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I am sorry to hear of this. One moment please as I look into this.
In Florida, the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation oversees insurance companies. If, after reviewing your policy, you feel that the insurance company did not act within its obligations pursuant to the policy, you can file a complaint here: http://www.myfloridacfo.com/Division/Consumers/NeedOurHelp.htm#.UYr92KKG3AM. However, generally the policy will provide a maximum for rental cars, if this additional coverage is purchased. You would need to review the terms of your policy to determine this. If,however, you have a mechanic's statement that the car should have been totaled, it is possible that the insurance company did not act in your best interests in repairing the car. If this is the case, again the complaint would be filed at the link above. One moment please.
The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services regulates the auto repair industry. If the work done exceeds 10% o the estimated price, or $50, then the repair shop needs to get the customer's authority to continue with the repair. If the shop did unauthorized repair work, you may not be liable for the excess work, and you can file a complaint here: http://csapp.800helpfla.com/CSPublicApp/Complaints/MVRComplaint.aspx.
However, on a basic breach of contract action, if a repair shop performed faulty repairs, and you had to hire another mechanic to remedy this, the owner may sue for damages - damages may include money paid to fix the repairs, plus reasonably foreseeable expenses. This may include rental car expenses. A judge is more likely to award rental car expenses when the rental shop appears to have acted without due diligence in making the repairs. For example, if an estimated completion date has come and gone, generally one is more likely to get rental car fees.
Such an action could be brought in small claims or limited civil court, depending on the amount of damages.
the problem as we see it is the body shop underestimated the initial est to fix in order to keep the number under which the car would have been totaled. The total expense has since gone over this amount as well as the fact that the car is at another mechanic to fix what already should have been fixed.
In Florida, for small claims the amount needs to be under $5K http://www.flcourts.org/gen_public/family/self_help/smallclaims.shtml
what is the degree of difficulty taking someone to small claims court and should she use an attorney to do so
Yes; and if they did not get your approval for the over-estimated amount, then it would constitute unauthorized work, as overage needs to be authorized. Additionally, if a mechanic had to fix what should have been fixed, then this would count towards damages.
Small claims is generally much simpler - less paperwork; less formal proceedings, etc.
the insurance co. is paying for the damages its the car rental and the hassle of having to go thru the car rental process over and over plus the vehicle is a truck which was extremely useful and has since been stuck with a compact due to cost
A party can self-represent, or they can hire an attorney. Generally, each county has a "self help" center that will assist with the paperwork.
Since renting a car is "reasonably foreseeable" when a car needs repaired multiple times due to negligent repair, generally this is a recoverable cost. You may be able to rent a similar car, but the problem is you won't know until after the fact if the judge will award this. So it could be risky to rent a more expensive car i.e. truck.
You may want to hire an attorney to prepare a demand letter to the original mechanic, demanding reimbursement for rental fees due to the negligent repairs - with a very short turnaround time frame so you will know if they will agree in writing to reimburse you for a similar vehicle. If the attorney cites the above i.e. the various complaint forms, that may expedite things along...
Is there any reasonable time limit as to how long it should take to fix a car
It depends on the extent of the damages. If you have the insurance write up, you can ask a mechanic to prepare a statement as to his opinion; you can also see if your insurance company has a time frame for this type of damage. 4 months seems excessive to say the least! (but I'm not a mechanic)
OK thank you for your assistance in this matter it def. gives me direction as to how I should handle this.
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