A car accident creates stress in many ways. First of all, at the scene of the crash, even though you’re likely to be shaken and disoriented, you’ll need to gather your wits and follow specific steps to protect your personal safety and financial interests. After the accident, you’ll need to work out details concerning repairs and insurance. 

Knowing what to do makes handling an accident more manageable. Below are some tips you can use to chart your course. 

At the Scene of the Accident

Find a Safe Place Quickly

  • A minor accident can become fatal if an oncoming vehicle strikes your stopped car. If you can, move your vehicle out of the flow of traffic. Put it in Park and turn on your hazard lights. If you have cones, triangles, or flares, use them to provide an additional warning to oncoming drivers. Make sure your personal safety is your top concern.
  • Car fires after an accident are relatively rare, but they do happen. If you smell smoke or see flames, turn off the ignition and clear all passengers from the vehicle. Find a safe place at least 100 feet from the car.
  • Once you’re clear of the car and safe from harm, call 911 for help

Check for Injuries

  • Check yourself for signs of injury. If you suspect you have a severe injury, call an ambulance or have someone call one for you; try to move as little as possible until paramedics arrive. 
  • Check your passengers for injuries. Call an ambulance if someone appears to be hurt. And again, if the injury seems severe, try to limit the person’s movement until help arrives. 

Get the Police Involved

  • Sometimes it is essential to call the police after an accident, even if the collision is minor. Calling 911 will allow the police to generate an accident report that can assist you when you need to file an insurance claim. 
  • Once the police arrive, get the officer’s name and badge number and ask about getting a copy of the accident report. 

Gather Information

Exchange this information with the other driver or drivers involved in the crash:

  • Name
  • Contact information
  • Driver’s license number
  • Vehicle make, model and year 
  • License plate number
  • Insurance company name
  • Insurance company policy number
  • If the driver has passengers, get their names and contact information.
  • Are there eyewitnesses to the crash? If so, get their names and contact information. 
  • Write down the location or address of the accident. 
  • Take photos of all vehicles involved if you’re able to do so safely. 
  • Remain polite but avoid discussing who’s at fault with the other driver. 

Getting Your Car Repaired After an Accident

Get an Estimate

  • Do you have a preferred body shop? If so, you can take your car there to get an estimate of how much it will cost to repair the accident damage. 
  • What if you think you’re likely to file an insurance claim and don’t have a preference regarding body shops? In that case, you can contact your insurer for a list of repair facilities within the insurance agency’s network. However just because a shop is on your insurances preferred list, doesn’t mean you have to take it there for repairs. Since its your vehicle, you can take it to whatever shop you want to. Sometimes insurance companies will say that they warranty all of their preferred shops repairs. But did you know that All Makes Collision warranties our own workmanship 100% for as long as you own the vehicle?
  • If the accident has left your car undrivable, you’ll need to get it towed from the accident scene to the repair shop to obtain an estimate. If your car is newer, it may have roadside assistance from the automaker. If not, check your car insurance policy to see if you have roadside assistance; your carrier will pay for towing if you have this coverage. If you’re a member of AAA or a similar club, towing may be covered as part of your membership. If the two previous scenarios don’t apply, you’ll need to hire a towing company and pay for it yourself. If you’re able to, make sure you understand what the towing company is going to charge youSome unscrupulous towing companies charge a much higher fee for towing from an accident site.
  • Once your car reaches the body shop, make sure you get an estimate for all work. Check with your insurance company to make sure all work will be covered. It’s possible that the damage is bad enough to have the car declared a total loss.
  • If there are additional damages, the repair shop will submit them to your insurance company for approval. This is called a supplement. Insurance companies are good at approving supplements as long as they are related to the accident.

Insurance Considerations

Consider these factors when deciding if you want to file an insurance claim or pay for the repairs on your own dime: 

  • Your deductible is the amount you have to pay out of pocket before your insurance coverage kicks in. If the repair costs less than your deductible, there’s no point in filing a claim
  • Even if the repair cost exceeds the deductible, it may be a good idea to avoid filing a claim, provided the repair cost isn’t too hefty and you’re able to cover the expense. Filing a claim could raise your premium if you are at fault; if you cover the repair cost yourself, you’ll be able to maintain your current insurance rate. 
  • If the repair cost exceeds the car’s actual cash value, the vehicle becomes what insurance companies call a total loss. If the car is declared a total loss, the insurance company will forego repairs and instead reimburse you for its cash value.
  • Are you still paying off your car loan? If you file a claim and your financed car is declared a total loss, you may find that you owe more than the vehicle’s cash value. There’s optional car insurance coverage called gap insurance that pays the difference between your loan balance and the car’s cash value. 
  • Similarly, if you’re leasing a car, the amount owed on the lease may exceed the car’s cash value if it’s declared a total loss. Fortunately, many lease contracts include gap coverage. If your accident involves a leased car, check your lease contract to see if you’re covered. 

Filing a Claim

  • If you choose to file an insurance claim, provide all the information you gathered at the accident scene with your carrier. That includes the names and insurance information for all parties involved. It can be helpful to have a copy of the accident police report. 
  • Complete a claims form. Usually, you can submit this form online. 
  • The insurance company may give you a list of recommended body shops. Or you are welcome to take your vehicle to whichever shop you prefer.
  • Your insurance company will pay for all parts needed to complete the repair; the insurer will also cover the cost of the labor.

Common Accident Repairs

What type of bodywork is typical following a crash? Here are some common repairs faced after an accident:

  • Color match painting
  • Paintless dent removal (PDR)
  • Glass repair
  • Ding and scratch repair
  • Frame straightening
  • Headlight repair 
  • Bumper repair
  • Panel replacement