We all hope it never happens to us, but sometimes an accident is impossible to avoid. The moments after an accident can be both stressful and confusing, but it’s a crucial time to obtain information. Take a deep breath, and stay calm. Your nerves are rattled, but the key to getting through this experience is not to panic. Cooperation and courtesy will go a long way in this situation.
Make sure you are familiar with what your insurance policy does, and does not cover. After an accident is the worst time to find out you don’t have rental insurance, that you only have liability (covers the other vehicle only when you are at fault), or that you have a high deductible. Here’s some great info from the State Bar of Georgia about the law in regards to auto accidents, as well as South Carolina.
If your accident is minor, and you do not have injuries, it may be safer to move your vehicle out of traffic to the shoulder of the road. Some states have created laws making this required on highways, and interstate roads. This is the best way to avoid further damage, and even another accident. Turn on your hazard lights, and shut your vehicle off. This will prevent the vehicle from overheating if there is damage to the cooling system, as your vehicle’s cooling system is located at the very front of the vehicle. If you’re not comfortable moving the vehicle, it’s always best to wait for instructions from the responding authority. If you are injured in any way, it’s best to let the paramedics check you out at the scene.
Always call your local police, sheriff, or public safety. Even with the smallest of fender benders, a police report will be required by any insurance company. This protects you in a situation where the other party involved wants to pay for repairs out of pocket, or denies liability. Not all of these circumstances go as planned. Don’t discuss the accident details, or fault with anybody at the accident scene. Reserve this discussion for the authorities, and your insurance company.
Get the facts. While the authorities will help you with this process, it’s best to exchange information with the parties involved. This includes contact information, vehicle information, and insurance information (including policy number). I’ve created an emergency bag for my car that helps me with this process. It includes a disposable camera (although most of us have cell phones handy that will take quality photos), a pen and small notepad, and a set of warning cones.
Your insurance card is the best place to find the information you’ll need to make a claim. There will more than likely be a 24 hour claims hotline number on that card. While calling your agent is certainly advised, the claims hotline is the most efficient way to get the ball rolling. This is a call you may want to make once things have settled down from the accident. Your claim representative will have lots of questions for you, and will need your full attention.
Maybe your auto body damage is very minor, such as a door ding. With the holiday bustle, parking lots become risky business! If this is the case, you may be the perfect candidate for paintless dent repair (PDR). It’s a more economical way of dealing with small dents and dings. No refinish is required for dings that qualify for this type of repair. Most PDR can be done within a business day, and can be scheduled quickly.
Hopefully we’ve provided you with some practical information. If you have any questions that were not answered here, please call us. We’ll always have someone qualified to answer your collision repair, or claims process questions. Rick’s Paint and Body is always available when you need us most.