Being involved in a car crash can leave drivers frazzled.
But dealing with the immediate aftermath and the insurance claims process can be made easier by doing a few simple things.
Nathan Miller, an appraiser at Randy and Bob’s CARSTAR in Oakland Township, said immediately after a crash, drivers should try to get their vehicles off the road.
“That’s the first thing,” Miller said.
He said a person involved in a crash should not admit fault at the scene of the crash.
“A lot of times, there’s a lot of emotions involved,” Miller said.
The best thing to do is stick to the facts and answer questions from police as truthfully as possible.
If a crash is minor and involves two vehicles, the drivers should exchange information. Miller said they should exchange names, addresses, insurance companies and policy numbers.
If a crash takes place at night and in an unfamiliar location, and the vehicle is unable to be driven or may be unsafe to drive, Miller said calling emergency services is the best option.
“911 is the safest bet,” Miller said.
If the vehicle has to be towed, find out where the vehicle is being towed or instruct the driver where you want your car taken. Drivers can get their vehicles towed directly to a shop of their choice.
Miller advised drivers to carry information on a shop they want their vehicle to go to if it is damaged in an accident.
“An insurance company cannot tell you where your vehicle must be repaired,” Miller said.
He said it would be wise for drivers to shop around for a repair shop in advance. He said a good shop likely would show potential customers around.
“Any shop worth their salt should be willing to help you out,” Miller said.
Although people may shop around, Miller said because of the way insurance companies work these days, there is not usually major price differences between shops.
He also said drivers can contact a repair shop directly, have the vehicle towed there and let the shop deal with the insurance company.
“They can help guide the person through the claims process,” Miller said.
In Pennsylvania, Miller said many insurance companies have relationships called direct repair programs, or DRPs, with repair shops. He said this is similar to health insurance companies having in-network care providers.
“That really speeds up the process,” Miller said.
He said many insurance companies have cell phone apps that can assist drivers following a crash.
Generally, he said, the claims process should not take longer than 48 hours.
If the vehicle is being towed, he said the owner should take a quick walk around the car to get a good idea of the damage.
“Do a walk-around,” Miller said, noting towing companies rarely cause additional damage to vehicles.
When shops write an appraisal or an estimate, they only can write for damage that they can see.
“We have to be able to touch it or feel it,” Miller said.
Any other damage creates what is called a “supplement.” Miller said there is a supplement 90 percent of the time, and it gets added on at the end and is paid for by the insurance company.
He said people should check their insurance policies. Often times, policies do not include rental car coverage or say that aftermarket or used parts should be used in repairs rather than new parts.
“Reviewing the policy definitely is wise,” Miller said.