she was rear-ended. She was lucky. It flipped her over but she was unhurt. She did everything by the book. Waited with her car until the police appeared. Gave her statement and was later cleared of all blame in the report. Everyone who saw her car thought it was a total loss. Even the guys who came on the tow truck shook their heads and congratulated her on her escape without injury.

"They dropped me off at an approved car rental agency. One telephone call to my auto insurance company and I was driving again." She shook her head with a wry smile. "I never thought there were going to be problems. Roadside assistance had worked perfectly. I was in a rental car. The wreck had been cleared from the road. I was expecting a check for a replacement vehicle within days." Except when the word came from the "certified" repair shop, it was 'repair'. "Everyone thought they were nuts. Repair a car that badly damaged and you've got one problem after another and no-one wants to buy it secondhand. But they kept on like a broken record. Repair, repair. Guess they needed the business. I asked the agent to give me the name of another "certified" repair shop. They took one look at the wreck, laughed and called the claims assessors. After haggling, it was agreed a total loss."

When you've got health problems, you look for a second opinion from a different physician if you don't get the answer you want. The same holds true for auto insurance. Repair shops make money when they repair. You have a right to challenge the first shop's assessment. Sarah got her check. It was a hassle but she struck to her guns and won out in the end.

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