There is a lot online about what do to after a car accident; and while it is extremely important to call the police, keep calm, and take photos- there are a lot more questions running through your mind at the time of a car accident. Aside from injury, what happens with your vehicle can add the most stress. With so much happening at one time, it is confusing what to do and who to trust.
Other than insuring the vehicle, most people don’t plan for an accident. If and when an accident happens, most are not prepared to handle the many decisions one is confronted with after a car accident, such as:
- Who do I call?
- Is my vehicle safe to drive?
- Who will tow my car? What does it cost?
- Where do I have it towed?
- Where do I get my vehicle fixed?
- How do I know my vehicle will be repaired properly and with quality parts?
- Will it be worth as much as it was before the accident?
- Am I entitled to recover the loss in value?
- What do I drive while it’s being repaired?
Now that I work in the body shop business, I would like to share some useful knowledge to the public on what do after a car accident.
Who Do I Call?
Knowing where you would take your vehicle after a car accident is as important as having insurance on your car. This can save a lot of headaches from the beginning. Reputable body shops can go a long way to limiting the increase in a car insurance quote and streamlining the entire claims process if a car needs major repairs, and it is always a good idea to have a great body shop lined up long before any accident occurs.
Tips for choosing a quality collision repair shop before or after a car accident:
Because drivers and insurance companies want the vehicle back on the road as soon as possible, there will be pressure to choose a body shop and begin the process of repair work. This rush can lead to the choice of a body shop that is close by or convenient, rather than good at what they do. How to pick a good body shop:
- Do research, ask around and find a shop that is not only honest but timely.
- Ask your friends, family, and neighbors for feedback about any of the auto body repair Chicago shops they’ve had work on their vehicles
- Take a few minutes to do an Internet search on each shop, searching for customer reviews.
- Go to a couple of the auto body repair shop you are researching. Take a few minutes to learn more about the shop. Look for the shop’s business license and ask how long the shop has been in business; auto body shops that haven’t been in business for long or those that have moved from one town to another may indicate a less-than-reputable business.
- Find out how long the owner or general manager has been with the company and if he has skills in auto body repair as well as managing a shop.
- Ask about the auto body shop’s warranty for its work. Look for a shop that provides a written warranty for at least one year, preferably for as long as you own the vehicle.
- Ask if they are a direct repair company for major insurance companies. Body Shops have to meet high standards for time, quality, equipment, and training to do direct repair work. There is a lot of literature on the internet that these body shops “work for insurance company”- This comes from body shops that can’t make the cut to do insurance work
- Ask for a tour of the shop
Is My Vehicle Safe to Drive?
There are a lot of misconceptions about what makes a car drivable or non-drivable after a car accident. “Drivable” is not just that. Yes, mechanically and structurally sound does contribute to making the car drivable- but bumpers and lights aren’t not always considered cosmetic damage; depending on the circumstances, they can be a safety issue and that makes the car non-drivable. If there are any parts hanging from the bumper or the bumper itself is hanging, the car is not considered safe to drive. If it is past dusk or it is raining and there are lights (or a light) not working that it also a safety issue, and that makes the car non-drivable. The police at the scene can help determine if a vehicle is safe to drive.
*When in doubt, have it towed- your safety is more important. Most insurance coverage will pick up the cost of a tow; ALWAYS KNOW YOUR INSURANCE COVERAGE- this will save you a lot of headaches if you are in an accident.
Who will tow my car? What does it cost?
I am going to say this a lot: ALWAYS KNOW YOUR INSURANCE COVERVAGE: If you’re at fault, most likely your insurance will cover reasonable costs within a reasonable distance (if you’re out of state and looking to have your car towed back home, they most likely won’t cover all of it.)
However, regardless of your own opinions, it will be impossible to know at the scene which party will be considered at fault right after a car accident. Therefore, you are at the mercy of not knowing whose insurance will be paying for the tow and what kind of coverage the other person has if they are considered at fault.
At this point, it is most likely time to call your insurance company. Ask them to recommend a towing company or send one. If you don’t mention (or don’t want to mention) towing to your auto insurance company, then you could also call a towing company directly, or call AAA if you’re a member. Your insurance company may or may not fully cover the expenses though.
If you don’t do any of these things, most likely a random tow service will hear about the accident on a scanner and show up, or a tow company that is on “rotation” for the police will show up. (Some towns require that their tow service is used).
Where do I have it towed?
The best option is to tow the car to where you want it repaired. This way, the process is sped up and the chance of racking up extra towing and storage fees is lowered.
In that case the town you’re in requires you to use their towing service; they may not allow you to decide where the vehicle gets towed. The vehicle will automatically be towed to their tow yard- From there; you would release the car to the shop or another tow company…Know you’re insurance coverage for payment of fees associated with this.
Where do I get my vehicle fixed?
Knowing where you would take your vehicle if you were in an accident is as important as having insurance on your car. This can save a lot of headaches from the beginning. (See above on how to pick a good body shop)
How do I know my vehicle will be repaired properly and with quality parts?
I can’t stress this enough… ALWAYS KNOW YOUR INSURANCE COVERAGE. If you are going through insurance, the coverage on the policy will determine what parts go on the car. The different kind of parts is as follows:
OEM = Original Equipment Manufacturer
LKQ = Like Kind And Quality (Used or Salvage OEM parts)
A/M = Aftermarket (New but made by other than the vehicle manufacturer)
Sometimes the terms LKQ and A/M are incorrectly used interchangeably. If the insurance company is utilizing LKQ, meanings used or salvage parts; these are parts from the same model year but are simply used parts. Aftermarket parts are parts that are made to look like originals but have differences in them (required due to patents/copyrights)
Talk to the Auto Body Repair Shop to discuss what option is best for you- If you don’t like what parts the insurance policy is putting on the vehicle, you can always pay the difference out of pocket.
Will it be worth as much as it was before the accident?
A sign of a good repair is no sign at all. There are two ways to determine if a car has been in an accident: reports like CARFAX and looking at the vehicle.
A trained eye can see if a car has been in an accident- but a good repair won’t show signs of an accident.
Reports like CARFAX buys information from insurance companies and other sources. Some insurance companies have a non-disclosure agreement, where they will not disclose information about your car and its accidents and other insurance companies are willing to sell that information to make money.
They can also get information from auto auctions, car dealers, repair and service facilities, rental companies, state inspection stations, fire departments, law enforcement, car manufacturers, import/export companies and many others.
* Not all companies provide this information but some do. Ask. CARFAX warns that they may not always have all of the information, since there are many sources that they do not have access to.
What do I drive while it’s being repaired?
Here’s a new answer: ALWAYS KNOW YOUR INSURANCE COVERAGE…If you are going through your insurance for the repairs, you may have rental car coverage on your policy. What is covered varies from company to company. Some insurance companies offer a daily allowance and some offer a maximum dollar amount. Because you can decline rental coverage, ask if you have it on your policy. This is a great thing to have on your policy- it only costs about $20 a year (give or take) and that is less than the cost of a rental car DAILY.
Usually, if the vehicle is declared a total loss the insurance company will give you five days to get out of the rental.
If you are going out of pocket there are a couple options: some shops offer loaner vehicles, or rental car assistance.
Because each accident, person, body shop, insurance company, and insurance policy is different, all these answers are just in the case of a typical situation. If you have any further questions, feel free to ask- You can comment, e-mail, or call and we’ll get back to as soon as possible.
Good Luck and Drive Safe!