Angie's LIST Guide to
Accidents & auto body repairs

A consumer's guide for steps to take when involved in an auto accident, including contacting towing companies and finding an auto body shop to complete repairs.
 

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(Photo courtesy of Angie's List member Sara M.)
(Photo courtesy of Angie's List member Sara M.)
 
 

What to do if you're in a car accident

If and when an accident occurs, your first responsibility should be to make sure the vehicle is turned off and to check on your passengers, yourself and the other drivers involved. Are there any injuries? Is anyone complaining of pain? Even if an injury appears minor, it’s often best to call an ambulance, as internal injuries may have occurred. Calling 911 is the recommended course of action for anything more serious than a fender bender.

After checking on your passengers, administering first aid and calling emergency services if necessary, check out the accident scene. If on the highway or in a busy section of roadway, consider moving vehicles to the shoulder if it’s possible and can be done so safely to avoid the risk of any secondary accidents from occurring.

If the vehicles are inoperable or cannot be moved safely, make sure you and other vehicle occupants are safely away from traffic. Even if it's a minor crash, don't assume everything is OK.

Additional steps to take

If you have a camera or a smartphone handy, it can be helpful to take pictures of the accident scene and any damage to the vehicles. Photographing vehicle license plates can also be easier than writing the information down.

The drivers also can make some notes and a rough drawing to explain how the accident took place. This will also help them remember certain facts later on. The notes can include the name of the street and cross street, the direction the cars were traveling and any additional information, such as signs, lights, road conditions or barriers.

Drivers need to stay at the scene until police file a complete report and ask questions. A police report is needed for legal purposes even in the case of a minor incident, since other physical or medical damage may go unnoticed during the incident. Insurance companies also will need a copy of the accident report.

Contacting your auto insurance company

must do auto repairs

What appears to be minor damage can cause significantly expensive repair costs.

In the event of an accident, calling your insurance is always recommended, even if the damage appears to be minor. Correctly repairing something like a scraped or cracked bumper cover can easily exceed the cost of a typical deductible.

MORE: Angie's List Guide to Insurance Agents

Modern vehicles are built to take the brunt of the impact and protect passengers but not all the damages that occur may be visible. More so, damage to some hidden sections of the car, such as the impact absorbers underneath the bumper covers, may render the vehicle unable to safely handle a second collision. Having your insurance company cover the cost of repairs, minus your deductible if applicable, can help ensure your vehicle is repaired correctly.

RELATED: Will my car insurance rates go up after I file a claim?

Getting your car towed

This member hired a flatbed tow truck for her car that needed a tire replaced. (Photo courtesy of Angie's List member Lisa G. of Anderson, Ind.)

Nothing induces a feeling of helplessness more than standing at the side of the road with a disabled car.

Whether your car has been involved in an accident, popped a tire or suffered a breakdown, you want to make sure your car is transported safely to a repair shop. In the case of an accident, emergency services and first responders will likely dispatch tow truck to the scene. But if you've been involved in a solo accident, a breakdown (such as a flat tire or engine trouble) or a slide-off in bad weather, you'll most likely need to call for a wrecker yourself. 

Whether you're ready ahead of time or stranded on the road, check Angie's List for member ratings and reviews of towing service companies.

How to hire the right towing company after an accident or breakdown.

How to find an auto body repair shop

When your car’s body is damaged, you want it repaired as quickly as possible. But don’t just bring your battered vehicle to the first auto body repair shop you find. Take the time to search for a reputable auto collision repair shop that can guarantee quality repairs.

1. Get estimates from several body repair shops

bumper damage before after Angie's List

Unrepaired damage to car bumpers may prevent the bumper's ability to effectively absorb subsequent impacts. (Photo courtesy of Angie's List member Richard R.)

If it’s an insurance claim and you’re responsible for selecting the auto body work provider who will do the work (insurance companies and policies vary), you’ll definitely want to get three or four estimates from several shops. Many auto body repair shops offer free estimates, but some may charge a relatively small fee.

MORE: Do you have to use the body shop that your insurance company recommends?

2. Learn more about the body shop and their work

Reviewing a company’s reputation among its past and current customers has never been easier with online review sites. Seek out customer feedback and online reviews and ratings on sites like Angie’s List and the BBB.

Insurance companies will often provide lists of preferred body work providers. It’s also a good idea to check with neighbors, friends or family about their experiences, if any, with local auto collision repair shops.

3. Play 20 questions

Save yourself the time and frustration of finding hidden costs or a hidden catch after the work is completed by asking the right questions upfront. Have the repair workers been trained, certified or recognized by the vehicle manufacturer? Does the auto collision repair shop install salvaged, used or aftermarket parts to save money? What kind of warranty comes with their work? Do they provide loaner vehicles or have rental cars on their lot? How secure is the shop and the lot? How long will the repair take? Getting the answers to these questions can help prevent unwelcome surprises.

4. Check industry credentials

Always check an auto body repair shop’s credentials before giving it your business. Many states have their own auto body industry associations and examples of national associations include the Independent Auto Body Association (IABA) and the Society of Collision Repair Specialists (SCRS). Ideally, the auto body shop’s technicians will carry ASE certification from the National Institute of Automotive Service Excellence. Other industry recognized certifications include those from I-CAR, the Inter-Industry Conference on Auto Collision Repair.

Comments

Good quick read to remind us what to do next time!

How to find a body shop...

You recommend getting estimates from several repair shops. While this may help the consumer choose the shop, there is a lot more to this than meets the eye. Further, I would never share these estimates with an insurance provider as you suggest until I select a shop. The insurer will always choose the lowest quote and pay the claim based on this low estimate.

Here is what a consumer needs to do to select a shop:
1) Training and certification: have they been trained, certified, or recognized by the vehicle manufacturer?
2) Tools, equipment, paint system: all approved by the car's manufacturer?
3) Type of parts: does the shop install salvage/used parts or aftermarket parts to save money? These parts are not recommended by the manufacturer and may affect warranty coverage.
4) Insurance referrals? If the shop is on the insurer's list of approved shops, the shop may have simply agreed to give the insurer a discount, use alternative parts, and agreed to repair most parts rather than replace them. Insurance referrals are no guarantee of "quality".
Unfortunately, poor quality repairs may only be evident as the vehicle ages, or if it involved in another crash and then it is too late. Most shops can make it look shiny, but will it be safe. Function (safety), appearance, and durability must be restored. Nice paintwork only addresses the second item.
5) Manufacturer referrals: More and more car companies have collision repair certification programs. Authorized repair shops can be found on their websites. These shops need to re-certify regularly, be trained on the latest vehicles and repair technology, and meet very stringent standards. Buyer beware: not all manufacturers have such programs, though.

Sometimes it can get overwhelming getting your car fixed and repaired. Bring it to us at Collision Direct and well take care of you . Free Estimates, Trusted Work, Lifetime warranty!

yes the insur. co. wants you to run around and get get a number of estimates. It doesn't cost them anything, they just want the lowest number, that isn't what you want. You want the right number! If you go to a competent collision center they will know how to negotiate with the insur. co to repair your vehicle the right way.Find the shop you feel comfortable with and let them do the estimate and deal with the insur. co its part of our job. Chuck Mctheeney Mctheeney Collision

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