OWNERS GUIDE: What To Do When You Have An Accident

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Accidents happen to all of us eventually. Here are some tips from those who have been in a few and learned some lessons.

Car accidents are no picnic. Regardless of the amount of damage, one’s fight or flight instinct kicks into full gear and the adrenalin starts to flow. It’s always the other person’s fault. “What will happen now!?” Maybe we can help shed some insight on best practices after it all goes wrong.

STEP ONE: Settle Down – Assess And React Appropriately

As soon as an accident happens the first thing to do is to do no more harm. Don’t jump out of your vehicle without being sure you won’t get hit by another car. If the accident is ahead of you and you are on the highway or a busy street lean on the horn. It may help a driver behind you realize¬†you are unexpectedly stopped. Put on the flashers (hazard lights – that red triangle in the middle of your dash). Are you hurt? Is anyone in your vehicle hurt? If so, dial 911 immediately. Let’s assume nobody is and move ahead.

STEP 2: Move To Safety

Don’t drive off, but move the car to the side of the road or a safe area if you can. Most people react by just leaving the cars sitting in traffic, thinking the police will want to see how the cars are arranged. If it’s a fender-bender and the cars are moveable, get them off the road and allow traffic to pass.

STEP 4: Document What you Can

Look at the other cars involved and make note of them and their license plate, and the make and model of the cars.

STEP 5: Consider Your Own Safety

Be careful approaching the other driver and vehicle. They may be angry and you may need to settle down a person who is upset. Find out if anyone in that car is injured. When in doubt, or if you feel in danger, dial 911.

STEP 6: Take Pictures & Exchange Information

Liberty Mutual Insurance suggests that you photograph everything. It’s so much easier now with the phone in your pocket.

Take photos of the cars involved, the people involved and particularly, the license plates of the cars not your own that are involved. Do a quick head count of the people in the other vehicle and make a note.

Exchange your information with the other car’s driver and be sure to get the driver’s name and insurance company name. Do not give your phone number or e-mail to the other driver. Just your vehicle’s plate number, your name, and your insurance company’s name should be all they need.

STEP 7: Get Your Vehicle Home and Fill Out Accident Reports

As soon as possible, get an accident report filed with your insurance company. Most major insurers have multiple ways to fill out a report, from an old-school paper form to online forms to apps that allow you to simultaneously send pictures of the incident.

Depending on your state, you may be required to file an accident report with the police. There’s usually a dollar figure attached to the requirement, requiring a report for accidents with damage over $500. It’s a good practice just to do it anyway, for a number of reasons. It can be an important piece of documentation if the accident was disputed by the other party. In cases were the police don’t show up at all, it’s even more important to file with the police.

STEP 8: Call Your Insurance Company and Prepare To Get It Appraised

If you are confident your vehicle can be driven safely, get it home and contact your insurance company. They’ll want to send an insurance adjuster to examine your car and determine how much damage it has. If you’re working with a body shop, it can be helpful to have the appraisal done at the shop, so that the body shop can weigh in on the cost to appropriately repair your car.

Yes, we do hear complaints about insurance companies, but in our experience, they are your partner in getting your vehicle repaired. They want it done quickly, done well, and done cost effectively, and you do too.

We strongly suggest speaking to the body shop directly as soon as possible and asking them to give you a good faith timeline on when the work can begin, and roughly when it will be finished. If they cannot begin work within three business days, move the vehicle to a shop that can start within a business week. Read reviews of body shops on-line and ask your insurance company for referrals if you are not sure where to turn.

STEP 9: Work With the Body Shop and Insurance Company

Following the initial inspection, the adjuster will create a file detailing the work to be done. The body shop will then get started after you approve the work to be done. Once underway, it is common for the body shop to find hidden damage and for a supplemental insurance adjustment to be completed. Repairs can take time, but be involved and be sure to make certain work is underway and progressing.

STEP 10: Back On The Road

Once your vehicle is repaired, give it a thorough test drive. If you feel anything unusual tell the body shop. Mechanical adjustments may be needed.

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