What to do after a fender bender
Last updated: March 2023
You'll never forget your first fender bender — especially if the car you're driving is the very first one you've owned. But once you get over the initial shock of the accident and make sure everyone involved is OK, it's important that you get the insurance claim process going to avoid any additional hassle.
How to report an accident and file a claim
Knowing what to do at the scene of the accident is an important part of filing a claim and, according to the Insurance Information Institute (III), it can help speed things along when you do. Here are some basic steps to take at the scene:
- Call The Police To Report The Accident And Any Injuries. First, check to see if you or anyone else involved in the accident has any injuries. Call 911 if someone needs medical attention. If no one is injured, you can call the local police to report the accident. The police may send out an officer, or direct you to the station to file a report. Be sure to ask how you can get a copy of the police report (your insurance company will likely need it).
- Exchange Information And Take Notes. Share insurance, contact and vehicle information with any other drivers. And then snap pictures, note accident details and jot down the names and phone numbers of any witnesses. It can also be helpful to take notes about the accident, including details such as what occurred, road conditions and relevant details of the scene. Your notes may be helpful for your insurance provider as they investigate the accident.
- Protect Your Car From Further Damage. Get your car off the road, if possible, or set up flares or reflectors so you are more visible to other drivers, the III says.
- Call Your Insurance Provider As Soon As Possible — Regardless Of Who's At Fault. It's important to contact your insurance provider after an accident, regardless of how minor the accident may have been, says the III. If the other party or their insurance provider calls, your insurer may be at a disadvantage if they are unaware you were involved in an accident. Your insurance provider will ask a few questions, explain what your policy covers and what deductible you'll have to pay. Then, typically, you'll have to submit a claim.
What to expect after you file a claim
Reporting the accident to your insurance provider will get the claim process going. Many companies (like Allstate) have a website where you can monitor the progress of your claim, but here's what you can typically expect:
- Call your insurance company. It is important to notify your insurance company right away so they can set up a claim for you and start the investigation into your accident and damage to your vehicle as soon as possible.
- Get an estimate. You will need to have the cost to repair your vehicle estimated. The insurance company may send an adjusted to look at the damage to your vehicle, or you may need to go to a repair shop or, if available, one the insurer's drive-in locations. Depending on your insurer, you may also be able to submit photos of the damage and then receive an estimate online or by phone.
- Choose a repair facility. If you don't have a shop in mind, you can ask your insurer for a recommendation. But, remember that the choice of a repair shop is ultimately up to you.
- Pay your deductible. You'll have to pay the deductible on your policy before your insurance will kick in for repair costs. But if the other driver was responsible for the accident, your insurer may be able to pursue that party to recover your deductible (state laws vary on how this is done).
An accident is never any fun. And, yes, it can temporarily take the bloom off having a new car. But getting a claim filed promptly and properly can help you get your baby back out on the road quicker, so you can enjoy that new-car feeling again.