Imagine yourself serenely driving to work in the morning, listening to the radio, enjoying the sunshine, thinking about all you will accomplish today – and then BANG! Out of nowhere a speeding vehicle slam into the back of your car.
Luckily, you do not feel like you’re hurt, but after pulling over and getting out to look at your car, you see major damage.
There are a few steps you need to take immediately after an accident. Make sure you are not injured and any passengers in your vehicle are ok. Pull over to the side of the road if it's safe to do so and call 911 for help. Even if no one is injured, you will need a police report to give your insurance company. While you are waiting for help to arrive, talk with the other driver who was involved in the accident. You can exchange insurance and contact information at this point or wait for the police to arrive.
Once help is on the scene, be sure to document everything. Make notes in your cell phone of the names of the officers, take some pictures, get the names and contact information of witnesses and find out where you will be able to get a copy of the accident report. After all these details are taken care of – you can have your car towed to a repair shop.
Unfortunately, automobile accidents, over 36,000 per year in the area, are the result of distracted drivers and cause thousands of dollars in damage to vehicles and other drivers. If you can prove the other driver was negligent, his insurance policy should pay for the damages to your car. The exception to this rule is if you live in a no-fault state and then your own insurance policy should pay.
These are the steps you need to take to repair the damage to your vehicle.
- Get a couple of estimates on the cost for repairs.
- Submit estimates for the insurance company.
- Determine if the vehicle can be repaired or if it is a total loss.
- Rent a car to use while your car is being fixed.
- Get your car back on the road.
In all states, an insurance company will pay for damages up to the policy limits. If repairing your car exceeds the value of your vehicle, the insurance company is only required to pay for the Blue Book or the actual cash value of the car. If you owe more money on your car than the vehicle is worth, you will have to pay the difference on your own.
Hopefully, your vehicle can be repaired. Once the repair shop has looked over your car and determined how much it will cost, you can work with your insurance company to complete the repairs. Although the other driver might be at fault – his insurance company could take weeks to admit responsibility.
It will be easier to work with your own insurer and make sure your vehicle is repaired quickly. Your insurance company will then work with the at-fault driver’s insurance company for reimbursement.
Although drivers are required to carry a minimum amount of insurance coverage, if a driver is not insured you will have to use the benefits under your uninsured motorist coverage on your own policy. You will still be able to make the allowable repairs for the limits of your policy and your insurance company might try to sue the other driver for reimbursement. Anytime you use your own insurance policy to file a claim, you will be required to pay the deductible out of your own pocket.
Sometimes life happens, and you might be at fault for the damage to your car. Whether you ran off the side of the road during a storm, accidentally backed into the mailbox, or hit a deer or other animal while driving on the country roads – you still need a functioning car. If the damage is minimal, you might want to leave it or pay for the repairs out of your own pocket. If the car is no longer drivable – you will need to use your collision or comprehensive coverage to make the repairs.
While your car is being repaired, you can usually rent a vehicle to get back and forth to work and school. If you don't have rental coverage as part of your auto insurance, the cost of renting a car will come out of your own pocket.
If you own a newer car, even if you aren’t making payments on a loan, you should carry comprehensive coverage on your vehicle. This coverage takes care of damages if you hit a deer, if your car is stolen or vandalized, or if a rock cracks your windshield.
These types of accidents can cause major damage to your car and you will need to get it fixed quickly. Just remember that you will still need to pay your deductible and the insurance company will only give you what your car is worth. If you own an older car that has a very low Blue Book value, comprehensive insurance might not be worth the money.
No one plans to be involved in a car accident and the stress involved can be overwhelming. Sometimes you might need a third party to come in and negotiate with either your insurance company or the insurance company of the driver at fault.
Since insurance companies are in business to make money, they don’t really want to pay for your damages or they want to pay the least amount possible. You need to be sure to follow the steps outlined if you are involved in an accident and always report it to the police and get an accident report.
After submitting estimates to the insurance company, you may still need to fight to get the compensation you need. This is when an attorney might be needed to work with the insurer to get the damages fixed and get you back on the road.