Stay calm and stay safe
First things first – and easier said than done – don’t panic. Check yourself for injuries and call 911 if you’re injured, or ask someone else to call. Try not to move if you’re seriously injured. If you’re not too injured to move, check on the well-being of your passengers or anyone else involved in the accident. If you’re able to, move to the side of the road. Always turn your hazard lights on as soon as possible.
File an accident report
Call 911 and report the accident. A responding officer will fill out an accident report – make sure you request a copy of it. If for any reason the police aren’t able to come out to you, exchange information with the other driver. Make sure you record their name, address, phone numbers, insurance company name and policy number, and license plate number.
Do your own documenting
The more information you have available, the better. Accidents are traumatic and what you think you’ll remember in a few hours might be erased from your mind completely. Go ahead and write down everything possible. Take lots of pictures. Get names and badge numbers of the officers and take pictures of all damage to your vehicle and the other party’s vehicle. If there are any witnesses, make sure to take down their information as well.
Notify the appropriate insurance company
If you’re at fault for the accident, call your insurance company and tell them you need to file a claim – they’ll guide you through the process. If the other party was at fault, you’ll need to call their insurance company and file a claim through them. Usually a police officer will make this determination and it will be recorded on the accident report. If an officer wasn’t able to come out, you can still file the claim through either yours or the other party’s insurance company – in most cases, the insurance company can determine fault pretty quickly, but if there’s a dispute it may take a little longer for liability to be established.
Get an estimate
This is where you’ll call us! Or, a different body shop, if you don’t want to get the absolute best service in the industry. Either way, tell them you want to schedule an estimate and give them your insurance information. You’ll then get a Preliminary Estimate and you can schedule repairs after that. The insurance company will need to approve the estimate, so make sure you go to a shop that’s a DRP (Direct Repair Program) for that insurance company to ensure this process will go smoothly. If there’s not one in your area, your insurance company will arrange an alternate method to have the estimate performed. Some insurance companies require that they are the first to do the estimate, not a shop, so make sure to ask them before scheduling.
Some shops, and even some insurance companies, will try to mislead customers and tell them they have to get their repairs done where they got the estimate, or where the insurance company tells them to go. This is not only incorrect, it’s illegal. You have the right to choose where you get your vehicle repaired. If an insurance company tries to tell you otherwise, it’s called “insurance steering” and it’s illegal, but still happens. Make sure that you are the one making the decision where to get your vehicle repaired – don’t let an insurance company or body shop mislead you. That being said, when you know where you want to get your vehicle repaired, call that body shop and tell them that you’d like to schedule repairs. They’ll ask if you have an estimate already and arrange a way for you to get that over to them, and then will schedule you for repairs based off of labor hours and replacement part lead times.
Let the body shop do the rest of the work
If you pick a decent shop, the repair process should get way easier for you from here. They will help set up the rental, communicate with the insurance company, order parts and manage the repair, and they should keep you informed throughout the process. The only thing you should have to do from this point is sign an authorization form and transfer your belongings into a rental car. If this isn’t the case, that’s a red flag, so make sure to look up reviews of the shop in order to pick which one to use and go off of other customer’s experiences.