Do not cash the check from the other person’s insurance company. Amongst other things there is most likely a “release of liability” form there, by cashing the check you are agreeing that that $900 is the final settlement…so if the body shop says it’s, say, $1200, you are SOL. When my pickup got hit from behind, resulting in minor dents on the step and tailgate, the insurance estimates were anywhere from $1800 to $4000 to fix it. Most of that was labor associated with repainting; it can be surprisingly expensive.
Get three written estimates from places you trust. Don’t just ask them to look at the dent, have them check the vehicle for damage that you may not have noticed.
I don’t know the laws in Florida but in California if there’s an accident and it involves more than $750 in damages then an accident form must be filed with the DMV. I would check with your DMV and local PD and get all the paperwork filled out properly. This will help establish who did what - you don’t want her claiming a week later that she never hit you or something. It’s not an unpleasant task, you’re just obeying the law (and watching out for yourself).
In my case I went through my insurance company (after getting yanked around by the guilty party’s insurer, that’s another story). They sent an adjuster out to give me an estimate and they recommended a body shop. I got two other estimates, both of which were substantially higher (what a shock), and the middle-of-the-road one explained in great detail what he was going to do and why, where he’d use OEM parts, etc. I notified my insurance company that that’s who I’d go with. The other insurer said they’d have to send an adjuster out to examine the vehicle as well (she arrived at an estimate larger than the body shop did).
At this point, once my insurance company agreed that everything looked kosher and they’d handle the paperwork I got it in writing to proceed and had the bodywork done.
My insurer paid the body shop, less my deductible which I had to pay out of pocket. They then filed a subrogation with the other insurer, saying “You owe us $X and you owe Valgard $500 for his deductible”. They are supposed to send a check to my insurer who will then reimburse me for my deductible. Since the whole mess was not my fault my insurance rates have not gone up.
Going through your insurance company adds a layer of bureaucracy and potentially annoyance to the process, but they are more likely to be able to get their money back from the other person’s insurance without yelling and screaming. If you deal directly with her insurance keep in mind that their mindset is “Settle this for as little as possible” and you may feel pressured (or stonewalled) by them to settle for far less than you should. I wouldn’t recommend it.
Get EVERYTHING in writing. Keep a log of any calls you make (date, time, who you talked to and what was said). You will be glad that you did.