If you've recently been involved in a car accident, you've probably been in communication with your auto insurance provider. After an accident that involves significant vehicular damage, a car insurance company typically sends out an appraiser to determine whether its policyholder's car must be deemed a "total loss." If this is the case, the insurer will issue a payment to its policyholder in the amount of the vehicle's resale value.
If your vehicle is not totaled, it may be more difficult to assess. While the appraiser might offer a rough estimate of the monetary value of the damages to the vehicle, it's unlikely that this figure will be accurate. This is because repair costs vary widely among different vehicle makes and models. These costs may also exhibit significant regional variation. As such, the appraiser might simply request that you visit one of your provider's "approved" repair shops to receive a repair estimate. If the damage to your car is not overly serious, the appraiser might not even visit you in person. Instead, he or she will simply recommend a repair shop in your area.
Once the body shop has issued a repair estimate, your insurer will review it and determine its next course of action. Depending upon the type and severity of the damage to your car, your insurer may ask you to request so-called "aftermarket" parts for the repair job. Also known as non-OEM parts, these are typically produced by a third-party manufacturer and may be able to fit in multiple vehicle makes and models. As such, they tend to be cheaper. However, they're also considered to be of inferior quality.
Due to the reduced cost of OEM parts, most insurers prefer that they be used whenever possible. In order to protect policyholders who may prefer to use manufacturer-approved parts, many states impose restrictions on this practice. Most of these restrictions take the form of disclosure requirements.
For instance, Connecticut requires insurance companies that do business within its borders to disclose their preference for non-OEM parts during the claims process. In addition, the state's insurance board requires repair shops to notify their customers that non-OEM parts have been installed in their newly-repaired vehicles. Failure to adhere to these guidelines carries strict penalties, including the possible revocation of the business licenses of non-compliant repair shops. Other states have even stricter laws regarding the use of non-OEM parts in vehicle repairs. In fact, six states require consumers to consent to the use of such parts before they're installed.