What to do After a Car Accident

City Auto Body is here to help you get through the process with minimal disruption to your day.

So you’ve been in an accident
— now what?

Whether it’s a minor fender bender or a major collision, there are certain steps you should follow if you’ve been in an accident. We’ll get you through the process one step at a time:

Step One: Safety

As soon as an accident happens, safety is your primary concern. Stop the vehicle, and pull over to a safe location if you’re able to move out of traffic. Even if you don’t think there was any damage, you’re legally obliged to pull over and assess. Be sure to put your emergency flashers on to warn other drivers you’ve stopped.

Unless necessary for safety reasons, only move the vehicles as little as possible. This is to allow police and insurance to get a clearer picture of what happened and first responders to address injuries with the proper equipment and experience.

A few other safety tips:

  • In a minor accident, don’t leave children or elderly passengers in the car, especially if the weather is hot.
  • If you have very young children with you, don’t remove them from any car seats – allow them to be checked by a first responder, as they may have sustained injuries you can’t see.
  • If you can’t move the vehicle and it’s in a dangerous spot (like in the middle of the highway) evacuate to a safe distance with all passengers.

Step 2: Call for Help

Next, check for injuries. Are you hurt? Are your passengers hurt? Are the other drivers or passengers okay? Does anyone need medical attention? Call 911 immediately and provide dispatch with as many details as needed for first responders including your location, any injuries, and other relevant information.

Police will be notified and sent to your location to direct traffic and file a report. Even if the collision is minor, they will write up a legal accident report, which will be important for determining fault for insurance.

Step 3: Keep a Level Head

If you’ve been in an accident, it’s important to stay calm and try to read the situation objectively. Placing blame or getting upset isn’t what’s important right now — leave it to the police and insurance companies to work out the details.

Try not to discuss details about the accident with the other drivers or parties involved. Avoid statements of how you feel, what you were doing when the accident occurred, or other circumstances, and focus on the facts of the incident. Share details with the police, medical personnel, and your insurance company to help them get a clearer picture of what happened.

Under Michigan’s no-fault protections (revised as of July 2020), your insurance policy contains personal injury protections set to your expectations and budget, eliminating the need for fault protections. This means that your insurance will cover any medical expenses, wage loss, vehicle repairs or replacement, and damage to others’ property — regardless of who is at fault for the accident.

Step 4: Gather Information

Try to ascertain the facts of the accident without emotions like blame or guilt. Take some time to gather basic information from other drivers or parties involved in the accident, including:

  • Names
  • Addresses
  • Phone numbers
  • Insurance company names and policy numbers
  • Descriptions of vehicles
  • License plate numbers
  • VIN numbers (some insurance companies list vehicles by VIN, not license plate)

You can also take photos and video to document vehicle damage, injuries, road conditions, and weather — all of which can be used to substantiate your claim down the road. Some insurance company mobile apps have a note-taking function for this purpose.

Step 5: Start Your Insurance Claim

With the information you’ve gathered, you’re ready to start your insurance claim. It’s important to let your insurance company know you’ve been in an accident so they can be involved in the repair process and help cover the costs — after all, that’s why you have it! 

To start your claim, call your insurance company. There should be an emergency claims number on your insurance card in your vehicle. If included in your policy, you may also be able to request roadside assistance, ask for towing recommendations, and inform your insurance company where you’ll be taking your vehicle to get repairs.

When you have some time, you can fill in the details about the accident for your insurance, but it’s important to make that initial call as soon as possible to get your claim started.

Step 6: Find Collision Repair

Next, you’ll focus on your vehicle and repairing any damage from the accident. It’s best to get your vehicle repaired as soon as possible. Some insurance companies may have time frames on when you can get your vehicle repaired. After the window is up, they may refuse to reimburse or provide less assistance.

If your vehicle can be driven, navigate safely to a trusted auto body shop. Or, call a tow to help you move your car. You can use one of our recommended resources or ask your insurance company for towing company suggestions.

Important! You don’t have to bring your vehicle to an auto body shop referred by your insurance in order to receive coverage. You have the right to have your vehicle repaired at the auto body shop of your choice. 

Insurance companies may offer you a list of preferred auto body shops, but legally they can’t steer you towards one over another. So, if you have a trusted mechanic or local shop you’d prefer, bring your vehicle there.

Auto Body Shop and Insurance

With information gathered from the accident and your auto body shop’s assessment, your insurance adjuster will assess the level of damage and decide how much your insurance will provide for repairs (or replacement if your car is totaled).

The auto body shop where your vehicle is being repaired should provide an itemized list of repairs and estimated costs you can take to your insurance. Some insurance companies will want to view the repairs list before work is done, and others just need the receipt information after the fact.

In some cases, the auto body shop may work with your insurance company directly, saving you the hassle and cutting out any negotiating for parts or pricing.

Paying for Vehicle Repairs

When your repairs are complete, the mechanic will walk through the repairs with you, and make sure you understand what all the items on the bill mean.

Once your car is ready to take home, you will need to pay the shop for the work completed. Later, your insurance company will reimburse you for the agreed amount after your deductible. Or, they will work with the auto body shop to settle the costs of the work before it is completed. Your insurance company should explain which way they prefer to handle claims.

Be Prepared

Any accident is unexpected and stressful, but being prepared will help you avoid frustration and get through the process. Here are some tips to follow before an accident occurs, to be prepared in case it happens.

Have updated insurance and keep current policy cards handy.

If your insurance company has a mobile app, it’s a good idea to download it and set it up before an accident occurs. Many insurance apps have important policy information, an electronic version of your insurance card, phone numbers to talk to an agent or request assistance, and more.

Find a local auto body shop you trust.

Choose an auto body shop that values what you do: quality service, neighborhood care, and efficient communication. This relationship will be important if you get in an accident or need some service completed on your vehicle.

Have a checklist or accident plan printed out and stored in your vehicle.

In a stressful event, like a car accident, it can be difficult to stay focused and gather all the information you’ll need. Having a post-accident plan with a clear list of to-do items and important numbers will help minimize frustration and get you back to the rest of your day as quickly as possible.

Print and fill out our accident plan worksheet and stash it in your glove box as a quick reference guide — that way, if an accident happens, we’ll be right there to help you through it.

Accident Plan Worksheet