It’s interesting to us how many clients care more about the vehicles they drive than their own bodies. But we get it, you have to drive. Work, school, medical treatment, kids…they all are important and require good transportation.
When you’re in a car crash with your own car, you’re generally looking at one of two scenarios; your vehicle needs to be fixed or your vehicle needs to be replaced. These are two completely different scenarios. Below is a step-by-step guide based upon these two scenarios. The first five steps are exactly the same, regardless of your scenario.
Step 1 – Find Out the Name and Location of the Towing Company and Storage Lot
This is important so that you and the insurance company can get a proper estimate of the damage to the vehicle. If you have a choice, and it doesn’t cost you any money, have the vehicle towed to your preferred body shop. If this isn’t an option, have it towed to your home so that you don’t incur any storage fees.
Make sure you take all of your personal items out of the vehicle!
Step 2 – Call the At-Fault Driver’s Insurance Company to Open a Claim (or yours if they aren’t responding)
You’ll want to get the claims process started right away so that you can be compensated for your vehicle. Our office handles this for clients free of charge, so make sure you speak to your lawyer before contacting the insurance company.
Step 3 – Request a Rental Car
Remember to request a rental car on your initial call with the insurance company. Most insurance companies have contracts with rental companies. They can typically get you into a rental car within a few hours.
Don’t be shy when requesting a rental car. Insurance adjusters will sometimes try to save money by not offering a rental, so be sure to request the rental, repeatedly if you need to. Send the request by email or fax so that you can have a paper trail.
If the insurance company drags its feet and you have to pay for a rental car yourself, make sure to submit your receipts to the insurance company for reimbursement. Don’t go overboard with your rental – get a similar vehicle to the one you were driving, not the nicest car on the lost.
Step 4 – Get a Copy of the Police Report as Soon as It’s Available
Most insurance companies won’t pay for the damage to your vehicle until they have a police report. It can take seven days or more to get the report, so be proactive. Go down to the police department if you have to. Because we request so many police reports, we can usually get these faster than clients, so make sure to speak with your lawyer before trying this on your own.
Step 5 – Get a Private Estimate of Your Vehicle
If you have the opportunity, have a private estimate done on your vehicle by a reputable body shop of your choosing. Not all body shops will come to you, which is why having the vehicle towed to your preferred body shop can be so important. Having your own estimate will allow you to know whether A) the vehicle needs to be replaced or B) the insurance company is paying what is owed to fixed your vehicle.
If Your Car Needs to Be Replaced…
If you and the insurance company have determined that your vehicle needs to be replaced, follow these steps.
Step 6 – Get Price Comparisons For Your Vehicle
Start by doing an internet search for similar vehicles with the same make, model, year, mileage and features. Save this list. This will give you a good idea of what your car is actually worth.
If the insurance company offers you less than the going rate of what you find online, give the list (above) to the insurance adjuster. Be realistic – don’t try to use vehicles that have lower mileage or that have better features.
Step 7 – Find Out if You Owe Anything on Your Wrecked Vehicle
If you have a loan, contact your bank and find out what you owe. The insurance company may require this before paying for your vehicle. This will also help you determine how much you will need to borrow from the bank to get a new car.
If you have gap insurance, contact them if you owe more than the insurance company is offering you.
Step 8 – Find Your New Vehicle and Get Ready to Buy
Once the insurance company has made an offer for your vehicle, the clock starts to tick. The insurance company is only responsible for a rental car for a “reasonable amount of time.” Typically, this means about 3-5 business days from the date they make an offer.
This is why you’ll want to have a car picked out and our financing in place so that you can be ready to buy when the clock starts ticking.
Enjoy your new car!
If Your Car Needs to Be Fixed…
If you and the insurance company have determined that your vehicle needs to be fixed, follow these steps.
Step 6 – Decide Whether You Want to Have the Car Fixed or You Want to Take the Cash
Yes, you can decide to get a check from the insurance company as opposed to having the vehicle fixed. People usually do this because the damage is only cosmetic or they want to do the repairs themselves.
You’ll want to make this decision early so it doesn’t delay your vehicle repairs when you actually settle the property damage claim.
Step 7 – When You Get an Offer, Compare it to Your Private Estimate
This is where your private estimate is so valuable. Compare the insurance company’s estimate line-by-line to your private estimate. If they have left something out, make sure to let the insurance company know. If you have trouble reading the estimates, give them to your preferred body shop – they will know exactly what to look for.
Step 8 – Schedule Your Vehicle for Repairs
Once the insurance company has made an offer for the damage your vehicle, the clock starts to tick. The insurance company is only responsible for a rental car for a “reasonable amount of time.” Typically, this means about 3-5 business days from the date they make an offer.
Thus, after you and the insurance company have gotten estimates, schedule your vehicle to be repaired. This is so (1) you’re not left without a rental car and (2) you’ll get your car back faster. Body shops are very busy and it can take weeks to get your vehicle back. Getting your car in line to be repaired in key to shortening the amount of time it takes to get it repaired.
Step 9 – Ask the Body Shop to Look for Additional Damage
Inevitably, the body shop will find more damage as they start to do repairs on your vehicle. Make sure you ask the body shop to look for additional repairs so they can be added to the repair costs. Remember, the body shop isn’t going to repair something they aren’t getting paid to replace.
Step 10 – Test Drive Your Vehicle and Make Sure it Drives Safely
You’re entitled to get your vehicle back the way it was before the car accident. Insist on a test drive before signing any paperwork relieving the body shop of doing any further repairs.
When you’re satisfied, enjoy your vehicle!