what should I do after an auto accident?
So you’ve been in an automobile accident and your not sure what to do first, Here are some basic tips.

These tips are in addition to the
National Safety Council recommendations.

Lets start with the obvious..Getting in an accident is a traumatic experience, try to stay calm and think clearly.
First things first…Is everyone OK?
Next go over in your head what just happened and recall the events leading up to the accident.
If the police are called they will be asking plenty of questions regarding the circumstances surrounding the collision, if need be write notes and if you have a camera or a cell phone with a camera take some photos.

Keep in mind we are not looking for close ups of the vehicle damage we are looking for general shots of both vehicles and up and down the street in both directions.

Many things can be captured in a photo that may otherwise be forgotten such as traffic and weather conditions, any objects that may have caused secondary damage, guard rails, signs, rocks, trees etc. and more importantly the make, model and license plate of the other parties vehicle.

Exchange information….
Always exchange information, confirm the other parties information by asking to see their insurance card and or drivers license.
If your vehicle is no longer drivable the police will automatically call in for a tow, make sure to get accurate detailed information regarding the tow company and location.
If possible remove any valuables from your vehicle and if you can “check your CD player” this item is very often overlooked and if checked now you will avoid big headaches down the road trying to get this taken care of.

Again photos taken of your vehicle may provide proof of any damage that may occur from being towed or while at the tow yard.
Make sure the police report is accurate before they leave, it is very hard to amend a police report once it has been filed by the officer.

Contact your Insurance company….

The next thing you should do is contact your insurance company.
Try to be in a comfortable place when this time comes as you may have to hold for a while until you actually get someone on the phone, once on the phone they to will have many questions for you.

Make sure they have all the information in regards to your vehicle damage especially any secondary damage such as..”when my vehicle was struck by the other it was pushed into the fence or tree or rock etc.” causing damage to opposite side, fender, bumper, door and so on.

This information is what the insurance adjuster bases his estimate on so if information about secondary damage such as dash lights on, CD player not working etc. are not on this report those items will most likely not be on the insurance estimate.

If you are present during your vehicle inspection and the claim rep asks you about any damage that may be questionable for instance, if your car has damage to the front bumper, headlamp and to the front of the fender but your car has a dent or scratch further back on that same panel you must answer with a positive answer,
“no sir, that dent etc. was already there”, or “no sir, that scratch is from x w or z that caused that damage.
Understand that you may have to prove your case to help the claim rep understand the circumstances surrounding your accident.

If you come up with a wishy washy answer…”I don’t know how that got there” or
“I’m not sure but I don’t remember it being there before the accident” the chances will be slim to none it will be covered.

* Important note *
Also make sure to give accurate address information, many times I have seen vehicles ready to be delivered back to the customer but because they provided the insurance company with an address other than where they currently live the payment is lost in limbo and are now faced with the decision to pay out of pocket and wait for the insurance check or wait one or two days for a stop payment and a new one issued.

What about getting more than one estimate?
Many years ago this would be a common practice, today however if this is going to be an insurance claim it is an absolute waste of your time and the body shops time.
The majority of insurance companies will not even bother to look at an estimate you present to them, they have claims adjusters that are employed by the insurance company or preferred shops that will write and submit an estimate to your insurance company.

Keep in mind an estimate is based solely on a visual inspection and as such will only include damage that is “visible”.

Be upfront with the shops when you are getting your estimates, some people want to be sneaky and assume they will gain the upper hand when dealing with the insurance company if they have their own estimates.

If you are paying for your repairs out of pocket “no insurance involvement” then it would be in your best interest to obtain multiple estimates, just be sure when you are comparing the estimates you are comparing “Apples to Apples”, if you are unsure of why one shops estimate differs from another ask the estimator at the shop to help you.

I don’t see any damage, what should I do?
Many of today’s vehicles have flexible bumper covers, what this means is even though it may appear there is no damage to your vehicle components that are behind that flexible bumper cover may be damaged.

Below you will see  photos of  two vehicles that appear to be fine or showing minimal damage after a minor collision but in fact what has happened is the bumper cover popped back out into shape making it appear as if there were only minor cosmetic damage if any.
The second photo is of the same vehicle after dis-assembly exposing the hidden damage, in this case approximately $800.00 worth.

This is another prime example of hidden damage, while looking at the top photo you may think…oh, it’s just the lower part of the bumper that broke away, the next picture shows what adds up to approximately $4000.00 in damage.

Make the time to have your vehicle inspected.
Make sure that once you receive information from the insurance company on how to obtain your estimate you get this done as quickly as possible.

One example of why this is so important is if you are involved in collision that damages the front of your vehicle, by continuing to drive the vehicle you risk additional damage to Cooling system, Suspension, Tires or one of the worst case scenarios would be your hood coming open while you are driving.

First, and most important, continuing to drive your damaged vehicle puts yourself in harms way if any of the damaged parts fail while you are driving.

Second, you are leaving yourself open to potentially owing two deductibles to complete the repairs, say the hood latch is compromised from a front end collision and you decide to continue driving it and the the hood opens and damages the windshield and roof,
many insurance companies would consider this two claims thus two deductibles.

Third, If a damaged component fails while driving now you will need to have the vehicle towed to a repair facility and because you don’t yet have an approved estimate for repairs your car will sit until it’s inspected and then you and the repair shop will need to wait for the insurance company to approve any repairs.

The additional time to repair your vehicle in this scenario can range from 3 days to 3 weeks.

When your car gets to the shop.
whether your car is towed to the shop or you drive it to the shop some important things to remember are..

* take your garage door opener and or IPASS with you in case you need them.

* Make sure the shop has keys to your vehicle, the shop needs keys to move your car and to gather information like production date, mileage, etc.

* Take any personal belongings home with you, many repairs performed require the shop to access panels from the inside of the vehicle.

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