Nine in 10 Canadians are generally aware of what to do following a fender-bender, according to a recent study — but only 31 percent know the exact steps to take. We break down the whole post-collision process.
1. Move the vehicle away from traffic
2. Document the accident
3. Cover your back
4. Don’t take quick-fix offers
5. Call it in as soon as possible
6. Check with your insurer about repairs
7. Ask for preferred auto shops
8. Schedule a post-repair check-up
9. Check the repair paperwork
10. Compare your insurance rates post-crash
First, take a good look around to see if it is safe to move your car away from the flow of traffic — this is to help prevent a second collision, which might be likely if you crashed on a busy street. More than half of drivers incorrectly assume they should never move their vehicle post-crash until the police arrive, to help determine who was at fault. Safety is always the first priority, so sometimes this “rule” doesn’t apply. Don’t forget to turn on your four-way flashers.
Make sure no one’s significantly hurt — and call 9-1-1 if they are. Don’t get too flustered over the damage — try to remain calm and document the scene of the crash by taking as many notes as you can. Be sure to write down the time of the collision, location, how it happened, the identification of the vehicle(s) and people involved, as well as the names and badges of emergency personnel. If possible, take clear pictures of the damage.
Obtain a driver information exchange form from the police officer that arrived at the scene. If possible, collect names, addresses and phone numbers from any witnesses to the crash – their statements may come in handy in court.
In the heat of the moment, the driver(s) involved may offer the other an easy way out — to avoid the insurance company altogether. That always leads to even more trouble. As a general rule of thumb, don’t accept money, don’t accept fault and don’t agree to forget about the incident. About 87 percent of drivers already know that post-crash, under no circumstances should they accept money or accept fault, as this can affect the coverage their insurance company will provide for the incident.
In case of an accident where no one is injured and the damage is fairly minor (under $1,000) contact local police via their non-emergency collision line. If there is an injury and the damage is significant, call 9-1-1 right away. Contact your insurer immediately — studies show almost three in 10 drivers involved in accidents wrongfully assume unless the damage is significant, it’s not necessary to call it in. Insurers insist, however, that regardless of the cost of the damage, it’s reported. If you’re late contacting your insurer, you may also have trouble processing the claim.
Before making any repair arrangements at the auto shop, first be sure your insurance company has actually agreed to pay for your claim. You don’t want to get stuck with hefty repair bills when it’s unnecessary.
If you don’t have a regular auto shop (or one that specifically handles the repairs required on your car) make sure to ask your insurance company if they have a “preferred” list of repair shops in your area. Some insurance companies may have systems already set up with specific auto shops to help speed up the claim process and repair your car even faster and more effectively.
When picking up your just-repaired car from the garage, take a very close look at all the repairs, both there at the shop and also when you’ve returned home, to make sure you’re satisfied with the work. Check for any noticeable imperfections in paint, fit and finish on the exterior or interior (depending on where the damage was). If you notice any issues with the repair, call your insurer and find out how they handle supplemental repairs.
Get an official receipt from the repair shop that details all the work they completed. Make sure that the name and address of the shop itself is accurate, as you may need to submit this information with your insurance claim.
How your insurance rate will be affected after a collision varies greatly depending on the who was at fault — and who your insurer is. Double-check how the crash will impact your rates, and compare quotes with other auto insurance companies to see how an at-fault, partially at-fault, or not-at-fault accident would affect your premiums if you switched providers.