So you've had an accident...
...Now What???

Understanding the claims process

Picture this... you're sitting at a red light; minding your own business, patiently waiting for the light to change like the Excellent driver that  you are...and then...WHAM!!! BOOM!!!  You think to yourself: "What the Heck was That???!!!  An earthquake???  An asteroid???  Aliens???"...  
As all these crazy thoughts go racing through your head like Dale Earnhardt & Richard Petty in a NASCAR Winston Cup Race; you take a few deep breaths to slow the jack-hammering of your heart, wiggle your fingers and toes to make sure everything is still in proper working order, curse quietly under your breath at your nerves that seem to be taking their sweet time calming back down to "normal",
take a look around... and realize you're poor car has just been walloped by the car behind you...
Now What???



All humor aside, accidents can be a scary experience for all people everywhere and the aforementioned synopsis is just one of many possible scenarios that can damage the (alleged) second biggest investment a person makes in their lifetime.  Perhaps someone failed to stop at an intersection or backed into your car in a parking lot...Whatever the cause of the damages, there is a process to get through before your vehicle is repaired and returned to you as good as new.  Since most people don't make it a point of getting into accidents on a daily basis (one can hope anyway), there is often a lot of confusion as to what comes after the impact.  Since we believe an informed customer is a happy customer, we have put together a rough general outline to help guide you through the process.

First thing's first, once the initial shock has worn off and you're sure you and any passengers you may have are okay, make sure the driver of the other car and any passengers they may have are okay.  Even if everyone involved is alright, it is always a wise decision to call the police out to the scene for official documentation of the incident.  We have heard countless times over the years how a customer "didn't want to call the police because they felt so bad for the other party on account of they were so nice" at the scene of the accident...only to get the proverbial "short end of the stick" afterwards.  It is better to "cover the bases" and have a police report that ends up being not needed than the other way around.  

Survey your surroundings and determine if you're safe to stay where the impact occured or if there is a nearby spot that may be better to move to.  Either way, it is a good idea to take at least a few photos to document the initial point of impact.  Be sure to obtain a photo of the other vehicle's license plate number ("just in case") and try to have at least one photo that includes the driver of the other vehicle so they can not "change their tune" later on or try to claim that they weren't involved in the accident.  Be cautious and alert in doing so.

Once in a safe area, take more photos if needed and exchange information (name, phone number, address, e-mail, insurance company/policy number, and the year/make/model & plate number of the other vehicle involved).  Note the time and location of the impact.  Make sure to get the information of any passengers involved as well.  (Back to that whole "better to have it and not need it than the other way around" thing.) The more information you have, the better.

After the inital hullabaloo is done and you've all gone on your merry ways, the next thing on your "To-Do" list (as if it isn't long enough already) is to contact the insurance company.  Do NOT wait for the other driver to contact their insurance company or for the company to contact you.  You most definitely want to be proactive in getting the ball rolling.  They are going to need all the details (usually referred to as "facts of loss").  Date, time, location, your information, your vehicle's information, the area(s) damaged on your vehicle, an account of what happened, the other driver's information, and the information of any passengers/witnesses involved.  The insurance company will then reach out to the other parties involved to obtain their accounts of the incident.    

While the insurance company is gathering all the information that they need, it is generally wise to obtain at least one estimate from a reputable repair facility.  Ask them to take photos of the damages as well.  This is a benficial step for a few reasons: 1) The repair professional that is looking over your vehicle may catch damages that you may have missed or not have known to look for. 2) You will have additional objective third-party documentation of the damage done to your vehicle. 3) You'll have an educated idea of what it is that you are working with overall in regards to costs and time-frame for the repairs to your vehicle.  4) The shop can assist in submitting the estimate and photos to the insurance company on your behalf (be sure to have your claim number and adjuster/insurance contact info).   

Confirm that the insurance company has officially accepted responsibility (often referred to as "liability") for the repairs BEFORE scheduling the repairs to your vehicle and/or getting in a rental.  Quite often, an insurance company will provide their own estimate after A.) requesting a shop estimate and photos, B.) sending a field estimator out to look at the vehicle, or C.) requesting you to upload photos through a phone app while the liability is still being investigated.  Having this information is sometimes necessary to help verify the facts of loss.  This does NOT imply that they have accepted liability for the repairs.  It is simply for documentation.  If repairs are begun and/or a rental vehicle is taken out before liability has been officially accepted, then all the charges will become your responsibility-even though you didn't hit yourself.

Once you are positive that you have the insurance company's official "go ahead" to schedule repairs, contact the shop of your choice.  They will need a copy of the approved insurance estimate.  Any parts needed are procured before bringing the vehicle in for repairs.  This ensures that all approved parts are sourced from the appropriate vendors; as well as helps to alleviate any differences that can cause delays during the repair process.  Let the insurance company and/or the repair facility know if you will be in need of a rental vehicle while yours is being repaired.  This will help to ensure a rental vehicle is available when you need it, as well as get the necessary billing arranged before pick up.  (SIDE NOTE: All rental facilities will need to see your driver's license.  They will also request a credit or debit card for the security deposit...even though the billing is going to the insurance company.  Most rental facilities do not require a customer to return the vehicle to the same location/branch they picked it up from, so the security deposit is their way of "linking" you to the car. )

The final step is to drop off your vehicle for repairs and wait for it to be returned to you as good as new.  


​​ SUMMARY:

1.) Make sure everyone is okay.
2.) Contact the police.
3.) Take a few photos to document the initial point of impact.                   If already in a safe place to do so, continue to document the               damages.  If not, move to a safer place and then take                           additional photos.
4.) Exchange information:
      *Name
      *Phone number
      *Address
      *E-mail
      *Insurance company & Policy number
      *Year/Make/Model & License Plate number of the other vehicle
      *Note the date, time & location of the accident 
5.) Contact the insurance company and file the claim.
6.) Get an estimate and have photos taken from a reputable repair           facility.
7.) Once approved, schedule your vehicle for repairs.



Below are some helpful links to Illinois requirements regarding accidents:

https://www.dmv.org/il-illinois/accident-guide/

https://www.dmv.com/il/illinois/auto-accidents