California Collision Repair Laws and Regulations

Car accidents happen every day in California. With some of the busiest highways and most aggressive drivers, California often leads the country in terms of car accident rates. In 2016, 3,623 people lost their lives in traffic accidents in California. This was a 7% increase from the previous year. Most drivers have a high probability of getting into at least one accident in their lifetimes. Learning California’s collision repair laws could make the recovery process easier.

The Duty to Maintain Your Vehicle

Before you ever wreck your car, you have a duty to ensure its roadworthiness. You must regularly inspect, maintain and repair your vehicle to reasonably prevent a breakdown. Routine maintenance can help keep your vehicle in proper working condition and potentially prevent a car accident. Your brakes giving out, for example, could put you at fault for a collision if you ignored brake maintenance. California’s collision laws start with proper preventive maintenance.

The Right to Choose Your Auto Shop

California lawmakers do not require drivers to only visit certain auto shops. You have the right to choose where to go for vehicle maintenance and repairs after a collision. Even your insurance company cannot lawfully force you to arrange repairs at a specific shop under the rules of the California Insurance Code. When choosing your repair shop, look for certain signs that prove the mechanic’s trustworthiness.

  • Clean and organized appearance
  • Friendly and professional technicians
  • Parts and labor warranties
  • Quality guarantees
  • Written statements and invoices
  • Proper licensure and shop certification

All professional auto repair shops in California must have valid registration from the Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR). Registered shops must post the official BAR seal somewhere visible to customers, such as in the shop window. If you do not see the seal, ask the shop for proof of registration. Do not trust an unregistered mechanic’s shop with your vehicle.

Paperwork Requirements

After a collision, you have the right to honest and fair service during vehicle repairs and part replacements. You have the right to a price estimate before the shop performs any work. The price estimate must be reasonably close to the final price of the repairs. The auto shop must also provide you with a written invoice describing the work completed and the costs of each repair. If you did not agree to any repairs, the auto shop does not have the right to demand that you pay or to keep/sell your vehicle.

Replacement Part Transparency

If the auto shop has to replace any parts on your damaged vehicle, it must do so with parts that are at least equal in quality to the previous parts. The shop may use after-market parts rather than those from original equipment manufacturers as long as the replacement parts are of equal value, performance and efficiency. Replacing your parts with lower quality ones during collision repair could be grounds for a claim against the auto shop.

Your insurance company must agree to pay for parts of at least equal value to the damaged parts you are replacing. Although you cannot force your insurance company to pay for higher quality parts, you do have the right to expect a certain level of quality for replacements. It is against the law in California to knowingly use replacement parts that are of a lower kind, quality, performance or safety.

The Right to File a Complaint

The aftermath of a collision is difficult enough without dealing with problems with your insurance claim or at the auto repair shop. If you believe one or more parties are taking advantage of you during the vehicle repair process, file a complaint with the Bureau of Automotive Repair. The Bureau could help you negotiate a repair refund or adjustment from a negligent auto shop. If you need assistance with your car accident insurance claim, work with a personal injury lawyer in Sacramento.