How is betterment justified?

After my car was fixed from a recent accident the shop charged me $79.00 as a betterment charge. After doing a bunch of research on betterment I still do not understand how I am responsible for the money.

  1. The parts that they replaced are not parts that would have been replaced. IE an Axle and some other odd small parts.
  2. I never had a choice in choosing the parts that went on my car. If the parts they replaced my parts with were better than my parts and I was to pay why did I not have a choice? If there was no choice, again, how can I be responsible for the cost?
  3. I was not at fault in the accident. (I plan to contact his insurance about this but my insurance told me they would probably not cover it for the same reason my company does not cover it)

I am not your lawyer, you are not my client, and what follows (as will soon become abundantly clear) is not legal advice, nor should you rely on it in any fashion, really.

If you haven’t already, take a look here at California’s Department of Insurance’s brochure on auto insurance.

It may be worth a call to the Department of Insurance’s hotline to ask about this, and what specifically the insurance company and the repair shop were required to inform you of before they did the repairs.

Normally I total cars, but the few times I’ve seen betterment has been on wear & tear items. Stuff like tires, when a tire is 75% worn and damaged in an accident we can’t very well find another tire that’s worn 75% and expect it to be acceptable so we put on a new one; and paint, you’re 20 year old red paint is fading, but it’s kind of hard to match faded red paint so the whole car gets painted in addition to the fender we had to replace so your car doesn’t look weird. In both cases, the car you’re getting back is better than the one that was damaged, and since insurance can’t improve you from your pre-loss condition, you have to pay for the improvement. It’s a doctrine I understand, but I can also see how it can seem unfair. You never asked for this, why should you have to pay anything? But there’s no way around it. Not really. It’s kind of the “less unfair” alternative.

Betterment for an axle? That sounds weird. Unless maybe it was a CV axle and the boot had already been worn & torn–that’s about a $75 fix if you had taken care of it on your own. Hard to say based on the info you’ve given.

I think Campion gives good advise–it would have been nice if you’d been told beforehand that you’d be paying for something.