Q: What should I do if I get in an accident?
A: The Virginia State DMV has an excellent accident guide, and it’s basically this (in this order):
- Do not leave the scene of the accident! Even if you’re the one who was struck, leaving will mean a huge legal headache. You don’t want that.
- If it’s safe to do so, move your vehicle out of the flow of traffic. Nothing is worse than getting into two accidents in the same day, on the same stretch of road. Be safe.
- Make sure the injured are taken care of, but don’t move anyone unless there’s a fire or you’re a doctor (of medicine).
- Dial 9-1-1 and report the accident – if anyone is hurt, or there is more than $1500 in damages, Police are required to report the accident. All police-reported information will appear on the driving records of each driver involved.
- Talk to the other drivers: get phone numbers, addresses, license plate numbers, insurance info, and license numbers.
- Take photos! Everyone has a camera in their phone these days: use it to your advantage. Take photos of the car’s positions, any damage, and any license plates of vehicles involved. This will often prevent details from getting lost that can’t be recreated later.
- If you hit a parked car, it’s up to you to find the owner. If you can’t find the owner, leave a note. Be sure to include more than the word “sorry” – name, address, phone number, driver’s license number, time and date of collision, and estimated damage. You have to call the police. (That last part is non-negotiable.)
- Call your Insurance Provider and report the accident. Start the claim process immediately. The more detail you can provide them, the better. Your insurance provide can give you the name of the nearest repair center on their direct repair list.
Q: Do I need several estimates?
A: It depends on your insurance agency. Some insurers may require multiple estimates, though many are happy with an estimate provided by repair centers on their Direct Repair list. Warrenton Auto is on the DR list for several insurance agencies.
Q: Will my vehicle be the same as it was after the repairs are done?
A: Yes! A good repair center should be equipped to replace or repair the affected parts and bodywork to a condition meeting or exceeding the original factory standards of the vehicle you drive. It should both look and be better than new when you drive away.
This is why getting the paint restored for the whole vehicle following a collision is a good idea – the insurer may only cover the affected portions of the vehicle, and it may look silly to drive around with one body panel brighter than the others.
Q: What happens if my vehicle is deemed ‘totalled’?
A: Labelling a vehicle as ‘totalled’ is the responsibility of the insurer. The repair center does not make this decision.
If a vehicle is deemed ‘totalled’, then the owner of the vehicle has two options:
- Retain the vehicle.
- Let it go – for reimbursement from the insurer.
Reimbursement for a totalled vehicle is dependent on the age, condition, and history of the vehicle as well as upon the level of insured coverage of the operator and are not influenced by the repair center.
Q: Do I have my choice of whatever repair shop I want to take it to?
A: Yes! Insurance providers will often try to persuade you to take your vehicle to a direct repair center of their choosing. Some may even claim you’re only covered if it is repaired by centers of their choosing. This isn’t the case. You have the legal right to choose to have your vehicle repaired at any appropriately licensed repair center.
Q: Can my insurance company make me go to their claim center to get an estimate for repair?
A: If you are unable to get your vehicle to a claim center for an assessment, or are in a remote area, you have the right to demand an adjuster come to you.
Q: If I need to have my vehicle towed from the site of a collision or a breakdown, who pays the tow bill?
A: The insurer is responsible for the expenses incurred for towing your vehicle to the repair center.
Q: When is a rental car provided, and who is responsible for the bill?
A: If you have rental coverage under your policy then of course your insurer will cover the associated costs. However, that said, read the fine print.
Insurance policies often list a price per day or a cap maximum for costs associated with loss of vehicle rentals. If your insurance coverage only provides for $40/day in loss of vehicle, you may be required to upgrade if the available vehicle doesn’t suit your needs.
For example: The rental center may only have a Smart ForTwo or a Honda Fit available for lease in the price range covered by your insurer – which doesn’t help if you’re a single mom or dad with five kids. Upgrading to a van or SUV may cost you out of pocket for the difference.
Q: What do I need to look at when I pick up my vehicle after repair?
A: You should definitely have the repairing technician or service manager give you a walkthrough of the repairs performed on your vehicle. You also have the right to take your vehicle to another repair center after repairs are complete for a full inspection.
Any good repair center will warranty the work they have done for the life of the vehicle under reasonable circumstances, but some types of work cannot be warrantied. Like rust.
No one will warranty repairing heavily rusted vehicles because rust is progressive and damaging – humidity and corrosive agents accelerate the rate of decay in affected parts and body panels. This is why winterizing and undercoating your vehicle is so important when there’s snow and salt on the road.