Steps in the Collision Repair Process

If you haven’t been in an accident before, the process, from collision to paid and repaired vehicle, can seem confusing. We’ve put together a simple list to help un-complicate the process for you.

The Accident

At the accident, make sure you do the following:

 

 

● Take photos of the scene, preferably before any of the vehicles have moved. If possible, you should clear the road soon after.
● Make sure everyone is okay. Call an ambulance.
● Exchange contact and insurance information with the other driver. This includes name, address, phone number, email address, insurance name and policy, etc.
● Contact the police. Get witness contact information and statements – the police may do this.
● Give your insurance company an unbiased account of what happened.

Towing

If your car is badly damaged, it may not be drivable after the accident. If you need a tow, it saves time and money to already have a repair shop selected. Remember – you don’t have to go to the shop your insurance company suggests! They are obligated to work with any repair shop of your choosing.

Estimates

An estimate will give you an approximate cost for repairs to your vehicle. Your insurance company may decide that your car is totaled if the cost of repairs is more than the value of the vehicle. An estimate shouldn’t take long, and you shouldn’t need an appointment.

Repair Appointment

Once you, the repair shop, and the insurance company have agreed on repairs, you can schedule a repair appointment at the shop of your choosing. You’ll have to sign a form to authorize the repairs, and you may owe your insurance company a deductible depending on your policy.

The cost of repairs will depend on the insurance policy you have. Damages caused in the accident should be covered by a collision policy. If you’re in a state that assigns fault and the accident was your fault, you will need collision coverage to cover the cost of your vehicle and not just the other vehicle. If the accident wasn’t your fault, the other party’s insurance company should pay for your repairs. If their insurance doesn’t cover enough, or if the other party doesn’t have coverage, you’ll need to pay out of pocket or have an uninsured/underinsured motorist package included in your policy. Check with your insurance company if you aren’t sure. Your insurance policy may also cover a rental car during repairs, but it depends on the policy you have.

Car Pick-Up

Don’t be afraid to ask questions about your repair. When you pick up your car, it should be in the same condition it was in prior to the accident.

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The Cost of Repainting a Vehicle after a Collision

After a collision, your car may have suffered dents and scratches, among other things. When it’s been put back together and runs like new, does it look like new? At the very least, does it look (and run) like it did before the accident?

If the answer is no, it may be due to the paint job. Although your car can run safely without a proper paint job, it can be annoying to look at, and it can lead to a faster buildup of rust when the paint isn’t applied properly.

Estimates and Totaled Vehicles

When you take your vehicle to the repair shop, the first thing they’ll do is look at the damage and give you an estimate as to what it will cost to complete all repairs. Estimates aren’t always 100 percent accurate, which is why they’re called estimates, but they should include the cost of repainting the vehicle.

If the cost of the repairs is more than the value of the vehicle, it may be considered totaled. That means that if the cost, including the paint job, of returning the vehicle to its pre-accident condition is higher than its value, your insurance company may recommend not repairing it.

What does insurance pay for?

As always, your insurance company will pay for damage that is covered in your insurance policy, so it’s important to understand your policy. However, the following may give you an idea of what insurance will pay for.

If you want to have your vehicle repainted due to general wear and tear, rust, or peeling, it is unlikely that your insurance will pay for it.

If you are in an at-fault accident and you have collision coverage, your insurance company will likely pay for exterior paint. This may only cover the areas that were damaged, and not the entire vehicle.

If you are not at fault in an accident, the other party’s insurance carrier should pay for damage. If they are not insured or are underinsured, you can either take them to court, pay it yourself, or if you have uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage, that portion of your policy may cover the cost of a paint job.

If your paint is damaged due to non-collision incidents, like weather damage or vandalism, your insurance company may pay for a paint job under a comprehensive package if you included it in your policy.

What is the average cost of repainting a vehicle?

Repainting a vehicle isn’t cheap, especially if you want it done well. Averages range from hundreds to thousands of dollars, so it can significantly change the cost of an estimate

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What to do if Your Car Floods

Spring is here, water levels are rising, and more vehicles, pedestrians, and animals are out on the roadways, Whether you live in an area that floods often or you’re involved in an accident that lands your vehicle in a body of water, it’s important to know how to safely use your vehicle following high water.

How much water is too much water?

Generally, if the bottom of the vehicle is splashed, it’s okay. But, when the vehicle is submerged in water deeper than half the height of the tires, it’s time to check for water damage. The lower to the ground your vehicle sits, the more susceptible to water damage it is.

Immediately following submersion…

The best way to remove your vehicle from the water is to tow it – avoid starting a wet or water damaged vehicle.

First, check around the tires for any debris that may be lodged in the wheel well and could damage the vehicle during towing.
Your vehicle is likely repairable if the water didn’t reach the bottom of the doors. If the water reached the bottom of the dashboard many insurance companies will consider it totaled.

Once you’ve removed it from the water…

Vehicles, especially modern vehicles, are equipped with an electrical system, computers, filters, and other systems that may or may not be closed off to water in a flood.

Check fluids – If you notice that the oil or other fluids are at noticeably higher levels than normal, or if there is water obviously in the container or system, it will need to be completely drained and replaced.

Check filters – Your vehicle has filters for a reason, but things like the air and oil filter won’t filter out water, or work correctly if they’re wet.

Check the electrical system – If the engine looks okay to start, start with checking lights, the stereo, windows, and air conditioning. If anything is working incorrectly, there may be electrical damage, which could be dangerous.

Start drying the interior. – Mold can grow quickly on the interior of a vehicle, so let it air out, and if necessary, get a wet-vac or hot air dryer to remove moisture.

Does my insurance cover flood damage?

Flood damage is usually covered if you have comprehensive coverage on your car, but it’s not covered under collision damage. Depending on the policy you have, it may or may not be covered.

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Collision Repair Paint Terms

Basecoat – The basecoat is the first layer of paint, and is usually highly pigmented, or strongly colored. A basecoat/clear is a type of paint system in which the basecoat offers the color, and gloss and durability are provided by an additional coat.

Clear Coat – The clear coat is the top layer of paint which usually has no pigment, or no color. Its durability and gloss are to protect the pigmented layer it covers.

Chip Guard – Usually added to panels that are lower on the body, the chip guard exists to protect these parts of the vehicle from sharp stones.

Coat – A coat is a layer of paint.

Direct Gloss – This is a kind of paint that contains pigment, but requires no top or clear coat. It contains pigment, gloss, and it’s durable on its own.

Enamel – This topcoat is a layer of paint that forms a film during the drying process.

Gloss – Gloss describes how well a painted surface reflects light, like a mirror. The level of gloss can vary depending on the paint.

Masking – Masking is a temporary process where the areas that aren’t being painted are covered to protect them from excess paint.

Pigment – Pigment is what gives paint color. When mixed in, pigment can be mixed to create new colors of paint, but it is always separate from the paint – pigment is insoluble.

Primer – A primer is the first layer in a painting system, and it can be applied to an unpainted surface. Its job is to protect the unpainted surface, called a substrate, and prepare it for the application of paint.

Primer-Sealer – A primer sealer is a combination of a primer and a sealer. It does the job of both: it seals the surface below, usually one that has previously been painted and then sanded off, and it preps the surface for the application of new paint.

Sealer – A sealer is like a primer for previously painted surfaces. It helps to seal in old sanded down paint, and provide a surface adequate for new paint.

Substrate – This is a name for an unpainted surface.

Tint and Blend – This process involves mixing color and paint in attempt to recreate an existing color, and then adding the paint to the surface and blending it to match.

Tinter – Tinter is a colored pigment or paint used to adjust the color of paint so that it matches the goal color.

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Springtime Pedestrians and Cyclists

Spring has arrived, the weather is getting warmer, and that means pedestrians and cyclists are coming out of hibernation and they’re on the streets and sidewalks. It may be wet, which means lower visibility and slicker roads.

In order to prevent or appropriately handle pedestrian and cyclist collisions, keep the following in mind.

Driver Safety Tips

Although pedestrians and cyclists have their own set of safety rules, as a driver, you’re the one who would be held responsible in the case of an accident. So, keep the following list in mind when you’re driving through towns and cities.

● Drive slowly when crossing sidewalks or pulling into our out of driveways. You may cross paths with children or others who have the right of way.

● When turning at an intersection, first check for oncoming traffic, then check for cyclists and pedestrians before you turn.
○ When turning left, it’s especially important to check for oncoming cyclists, and to look to your left for pedestrians.
○ When turning right, be aware of cyclists coming behind you (they should be on your left, but may not always be) and to look for pedestrians crossing at the light.

● Never pass a vehicle that is stopped at a crosswalk; you may not see the pedestrians crossing in front of them.

● If you see a vehicle pulled over or parked on the side of the road, leave enough room for a door to open or a pedestrian to enter or exit the vehicle, just in case they do.

● Keep a safe distance between you and the vehicles around you. Potholes or other road hazards can cause abrupt stopping or turning.

● When parallel parking, check your mirror before opening the door; approaching cyclists may not know you’re about to exit.

● If you can, fold your mirror in, especially on tight streets, when parallel parking so that cyclists have room to get by.

● Avoid distracted driving. Pedestrians and cyclists are already more difficult to see because they’re smaller than vehicles, so it’s up to you to stay focused on the road.

● Follow the speed limit. Driving too fast increases the likelihood that pedestrians and cyclists will misjudge the time it takes you to arrive at a crossing and the likelihood of an accident.

● Always use turn signals when turning or changing lanes so that other vehicles, pedestrians, and cyclists can see where you’re going.

● Always check your blind spot for cyclists.

● Only pass a cyclist when there is an open lane next to you; it is safe to pass a cyclist when it is safe to pass a vehicle.

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Collision Repair Parts Terms

When you’re having your car repaired after a collision, there are bound to be a lot of auto parts related terms thrown around. We’ve put together a list to help you understand some of them that are less common outside of the collision repair world.

Aftermarket Parts – Replacement parts for a vehicle that were not built by the original equipment manufacturer.

Basecoat – This is a layer of highly pigmented paint that goes over the primer and under a clear coat. It provides color, but requires the protection of a clear coat.

Body Filler – A material that is used to fill in dents on car panels.

CAPA – The Certified Automotive Parts Association, located in Washington D.C., exists to manage testing and inspection of auto parts used in collision repair.

Clear Coat  – A top layer of clear paint (it contains no pigment) that protects and covers a pigmented basecoat.

Collision – The loss that occurs when a vehicle hits or is hit by another vehicle or moving object.

Competitive Parts – This is another term used for aftermarket parts.

Ferrous – This describes metal that contains iron.

Filter – A filter removes contaminates from a material. Your vehicle contains many kinds of filters, like an oil filter, a fuel filter, and an air filter.

Finish coat – Another name for a top coat, clear coat, or gloss coat. However it can also be flat, or without gloss.

Frame – The skeleton of the vehicle is called the frame. It is usually made of steel or other strong metals and holds things like the suspension system, the engine, and the body together.

Galvanized – A steel that is coated with zinc is galvanized.

LKQ – Like Kind and Quality describes an auto part that was salvaged from another vehicle – usually another of the same make and model, or one that uses the same exact part.

Panel – The outer parts of a vehicle. The painted surface that you see on a completed vehicle is made of different parts, each of these is called a panel.

Putty – A plastic material used to fill deep holes and wide gaps.

OEM – Original Equipment Manufacturers make auto parts for new cars. If your vehicle is damaged and the part is replaced with an OEM part, it’s being replaced with a piece made by the same place that made the original part.

Substrate – An unpainted and uncoated panel.

Quality Recycled Part – An auto part salvaged from a yard.

Quality Replacement Part – Also called an aftermarket part, this is a new part that was not made by the original equipment manufacturer.

 

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Alignment and Collision

Having poor alignment can lead to a collision, and a collision can lead to poor alignment. There are many other things that can lead to both, but it’s important to understand how to identify, correct, and maintain proper alignment of your vehicle to keep it, and its passengers, safe.

Sometimes, after a collision, your vehicle can suffer damage that doesn’t directly affect alignment, but it can affect things that will rapidly decrease your alignment.

What is alignment?

Alignment, when used in terms of a vehicle, refers to how well the wheels line up with the steering wheel. Simply, poor alignment happens when the steering wheel is straight, but the tires are aimed to one side. There are varying degrees of misalignment depending on how vast the difference in direction is.

What causes poor alignment?

Poor alignment can be caused by many things, from a collision, especially one involving the front end of the vehicle, to a repair involving the parts surrounding steering, tires, suspension, etc. Over time, alignment will vary especially if tires aren’t maintained, roads are bumpy, or the car is accustomed to rough driving.

Why is alignment important?

● With properly aligned tires, it’s easier for the vehicle to navigate any road. You’ll save on gas and repair costs by maintaining alignment.
● Because a car with aligned tires doesn’t work as hard, it uses less gas, saving the environment.
● Tires that are misaligned tend to wear unevenly (uneven tires can also cause misalignment), which means they’ll need to be replaced sooner.
● Misaligned tires make the vehicle harder to steer and control, which can lead to accidents. Alignments make your vehicle much safer to drive.

How to identify alignment issues after a collision

If you’ve recently been in a collision that involved the front end of your vehicle, it’s a good idea to have the alignment checked as you have your vehicle repaired. Look for damage to the following systems as well, because they can cause poor alignment.

● As you drive, does the car pull to one side or the other when the steering wheel is straight? Alignment and steering are directly related.
● Do you hear a squealing noise during slow turns? Your wheel well, brakes, or steering and suspension system may be affected.
● Is your steering wheel off center?
● Does the steering wheel vibrate as you drive?

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Uninsured Motorist

How to Handle a Collision with an Uninsured Driver

Ideally, and according to the law, every driver in the United States would be insured. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Unfortunately, uninsured and underinsured drivers are on the roads, and you have no way of knowing when you’ll come across one.

What is an underinsured driver?

An uninsured driver is one who is on the road without auto insurance. An underinsured driver, however, is one that has insurance, but the limit isn’t high enough to cover the damage caused in an accident.

Every insurance policy comes with a limit to what the insurance company will cover, and individuals can choose the limit they want for their policy. But, if a driver is in an accident with an expensive car or a collision that causes a lot of costly damage, the limit may not be high enough.

How do I handle a collision with an underinsured driver?

The basics of a collision with an underinsured driver are the same as an accident with any other driver.

● Make sure you and your passengers are okay,
● Check on the driver and passengers in the other vehicle,
● If the other driver is leaving the scene, make sure to get as much information from them as possible, including:
○ name,
○ phone number,
○ address,
○ insurance information, and
○ license plate number.
● Call the police and ask if they have any requests before they arrive,
● Request an ambulance,
● Take photos of the scene,
● If possible, move the vehicles out of the way of traffic,
● Wait for the police to arrive and make an accident report,
● Contact your insurance company and your collision repair technician to take care of your car and make a claim.

The main difference between an accident with an underinsured driver and an adequately insured driver is that you’ll need to see if your insurance company will cover the costs that the other driver and his or her insurance company is unable to pay.

Do I have to pay?

Whether or not your insurance company will pay for the costs associated with your accident depend on your insurance policy. Many insurance companies offer uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage, so that when you are in an accident with an underinsured motorist, your policy is intended to cover the costs, up to your limit.

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Collision Insurance Myths

Five Myths to Stop Believing about Collision Insurance

Myth #1: Your insurance company chooses the repair shop you have to use after a collision.

In reality, insurance companies aren’t allowed to tell you where to have your vehicle repaired at any time; you legally have the right to choose where you take your vehicle to be repaired. Insurance companies may have lists of suggested shops, and they may have agreements with some shops, like direct repair options, but you don’t have to choose according to your insurance company’s suggestions.

Myth #2: The insurance company’s estimate is always right.

Both your insurance company and the body shop are likely to perform estimates on your vehicle, and they may not always be the same. Just because the insurance company comes up with a lower number, doesn’t mean they’re right, and it doesn’t mean you’ll be required to cover the difference between their estimate and the actual cost. It’s generally up to your collision repair shop to negotiate with your insurance company.

Myth #3: Comprehensive insurance coverage protects me from everything.

Comprehensive coverage is one kind of insurance coverage that you can include in your insurance policy, but it doesn’t cover everything. Usually, it covers damage that is NOT caused by a collision, like damage from vandalism, a fire, or a tree falling on your car. For coverage of damage caused in a collision, you’ll need collision coverage as part of your policy.

Myth #4: My insurance won’t go up if the accident is not my fault.

This isn’t necessarily true. There is always fault assigned in an accident, so even if it’s considered ‘no fault’ insurance, your rates may be affected if your insurance company has to pay and isn’t reimbursed by the other driver’s insurance company.

Myth #5: Collision coverage pays for damages caused in any accident.

Collision insurance is meant to cover the cost of damage caused to your vehicle caused in an accident that is your fault. If you cause the accident, your liability insurance should cover costs incurred to the other driver. If you don’t have collision coverage, you may be held responsible to cover the cost of damage to your own vehicle if the accident is your fault. If the accident is the fault of the other driver, their insurance is usually responsible for your costs, unless the driver is uninsured or underinsured, in which case they can’t pay, and your own uninsured/underinsured driver coverage should pay.

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How to Stay Safe After a Winter Weather Car Accident

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If you’re in an accident, there are always certain steps you should take to maintain your safety, the safety of others involved, and the safety of other cars that may be approaching the area. But, in the winter, there are several factors that can require a change in the procedure.

● Winter daylight hours are shorter, weather is cloudier and precipitation is likely to impair visibility, so it’s important to make sure that you can be seen.

● Snow, ice, and other messy road conditions can make it hard for cars to stop when they do see you, so it’s important to leave extra space.

Whether you’re waiting for help after an accident or you’re just trying to make sure everyone is okay and clear the road, it’s important to keep the following in mind during a winter car accident.

Stay Calm

No matter when you’re in an accident, it’s important to stay calm. The accident has already happened, and yelling at others isn’t going to change that, and in the winter, it’s extra important to keep safety in mind after an accident.

● It might not be safe to get out of your vehicle, so first, check your surroundings
● Turn on your hazards
● Check yourself for injuries, then check your passengers, and if possible, the passengers of other vehicles

Depending on the severity of the accident, you may be in shock and unaware of your own injuries or your surroundings. Call the authorities, even if you aren’t sure it’s necessary.

Stay Out of the Road

Pay attention to your surroundings. If and when it is safe for you to get out of your vehicle, pay attention. If possible, take photos and document the accident, and stay out of the road. If you can, move your vehicle off the road so that traffic can safely continue past you. Any obstacle in the road, even an accident, has the potential to cause accidents, especially when the roads are slippery and sight is limited.

If you can’t move your vehicle and you can’t get off the road, stay in your vehicle rather than next to it.

Be Seen

If you have them, put up flares, lights, reflectors, or brightly colored cloth to make yourself and your vehicle more visible. Make sure that if you’re around a curve, you place warning lights far enough back that cars can see them as they approach and not just as they hit the curve. Use your hazard lights!

Stay Warm

If you have an emergency kit in your car, now is the time to use it. Stay warm, use your extra blankets and clothes, and stay in the vehicle if possible. If you need to run the engine, make sure your tailpipe isn’t clogged with dirt or snow – it could be after the accident.

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