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June 01, 2012

HURRICANE HELP! Don’t Let Summer Storms Put a Dent in Your Car or Wallet

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OVERLAND PARK, KS (June 1, 2012) – Hurricane season starts June 1, and hurricanes, floods and thunderstorms are working their way up the coast, leaving totaled, drenched, dented and damaged vehicles in their wake.

Is your vehicle prepared to face Mother Nature this hurricane season? Do you have the right insurance to recover from any damage? And how can you get your vehicle restored to pre-storm condition without putting a dent in your wallet?

CARSTAR, the nation’s largest group of collision centers with more than 400 stores, delivers a repaired vehicle every :30 seconds. During summer storms, it sees thousands of cars damaged by falling trees, debris, wind, water and hail. Gary Boesel, Vice Chair for the CARSTAR Advisory Board and owner of Alpine CARSTAR Auto Body and Jordan Road CARSTAR Collision offers the following advice to help car owners deal with summer storms – before and after.

Check Your Coverage

The time to review your car insurance is not when the weatherman is warning you to get out of town. Read your policy now to understand what is and isn’t covered, what the deductibles are, if you have rental coverage and what to do when the storm hits.

Comprehensive coverage protects against most damage from natural disasters. Two other options to consider are gap coverage – which pays the difference between what you owe on your loan and what your car is worth -- and rental reimbursement.

One warning – if you submitted a previous damage claim and received a check from your insurance company, but didn’t have the vehicle repaired – the insurance company will deduct this amount from your estimate for the storm damage, and charge a second deductible, too.

Protect Your Vehicle

When you know that a storm is on the way, get your vehicle to higher ground or under cover. If you don’t have a garage at home, find a covered public parking garage to protect your car. If you have to park your car outside, park it on as high of ground as possible away from trees and phone poles.

For hail storms, cover your car in an old blanket and a car cover from your local automotive retailer – before the storm hits. This will provide some protection for your hood, roof and rear decklid. If a storm comes up quickly, look for an awning at a service station, the drive-through at the bank or self-serve car wash to get under for immediate protection. On the highway, look for cover under a bridge or viaduct.

With flood waters on the rise, don’t assume your vehicle is water-tight. Don’t try to drive through water that is higher than halfway up your wheels – 8” in most cases. You can get stuck or swept away. Park your car at the highest location available to protect it from rising water. This can prevent a lot of damage later on.

Get Your Car Repaired without Despair

Dealing with the aftermath of a big storm can be traumatic, particularly if you’ve had significant damage to your home or your entire area. Getting your car back up and running shouldn’t add to your stress, if you are prepared for the repairs. To help with the process, CARSTAR offers the following tips:

Make copies of your vehicle registration, title, insurance card and driver’s license before the storm hits and secure in a safe, dry place

After the storm clears, record the damage with photos and video. Sketch what happened, including street names, road signs and details on car movements.

Identify any witnesses. Look for neighbors or area residents who may have seen what happened. Get their names, addresses, phone numbers and their recollection of the storm damage.

Have a collision plan in place. Know where you’d like to have your car repaired ahead of time so you don’t have to make a sudden decision. CARSTAR Auto Body Repair Experts offers high-quality, reliable repair service in 31 states and 10 Canadian provinces. Just call 1-800-CARSTAR when you have an accident and they will send the tow truck, contact your insurance company, arrange for a rental car and repair your car.

Collect your personal items. Whether your car is being towed in for repairs or totaled out, make sure you’ve collected your valuables, electronics, vehicle information, sports equipment and any other items you may need in the future.

When you choose a body shop for repairs, remember that:

• Do your homework and check out the shop, their reputation, the business or trade associations they belong to and if their technicians are I-CAR Trained.
• All reputable repair facilities will offer a warranty of some sort for the work that they complete…make sure it is in writing and well explained to you.
• If the repair work is being done in a shop that the insurance company recommended, they will have leverage to assist you should there be an issue in the process or after the repair is complete.
• Only trust your vehicle to an established body shop business operating prior to the storm. Beware of fly-by-night operators trying to make a quick buck off of the storm. If they are set up in a tent or temporary location, don’t trust them with your vehicle.

Once your car arrives at the body shop for repairs, there are some things you should keep in mind to ensure you get a quality repair:

• Review the estimate in detail, but remember that it is for the visible damage and what it will take to repair the vehicle to pre-accident condition. If the estimate does not cover the full extent of damage, a Supplement will be created, submitted to your or the other person’s insurance company for approval.
• Get a detailed description of the parts to be replaced and whether they are OEM, new or refurbished, and in what condition the car will be returned to you. Most insurance policies specify pre-accident condition, so your seven-year old minivan might not come back looking brand new.
• Get an exact timeline of when the work will be done and when the job will be completed.
• Detail the payment terms and methods, including downpayment, final payment and costs for any follow-up work.
• Ask the store manager for regular updates on the job, and require approval for any work done outside the original estimate.
• Don’t be pressured to accept the completed repair if you don’t think it’s right. Contact your insurance agent for guidance.

While your car is in the body shop, it’s a good time to have other dents and dings repaired. It should be more cost-effective and your car will ultimately benefit.

For more tips on dealing with an accident or having your car repaired after a collision, visit CARSTAR Auto Body Repair Experts offers high-quality, reliable repair service in 31 states and 10 Canadian provinces. Just call 1-800-CARSTAR when you need a vehicle repair and they will send the tow truck, contact your insurance company, arrange for a rental car and repair your car. For more information and store locations, visit