The nature of the accident as well as who was at fault will influence the steps you take to get your car repaired. It is not always a straight-forward process, so it’s understandable to be a bit confused about where to start.
It’s important to determine who was at fault in the accident. This will have a direct impact on the next steps you’ll need to take. Not all accidents involve a second vehicle. You might be in an accident that is caused when your car slips on ice, or a tree limb fell on your vehicle while it was parked. Your insurance coverage will include comprehensive and collision coverage if you’ve opted for that. Collision coverage is there to help when you’re at fault in an accident or the accident involved your car alone. Comprehensive coverage would help with the scenario above with the tree limb.
If you’re in an accident by yourself or your car is damaged during a storm, you may opt to repair damages yourself. You don’t have to contact your insurance company. You can avoid the deductible and keep your premiums from increasing.
The Other Driver is at Fault
When the other driver is at fault, his or her policy will cover costs to repair the vehicle up to the amount of their coverage. For example, if you have an expensive car that will cost $15,000 to repair, and their policy will only cover $10,000 for property damage, that leaves $5,000 in repairs that are not covered. In that case, you’d need to tap into your own coverage. You can use underinsured or uninsured coverage if you’ve included that in your policy. Comprehensive or collision from your policy may help too.
Getting a Damage Estimate
If your car has been towed from the scene of the accident, you will need to have it brought to the repair shop that you choose for the repairs. In some cases, the insurance company can determine where the car will be taken for repairs. They might have a repair shop involved in their Direct Referral Program. Normally, you’ll be able to choose the garage you’d like to work on your car. You can call around to describe the damage, but without the car to examine, these estimates are general in nature.
You want a shop that is ethical and known for their customer service. Keep that in mind when choosing a repair shop. It’s not always a good idea to go with the lowest estimate if it compromises on quality. Once you’ve determined the shop that will fix your car, make sure they know it’s an insurance claim. It’s time to call the insurance company.
Making a Claim with Their Insurance Company
Once you determine who was at fault and get an estimate, you’ll need to file an insurance claim. Even if you contacted a few garages and determined who should fix your car, the insurance company might decide to send an inspector to look at the vehicle.
They’ll let you know whether they have a specific repair shop to fix your vehicle. This is the time to negotiate with them regarding a car rental. If they won’t give you a car rental, you might have to go through your own insurance coverage for it. Normally when the other driver is at fault, the insurance company provides a rental while your car is being fixed.
Once the repair shop has been decided and the insurance company has been contacted, you’ll need to have the car brought to the repair shop. Often, the repair shop will have it brought to them, and they’ll bill the insurance company.
They May Negotiate with the Insurance Company
When the repair shop gets under the hood, they’ll be able to determine all the repairs that are needed. At this point, they’ll likely deal directly with the insurance company. For example, a dent in the rear bumper might cause problems with the trunk latch as well as part of the interior of the trunk. It might not have been visible prior, and the repair shop will contact the insurance company to discuss the next steps. Sometimes, the insurance company might send a representative to check out the shop’s claims.
Disputes with the Insurance Company
While the repair shop will tell the insurance company what they find, they won’t fight the insurance company for you. If there’s a problem that the insurance company refuses to fix, you might have to dispute their decision.
This can be done through mediation, arbitration or small claims court. Disputes with the insurance company can be a long process, and often, it’s better to consult with an attorney to determine the best course of action.
At the time of the accident, you’ll need to make sure you obtain the other party’s insurance information or get a police report within a few days of the incident. This will help with the next steps depending on who was at fault.