Based on some recent estimates, there are around 16,000 car accidents each day. It is also estimated that the average motorist gets into a serious accident once every 17 years. Are you due for an accident? The hope is that you can stay focused while driving and avoid any type of accident. If you should be involved with an accident, then you need to understand what to do immediately following the impact with regard to your car. The actions that you take in those first few minutes will be crucial to filing an insurance claim and receiving benefit payouts to make repairs on your car.
Step 1: Take Photos
The photos that you take of the damage to your car can help you process the insurance claim later on. Those photos can be taken right at the scene of the accident and should include close-ups of the car and from far away. They also should be taken of the interior of the car. If the car is drivable, then you will want to move it off the road as soon as possible to avoid the potential for creating other accidents.
Step 2: Inspect for Damage
The dents on your car will be obvious signs of damage. However, the jolt of the accident could have also caused issues with your engine or computer systems. You should check every system to see if it is working properly. Here is a checklist to run down:
- Are the windows opening and closing as they should?
- Does the A/C and heater still function?
- Are all the headlights and taillights still operational?
- Is there a rattle in the engine now that wasn’t present before the accident?
- Are there grinding noises when you start the car?
- Is the transmission slipping?
- Are there problems with the steering or the overall alignment of the car?
- Can you detect any fluid leaks?
These are all the potential issues that can be directly related to an accident and should be included in any insurance claim for repairs.
Step 3: Get Estimates
If your car is unable to drive, then you will need to call for a tow truck to remove it from the scene. It will help to have already had the number of a reputable tow company programmed into your cell phone. Your own mechanic might offer those services.
Whether the car needs to be towed or you can drive it to a mechanic or repair shop, you will need to get estimates of the damage. Some insurance companies request that you get at least three estimates. That might not be practical if you can’t drive the car. This is when you will need to have an insurance adjuster come out to assess the damage in person. They might even be able to make recommendations on where to take your car for repairs.
Step 4: Make Easy Repairs
If your car is damaged, but drivable, then you should consider making any repairs that could cause further damage before the insurance money comes in. For instance, if a window was broken in the accident, then it should be repaired immediately before there is any damage from the elements to the interior of your car. The insurance company will most likely reimburse you for the broken window, but not any subsequent damage that could have been prevented. Just be sure to keep all of your receipts for the claim.
Step 5: File an Insurance Claim
You will need to file an insurance claim for the accident. Some insurance companies allow you to make that claim instantly through a cell phone app. They will require you to describe the nature of the accident and the damage to your car. This is when you will also present them with the repair estimates.
If you’re not clear what to do with your vehicle after you’ve been waiting for a response from an insurance company, then it might be time to contact an experienced attorney. They can negotiate with the insurance company on your behalf and might be able to help speed up the claims process.
Step 6: Make the Big Repairs
Once the insurance has gone through, then you can go ahead and get the big repairs made on your car. Hopefully, it will get back to the same driving condition as before the accident. You should know that any insurance claim or accident will be part of your car’s driving record. That might have an impact on future trade-in or sales. It is important to disclose any serious accident involving damage to the engine or alignment if you ever intend to sell the car.
Keep in mind that any payouts from an insurance company for repair damage to a car won’t exceed the value of the car. If the repairs cost more than what the car is currently worth, then it would be considered a total loss. You can still make the repairs, but you would be out of pocket at that point.