Car accidents are scary. And for most people, not something dealt with very often. Maybe this is your first time or maybe you have gotten into an accident in the past but didn’t handle it the right way. One way or the other, there are certain steps to go through to make sure that everyone is safe following a car accident and the claim and repair process go smoothly.
During the accident
Step 1: Check Yourself and the Other Party for Injuries
First things first, check yourself for any injuries. If you are seriously hurt, call 911 immediately. Do not try to move until emergency personnel arrive to avoid making your injury worse.
If you are not too hurt to move, check on your passengers and any other parties involved in the collision. If anyone is injured, call 911 for emergency services immediately.
Step 2: Move to a Safe Area
Don’t stay in the way of traffic. This can put you and the other party in danger and be a great inconvenience for other drivers on the road. If your car is not able to be moved, leave it where it is but do not stay in the vehicle. Walk to the side of the road or sidewalk to get yourself to safety. If your car can be safely moved, pull it over to the far side of the road.
Step 3: Call 911
Whether the accident was just a fender bender, deer hit, or a major collision, it is important to call the police. When the police arrive, they can help direct traffic if your vehicle is causing a hazard in the road. They will also fill out an accident report and document the scene. The accident report comes in handy if you are planning to file a claim with your insurer, as it will help with the claims process.
If the other party is being difficult or doesn’t want to share their insurance information, the police can also help you to get this information.
Step 4: Exchange Information
After making sure that everyone involved is okay and safe, exchange contact information with the other driver.
Information to collect about the other driver:
- Full name, address and phone number
- Insurance company name and policy number
- Vehicle description, make, model and year
- License plate number
Information to collect about the accident
- Date, time, and location of the accident
- Note the direction you were traveling in and the direction the other car was traveling
- Any witnesses names and contact information
- The name, badge number, and contact information for any police officer who comes to the accident
Do not discuss fault when speaking with the other driver. During the claim process, the adjuster reviewing your claim will determine who’s at fault based on the vehicle damage, information provided by you and the other parties, and any supporting documentation like a police report or photos.
Step 5: Take Photos
During this step, be sure to assess the damage and capture plenty of photos. You can not take enough pictures after an accident. These pictures are to protect your rights and they’re also a vital piece of evidence to support your claim. You should take pictures of the damage to the vehicles, skid marks on the pavement, position of traffic signals, and your injuries. Take pictures of every single detail of the accident. More pictures means more evidence, and more evidence means you’ll have a stronger claim.
After the accident
Step 6: Make a File
Make sure to keep all photos, notes, accident reports, and any other supporting documentation in one place for easy access when it’s time to file your claim or begin the body repair.
Step 7: Get your Vehicle Repaired
After a collision, you and the other parties involved will most likely need to begin the process of getting your cars repaired. For many, navigating the claim and repair process is a foreign language. It includes numerous steps and making many decisions about an unfamiliar process.
There are two ways to proceed with repairing the damage to your vehicle. Most people will file a claim with their insurance, but for minor scratches, dents and scuffs, some may elect to get the repairs done out-of-pocket.
File a Claim:
To file a claim with your insurance, contact your insurance agent or call the number on the back of your insurance card. You can start the claim process immediately at the scene while details are fresh in your mind or wait until a later time. However, it is best to notify your insurance agent as soon as possible.
Get an Estimate:
Once your claim has been filed, you will need to select a collision center to do the repairs. Your insurance company may recommend shops to you or you can notify them where you’d like the repairs to be made. NOTE: You do not have to go to the shops that your insurer lists and you do not need to get more than one estimate. It is within your right to select the company that you would like to perform the repairs.
There are several ways to get a body repair estimate. If your vehicle is drive-able, you can take it to the shop of your choice for an in-person estimate. Some body shops also have complimentary tow services available if your vehicle cannot be driven. An in-person estimate is the ideal choice for accuracy. However, if you are strapped on time or prefer to get a mobile estimate, some collision centers may allow you to get an estimate right from your phone or computer by sending photos of the damage.
Repair or Total Determined:
Once you and your insurance company receives the estimate from the body shop, your insurance company will determine if it will be repaired or deemed a total loss. If the cost to repair the vehicle is greater than the value of the vehicle prior to the collision, it will be totaled and you will receive payment from your insurer for the agreed upon value of the vehicle. If you come to the agreement that it is a total, most insurers will require you to do the following:
- Remove your license plates and personal items from vehicle
- Leave the key with the claims adjuster and send in any spare keys
- Fill out the associated paperwork
- Contact the leasing company if you lease your car
If the vehicle is not declared a total loss, the next step is to schedule the repair with your selected collision experts.
During the claims process, your insurer or the body shop can help you schedule a repair start date. Repair time will vary based on the collision center you choose and the amount of damage sustained to the vehicle. The national average repair time is 6.5 days from start to finish.
If you have rental coverage, most insurers will arrange a rental car for you at the time of drop off. If you do not have rental coverage, check with the body shop completing the repairs to see if they have rental car assistance.
Pick up Repaired Vehicle:
Once all repairs for your vehicle are completed, you will receive notice that your vehicle is ready for pick up. At this time, you will pay your deductible directly to the Collision Center, while your insurer covers the rest of the repair. Deductibles are commonly $100, $250, $500 and $1,000 so come prepared with payment.
That’s it. At that point, you’ll have your car back like new and the accident will be behind you.
Car accidents are stressful and the claim and repair process can be confusing for many. In fact, the national average amount of time between date of loss and repair completion is 49.3 days. Longer than you thought, right? That’s because drivers are unfamiliar with the process. At D&S Automotive, we do everything we can to expedite the process and take the stress out of it by offering several complimentary premier services like towing and rental car assistance, express drop off and pick up, claim assistance, and after hours drop off.