Electric-Car Accident? What Your Insurance Company MUST Let You Do

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Nissan Leaf Accident Repair

Nissan Leaf Accident Repair

It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been driving, what type of car you have or how it happened: having a car accident isn’t nice. 

Normally, post-accident, your insurance company may help you find a local repairer to get your car looking good as new again. But if you have an electric car, letting them do that could damage your car’s expensive battery pack, reducing its life and usability.

Here is our take on what happens after an accident, and why you need to ensure your electric car goes to a specialist garage for repair instead of a repair center chosen on price alone by your insurance company.

What your insurance company wants

Most insurance companies will have a list of approved bodyshops in your area that specialize in accident repair. 

In some cases, these repair centers will have negotiated lower-than-normal repair rates in exchange for becoming an ‘approved repair center’ for your insurance company. 

Lower rates means your insurance company has to pay less, giving lower operating costs and higher profits. Because it has an existing relationship with its approved repair shops, it will also help streamline paperwork and repair times. 

Toyota Prius body damage

Toyota Prius body damage

As a consequence, your insurance company will do everything it can to persuade you to have your car repaired at one of its approved repair centers. 

Beware the paint-booth

While your insurance-approved repair shop may be extremely competent, it probably specializes in just bodywork repair, not a particular type or make of car. 

It may not know, for example, the correct handling procedure for making high-voltage battery packs safe, or have the correct specialist battery life equipment needed to remove them. 

If your car’s accident requires new body panels or a respray however, your car’s battery pack will need to be safely removed from the vehicle before it enters the paint booth. 

Why? 

As part of the painting process, your car will be placed under large heat lamps designed to harden the paint. 

But the heat they produce could expose your car’s battery pack to large amounts of heat, overheating the battery and potentially reducing its life. 

Nissan Leaf Accident Repair

Nissan Leaf Accident Repair

Manufacturer warning

Because the heat damage a battery pack in a paint booth can suffer, electric automakers advise against sending your car to a repair center unfamiliar with electric cars. 

For example, in the 2011 Nissan Leaf manual, it clearly states that:

“In the event of an accident that requires body repair and painting, the vehicle should be delivered to a knowledgable Leaf repairer such as a Nissan certified EV dealer to have the Li-ion battery and high voltage parts such as the inverter, including the wiring harness, removed prior to painting. Li-ion battery packs exposed to heat in the paint booth will experience capacity loss. Damaged Li-ion battery packs may also pose safety risks to untrained mechanics and repair personnel.”

Worse still, if you do have your car repaired by a non electric-car specialist who paints the car with the battery pack in situ and damages it, your automaker may quibble if your car suffers subsequent premature battery capacity loss. 

Tesla Repairs Roadster Just Before Warranty Expires

Tesla Repairs Roadster Just Before Warranty Expires

What YOU MUST do

  • After an accident, it can be easy under duress from your insurance company to agree to have your damaged car repaired at one of its specialist repair centers. 
  • But before your car heads to the repair shop, make sure you make your insurance company aware of any stipulations about battery care and accident repair outlined in your car’s owners’ manual and warranty booklets. 
  • Ask your insurance company to certify that the repairer it wishes to use has both the relevant equipment and fully-trained staff to handle electric car repairs.
  • If there are any queries about battery care, remind your insurance company that your electric car battery pack is very expensive to replace, and that it will be liable for any damage to the battery pack sustained during repair at an unauthorized electric car specialist. 
  • Talk to other local owners with the same car, and find out if they've had repair work done locally. 
  • If possible, keep your car and obtain a quote from your local dealer, who will have all the relevant equipment and trained staff to handle electric car accident repairs. 
  • Remember that in most states, as the owner of the car you have a right to choose where it is repaired. 
  • Finally, make notes of who you speak to, when, and what is said, along with any communications received pertaining to the repair work These can be used, if needed, in any post-repair disputes. 
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