Even minor accidents can be jarring, but take comfort in the fact that you can rely on your auto insurance.
What to do after a car accident depends on the nature of the incident. In general, if you’ve collided with another vehicle, call the proper authorities, file an accident report and follow these three steps to get your car repairs underway.
1. Call your insurance company
Regardless of who is at fault, your first call after the police should be to your insurance company. Your insurer can help figure out whether your auto insurance applies to the incident or if you need to draw on the other driver’s liability coverage. Be sure to return the information your insurance company requests and fill out the claim forms.1
Depending on your carrier, you may have access to a mobile app to help speed up the process. For example, most Amica customers have access to a photo appraisal tool that allows them to take photos of the car damage for an appraiser to review, says Al Olney, automobile physical damage manager at Amica.*,2
Richard Barton, a senior appraiser at Amica, explains how customers are sent a link to download an app containing the photo appraisal tool.3 “The app is intuitive to the point where it'll ask you to take a photo looking straight on the damage and then looking off to each side so you get a good frame of reference of what's damaged and how bad the damage is,” says Barton.
2. Get an initial estimate
Depending on the extent of the damage, your insurance company may ask you to get your car appraised or an appraiser may be assigned to your claim. The insurance appraiser will inspect the car and establish a baseline for how much the damage may cost to repair. The appraiser’s initial estimate of the damage to your car is just that – an estimate. It’s not necessarily the final claim payout or the total repair cost.
“We can only write what we can see. And we're looking at the car in its entirety,” says Barton. He gives the example of a jammed hood. Although the appraiser may note in the estimate the cost of repairing the hood, they cannot account for the damage that may be under the hood – that is where the repair shop comes in. The repair shop will provide the final cost of repairs, parts and labor.4 In some cases, your car may be a total loss – meaning the repairs cost more than the actual cash value of your vehicle.5
Your adjuster will let you know what your deductible for the claim will be.4
3. Choose a car repair shop
The insured always has the right to choose where they would like to have their vehicle repaired. If you don’t have a preference or need recommendations for reputable shops, ask your insurer. For example, Amica's Auto Repair Assistance Program includes more than 1,500 certified shops – all of which offer warranties for claim-related auto repairs.
Gabby Willette, a claims supervisor at Amica, notes the ease of finding a repair shop through Amica.com.6 “Users can go to our website and search for a direct repair shop, simply by typing in a ZIP Code,” says Willette. They can also type in a city or address and instantly pull up a list of shops on our direct repair list within a close proximity, according to Willette.
If you do choose your own car repair shop, discuss payment options and time frames with your claims adjuster.5 That way, you know how and when a payment may be made.
If you have questions at any point during the repair process, call your insurance representative. It’s in everyone’s best interest to settle your claim quickly and efficiently, so don’t be afraid to reach out when you want guidance.