Steps in the Collision Repair Process

If you haven’t been in an accident before, the process, from collision to paid and repaired vehicle, can seem confusing. We’ve put together a simple list to help un-complicate the process for you.

The Accident

At the accident, make sure you do the following:

  • Take photos of the scene, preferably before any of the vehicles have moved. If possible, you should clear the road soon after.
  • Make sure everyone is okay. Call an ambulance.
  • Exchange contact and insurance information with the other driver. This includes name, address, phone number, email address, insurance name and policy, etc.
  • Contact the police. Get witness contact information and statements – the police may do this.
  •  Give your insurance company an unbiased account of what happened.

Towing

If your car is badly damaged, it may not be drivable after the accident. If you need a tow, it saves time and money to already have a repair shop selected. Remember – you don’t have to go to the shop your insurance company suggests! They are obligated to work with any repair shop of your choosing.

Estimates

An estimate will give you an approximate cost for repairs to your vehicle. Your insurance company may decide that your car is totaled if the cost of repairs is more than the value of the vehicle. An estimate shouldn’t take long, and you shouldn’t need an appointment.

Repair Appointment

Once you, the repair shop, and the insurance company have agreed on repairs, you can schedule a repair appointment at the shop of your choosing. You’ll have to sign a form to authorize the repairs, and you may owe your insurance company a deductible depending on your policy.
The cost of repairs will depend on the insurance policy you have. Damages caused in the accident should be covered by a collision policy. If you’re in a state that assigns fault and the accident was your fault, you will need collision coverage to cover the cost of your vehicle and not just the other vehicle. If the accident wasn’t your fault, the other party’s insurance company should pay for your repairs. If their insurance doesn’t cover enough, or if the other party doesn’t have coverage, you’ll need to pay out of pocket or have an uninsured/underinsured motorist package included in your policy. Check with your insurance company if you aren’t sure. Your insurance policy may also cover a rental car during repairs, but it depends on the policy you have.

Car Pick-Up

Don’t be afraid to ask questions about your repair. When you pick up your car, it should be in the same condition it was in prior to the accident.

Why Are Accidents so Common in the Summer?

It may seem like there are reasons why each season is more full of car accidents than any other, but the truth is that the changing of the seasons leads to more accidents than anything else. Each season brings new weather and changes in the behavior of people, plants, and animals, all of which can affect things like visibility and the safety of road conditions. So, what changes in the summer can make accidents more likely than at any other time of the year?

School is Out!

When school gets out for the summer, it means there are lots of youngsters running around, whether they’re behind the wheel or playing outside. Younger children and their families may be walking in neighborhoods, playing at parks, and kicking balls that end up in the street, so watch out for extra distractions. Older kids, on the other hand, may be old enough to get behind the wheel, populating the road with a higher number of inexperienced and easily distracted drivers.

Construction Season Begins

The more road construction there is, the more likely it is that drivers are taking unfamiliar detours, temporary signs and signals are in place, and traffic lanes are shut down. Keep your eyes peeled for these new road rules that you (and other drivers) may not be used to.

Summer Heat

The heat of the summer can bring all kinds of changes, from overheating cars and an increase in tire blowouts to more motorcycles and bicycles on the road. Keep an eye out for hard to see cyclists! Summer heat is also more damaging to your vehicle, so make sure that your tires are properly inflated and your fluid levels are where they should be.

Vacation Season Begins

Summer is the most popular tourist and vacation time of the year all over the world. The chances are higher now that there will be foreign drivers, out of towners who don’t know the local roads, people relying on GPS navigation systems and trying to operate phones while driving than at other times. Keep an eye out for distracted or lost drivers, and make sure not to drive distracted!

Vacation season also means people are more likely to stay up late, drink more alcohol, and let loose. Driving under the influence is never a good idea, but keep an eye out for those who start earlier in the day or who may be tired from the night before.

The Cost of Repainting a Vehicle after a Collision

After a collision, your car may have suffered dents and scratches, among other things. When it’s been put back together and runs like new, does it look like new? At the very least, does it look (and run) like it did before the accident?

If the answer is no, it may be due to the paint job. Although your car can run safely without a proper paint job, it can be annoying to look at, and it can lead to a faster buildup of rust when the paint isn’t applied properly.

Estimates and Totaled Vehicles

When you take your vehicle to the repair shop, the first thing they’ll do is look at the damage and give you an estimate as to what it will cost to complete all repairs. Estimates aren’t always 100 percent accurate, which is why they’re called estimates, but they should include the cost of repainting the vehicle.

If the cost of the repairs is more than the value of the vehicle, it may be considered totaled. That means that if the cost, including the paint job, of returning the vehicle to its pre-accident condition is higher than its value, your insurance company may recommend not repairing it.

What does insurance pay for?

As always, your insurance company will pay for damage that is covered in your insurance policy, so it’s important to understand your policy. However, the following may give you an idea of what insurance will pay for.

If you want to have your vehicle repainted due to general wear and tear, rust, or peeling, it is unlikely that your insurance will pay for it.

If you are in an at-fault accident and you have collision coverage, your insurance company will likely pay for exterior paint. This may only cover the areas that were damaged, and not the entire vehicle.

If you are not at fault in an accident, the other party’s insurance carrier should pay for damage. If they are not insured or are underinsured, you can either take them to court, pay it yourself, or if you have uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage, that portion of your policy may cover the cost of a paint job.

If your paint is damaged due to non-collision incidents, like weather damage or vandalism, your insurance company may pay for a paint job under a comprehensive package if you included it in your policy.

What is the average cost of repainting a vehicle?

Repainting a vehicle isn’t cheap, especially if you want it done well. Averages range from hundreds to thousands of dollars, so it can significantly change the cost of an estimate.

Car Battery Care and Maintenance

Your car battery provides electrical power to many things on your vehicle, from heated seats to your turn signal and lights. In order to get the most out of your battery, it’s important to take care of it, check on its performance, and do what you can to prolong its life.

If your battery fails while you’re out, your car won’t start, meaning you could be left with costly towing and an urgent need for a new battery. To care for your car battery, keep the following in mind.

Day-to-Day Battery Maintenance

There are a few things you can do on a regular basis to help maintain your battery and keep it in good working condition.

  • Every time you turn off the engine, make sure to unplug any electronics, turn off all accessories, and turn off inside and outside car lights.
  • Keep the battery in cooler locations rather than warmer ones. Generally, cooler temperatures are kinder to the battery.
  • During the colder months, make sure to run your vehicle for at least 30 minutes, preferably on the highway, so that it runs and the battery charges.
  • Check your battery regularly (maybe once a month). Are the terminal connections clean and tight? If the terminals are corroded, scrub them with a solution of baking soda and water.

Spring Battery Care

Spring is the time to check that your battery has survived the cold weather! Have it checked, but know that if it survived the winter, it is likely to survive a mild summer. If it’s weak, but not quite ready to be replaced, or if your summer is exceptionally hot, make sure to test it again in about 3 months, and replace it before temperatures drop again.

Summer Battery Care

Although cooler temperatures are harder on your battery charge, warm temperatures are not good for your battery. High temperatures outside mean even hotter temperatures under the hood of your car, right next to the engine. The higher the temperature, the faster corrosion occurs. Too much heat can lead to lower battery capacity, more difficulty starting the engine, and a shorter battery life. It’s important to check your battery regularly so that you’re not left with a dead one on a summer trip!

Springtime Pedestrians and Cyclists

Spring has arrived, the weather is getting warmer, and that means pedestrians and cyclists are coming out of hibernation and they’re on the streets and sidewalks. It may be wet, which means lower visibility and slicker roads.

In order to prevent or appropriately handle pedestrian and cyclist collisions, keep the following in mind.

Driver Safety Tips

Although pedestrians and cyclists have their own set of safety rules, as a driver, you’re the one who would be held responsible in the case of an accident. So, keep the following list in mind when you’re driving through towns and cities.

  • Drive slowly when crossing sidewalks or pulling into our out of driveways. You may cross paths with children or others who have the right of way.
  • When turning at an intersection, first check for oncoming traffic, then check for cyclists and pedestrians before you turn.
  • When turning left, it’s especially important to check for oncoming cyclists, and to look to your left for pedestrians.
  • When turning right, be aware of cyclists coming behind you (they should be on your left, but may not always be) and to look for pedestrians crossing at the light.
  • Never pass a vehicle that is stopped at a crosswalk; you may not see the pedestrians crossing in front of them.
  • If you see a vehicle pulled over or parked on the side of the road, leave enough room for a door to open or a pedestrian to enter or exit the vehicle, just in case they do.
  • Keep a safe distance between you and the vehicles around you. Potholes or other road hazards can cause abrupt stopping or turning.
  • When parallel parking, check your mirror before opening the door; approaching cyclists may not know you’re about to exit.
  • If you can, fold your mirror in, especially on tight streets, when parallel parking so that cyclists have room to get by.
  • Avoid distracted driving. Pedestrians and cyclists are already more difficult to see because they’re smaller than vehicles, so it’s up to you to stay focused on the road.
  • Follow the speed limit. Driving too fast increases the likelihood that pedestrians and cyclists will misjudge the time it takes you to arrive at a crossing and the likelihood of an accident.
  • Always use turn signals when turning or changing lanes so that other vehicles, pedestrians, and cyclists can see where you’re going.
  • Always check your blind spot for cyclists.
  • Only pass a cyclist when there is an open lane next to you; it is safe to pass a cyclist when it is safe to pass a vehicle.

How to Handle a Collision with an Uninsured Driver

Ideally, and according to the law, every driver in the United States would be insured. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Unfortunately, uninsured and underinsured drivers are on the roads, and you have no way of knowing when you’ll come across one.

What is an underinsured driver?

An uninsured driver is one who is on the road without auto insurance. An underinsured driver, however, is one that has insurance, but the limit isn’t high enough to cover the damage caused in an accident.
Every insurance policy comes with a limit to what the insurance company will cover, and individuals can choose the limit they want for their policy. But, if a driver is in an accident with an expensive car or a collision that causes a lot of costly damage, the limit may not be high enough.

How do I handle a collision with an underinsured driver?

The basics of a collision with an underinsured driver are the same as an accident with any other driver.

  • Make sure you and your passengers are okay,
  • Check on the driver and passengers in the other vehicle,
  • If the other driver is leaving the scene, make sure to get as much information from them as possible, including:
    -name,
    -phone number,
    -address,
    -insurance information, and
    -license plate number.
  • Call the police and ask if they have any requests before they arrive,
  • Request an ambulance,
  • Take photos of the scene,
  • If possible, move the vehicles out of the way of traffic,
  • Wait for the police to arrive and make an accident report,
  • Contact your insurance company and your collision repair technician to take care of your car and make a claim.

The main difference between an accident with an underinsured driver and an adequately insured driver is that you’ll need to see if your insurance company will cover the costs that the other driver and his or her insurance company is unable to pay.

Do I have to pay?

Whether or not your insurance company will pay for the costs associated with your accident depend on your insurance policy. Many insurance companies offer uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage, so that when you are in an accident with an underinsured motorist, your policy is intended to cover the costs, up to your limit.

Collision Insurance Myths

Five Myths to Stop Believing about Collision Insurance

Myth #1: Your insurance company chooses the repair shop you have to use after a collision.

In reality, insurance companies aren’t allowed to tell you where to have your vehicle repaired at any time; you legally have the right to choose where you take your vehicle to be repaired. Insurance companies may have lists of suggested shops, and they may have agreements with some shops, like direct repair options, but you don’t have to choose according to your insurance company’s suggestions.

Myth #2: The insurance company’s estimate is always right.

Both your insurance company and the body shop are likely to perform estimates on your vehicle, and they may not always be the same. Just because the insurance company comes up with a lower number, doesn’t mean they’re right, and it doesn’t mean you’ll be required to cover the difference between their estimate and the actual cost. It’s generally up to your collision repair shop to negotiate with your insurance company.

Myth #3: Comprehensive insurance coverage protects me from everything.

Comprehensive coverage is one kind of insurance coverage that you can include in your insurance policy, but it doesn’t cover everything. Usually, it covers damage that is NOT caused by a collision, like damage from vandalism, a fire, or a tree falling on your car. For coverage of damage caused in a collision, you’ll need collision coverage as part of your policy.

Myth #4: My insurance won’t go up if the accident is not my fault.

This isn’t necessarily true. There is always fault assigned in an accident, so even if it’s considered ‘no fault’ insurance, your rates may be affected if your insurance company has to pay and isn’t reimbursed by the other driver’s insurance company.

Myth #5: Collision coverage pays for damages caused in any accident.

Collision insurance is meant to cover the cost of damage caused to your vehicle caused in an accident that is your fault. If you cause the accident, your liability insurance should cover costs incurred to the other driver. If you don’t have collision coverage, you may be held responsible to cover the cost of damage to your own vehicle if the accident is your fault. If the accident is the fault of the other driver, their insurance is usually responsible for your costs, unless the driver is uninsured or underinsured, in which case they can’t pay, and your own uninsured/underinsured driver coverage should pay.

Preventing Pothole Damage

After each winter, the number of potholes on the road seems to multiply. Unfortunately, the damage a pothole can do to your vehicle is potentially devastating, so it’s important to be on the lookout for potholes and learn how to minimize the damage. Believe it or not, there are several things you can do to prevent pothole damage from destroying your car.

 

Leave plenty of space between you and the vehicle in front of you on the road.

While this is good safe driving advice and required by law in many places anyway, leaving space between you and the car in front of you gives you time to spot a pothole as you approach it, and if possible, avoid it. Never swerve suddenly to avoid a pothole; you may cause a much worse accident hitting another vehicle, person, biker, oncoming traffic, or a solid object.

Drive slower.

This may not seem like an ideal solution, but you’re more likely to suffer damage if you hit a pothole going fast than if you hit it going slowly. Ultimately, you’ll make it to your destination faster if you don’t have to stop and check out pothole damage.

Look out for puddles.

A puddle might be a small divot in the road that you hardly notice, or it could be a car-killing foot-deep pothole, just hiding under a pool of water. Be careful, slow down, and think of your poor tires.

Avoid sudden braking.

If you don’t have enough time to slow down before hitting a pothole, resist the urge to swerve out of the way sharply or brake too suddenly and harshly. Braking quickly compresses the front suspension, lowering the front of the vehicle, which can force the wheel deeper into the pothole and make it harder for it to come out the other side, rather than allowing it to glide over the top. While not ideal, gliding over the top is better for your vehicle in the long run.

Keep your tires properly inflated.

If you hit a pothole with under-inflated or overinflated tires, they’re less likely to hold up and more likely to suffer damage. Flat tires are a common result of hitting a pothole.

If you do hit a pothole, stop and check for damage as soon as possible.

The longer you drive a damaged vehicle, the more likely it is that the damage will grow. Check your tires, be aware of your steering and alignment, and if you are uncertain, have a technician take a look.

Pay attention to your steering.

One of the first things a pothole can affect is your steering and alignment, so make sure not to swerve when you hit a pothole, and pay attention to your alignment following a hit.

Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) Auto Parts

oem partsOriginal equipment manufacturer auto parts, or OEM parts, are car parts that are made by the vehicle’s original manufacturer. They are the exact same parts, made with the same materials in the same way, usually with the same machines, that the vehicle was made with.

It does not mean that the parts are made by the car company; many auto companies use outside manufacturers to produce their original parts. OEM parts are made by the same manufacturer as the original vehicle, regardless of who that was.
When auto parts are broken or worn out either due to an accident, normal wear and tear, or other damage to a vehicle, original equipment manufacturer parts can be used to replace the old parts. Many auto body shops and insurance companies allow the vehicle owner to choose what kind of parts to use on the vehicle during repair or maintenance, because there are other manufacturers that produce parts of lesser, equal, or superior value.

OEM Auto Parts: The Basics

They might be more expensive. Often, OEM parts are more expensive than either aftermarket or recycled parts.

OEM parts will help your vehicle maintain its value. Because OEM parts are made by the same manufacturer with the same materials as your original vehicle, they are essentially the same exact parts. Therefore, they are the best option to help your vehicle maintain its value for longer.

They maintain safety and other standards of the original vehicle. The original manufacturer helped set and adhered to the original safety standards of the vehicle. Using OEM parts on your vehicle will help maintain the original safety standards. The same applies to things like fuel efficiency, assuming that the vehicle is maintained according to the manufacturer’s requirements.

OEM parts may come with a warranty. In some cases, OEM parts come with a limited warranty, usually, one year. A dealership may also stand by their labor.

You know what you’re getting. If you’re happy with your original vehicle, OEM parts might be right for you. There is usually only one option. You’ll know that the parts you’re using to replace your old ones are going to be the same. They will fit, they will work with your vehicle properly, and they will help maintain the value and standards that your car previously held and met. However, aftermarket parts that may be made on different machinery or with different materials can either be of higher or lower quality in many ways. It takes some research to find out which aftermarket parts are right for you.

All About Air Bags

Supplemental Restraint System (SRS) in your Vehicle

srs-lightThe supplemental restraint system, or SRS, in your vehicle does exactly what its name implies: it supplements the restraint, or seatbelt, system. In the case of a collision, the primary function of the supplemental restraint system is to deploy airbags, although modern systems may initiate other actions, like reclining the driver and passenger seatbacks into a safer position or releasing curtains to protect occupants from broken glass when windows shatter.

When a vehicle collides with another vehicle or object, the airbag sensor signals the airbag to open. At the very least, a vehicle has one airbag in front of the driver and one for the passenger, but many vehicles have additional side airbags or rear airbags to further protect the vehicle’s occupants.

Your SRS Warning Light

On the dashboard, your vehicle has warning lights that are tested every time the vehicle starts. When a light remains on after the first 10 seconds or so when the vehicle is started, it’s a sign that there is an error with a system in your vehicle. The SRS system light will either say “SRS” or it will be an image of a person wearing a seatbelt with an airbag expanded in front of them.

If your light remains on and there is an error with the system, your airbags may not deploy in the case of a collision and you should have your vehicle examined as soon as possible. In some cases, if your insurance company can determine that there was an error in the vehicle that kept the system from functioning properly and the vehicle owner failed to have it taken care of, the insurance company may not pay for medical bills that result from a crash.

SRS Testing and Functionality Following a Collision

If your vehicle has been in a collision, there are several steps you can take to ensure that your SRS is functioning properly.
1. Check whether the airbags or any other safety features have been activated. This can include airbags, seat belt retractors, curtains, etc.
2. If you can, start the vehicle. Check for the SRS light. It should illuminate for a few seconds and then turn off. If it does not illuminate or if it remains on, your system may not be working properly.
3. Examine your seat belts. Pull every seat belt out all the way and look for signs of wear, like tears or strange sounds.
4. Buckle the seatbelts and ensure that all buckles still work.
5. If your vehicle has a passenger weight sensor, sit in the passenger seat to test whether it is functioning.
6. If you are unsure about any of these steps, notice any wear or malfunctioning parts, or there is a problem with your SRS, take your vehicle to a collision repair shop.

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