4 Steps to Do After a Vehicle Accident

WHN TIP – Create An “Accident File”: Make an “accident file” for all of your notes, contact information, messages and other pertinent information. This can be an envelope, file folder, binder or online — whatever works best for you.

WHN TIP – Advice from Experts: Listen to this podcast for more tips on what to do after a car accident!

  1. Write down exactly what happened. Include all of the information you and witnesses gathered, and the names and contact numbers of the people you spoke with. File this in your accident file.
  2. Document all conversations including the following:
    • Date and time of the phone call
    • Full name of the person you called or who called you (insurance agent, mechanic, police officers, doctor, attorney, etc).
    • List of the items and decisions discussed
    • Next steps to be taken, deadline for completion and who is responsible
    • Your claim number (provided by your insurance company)
  3. Make copies of all your documents and receipts. Police, lawyers and insurance companies may request copies. DON’T give away your last copy!
  4. If needed, find another mode of transportation until your vehicle or bike has been repaired or you get a new one.
    • Ask your agent if your policy covers the cost of a rental car while your vehicle/bike/motorcycle is being repaired. If so, ask the allowed time of the car rental (days, weeks, etc.) and what rental car agencies will be compatible with your policy coverage. Read our article Renting a Car for more.

WHN TIP – Learn About Public Transit: New to the bus/train system? Call the customer service line where operators can address the questions and concerns of first-time riders.

Have Insurance?

WHN TIP – Provide the Info ASAP! As soon as possible, provide your insurance company with copies of all requested documents. Note what you sent, where and when you sent it. Keep copies of what you sent for your files.

  1. When you get home or immediately after the accident, phone (or have a family member or friend phone) your insurance agent. Do this as soon as possible even if you’re far from home and even if someone else caused the accident.
  2. Have the following items ready:
    Your car/bike/motorcycle insurance policy number
    Your police report/case number
    Your accident file with detailed information about the accident
    The address and phone number of the place where your car/bike/motorcycle is currently located (body shop, tow truck company, home, work, etc.)
  3. Your agent will issue you a claim number.
  4. Ask what forms or documents will be needed to support your claim. These can include:
    a “proof of loss” form
    documents relating to your claim: medical expenses, lost wages, repair bills/receipts
    a copy of the police report with its case number
  5. Ask your agent what happens next:
    When (date/time) will an insurance company rep assess the damage?
    What is his/her contact information: telephone and email?
    What is the reimbursement process — what items/expenses could be covered?
  6. Keep records of all expenses you incur as a result of an accident — whether or not they are reimbursable under your policy.
  7. Read your insurance policy. The process will be easier to navigate if you know the details of your coverage. Check your policy for specifics and document every action you take.

WHN TIP – Make Copies of Vehicle Receipts: Just got a maintenance check? New tires? If you have the receipts, give those to your agent. You might be reimbursed for recent maintenance costs, depending on your policy.

Car, Bike or Motorcycle Repairs

  1. Do not have your vehicle or bike repaired until an attorney or a representative from your insurance agency has inspected the damages.
  2. Get an estimate for full repairs and replacement of all damage from the repair shop recommended by your insurance company. You may also get your own estimate, but your insurance company must approve it.
  3. Keep the receipts and bids and record the information in your accident file.

WHN TIP – What Does “Totaled” Mean? If the total cost to repair your car, bike or motorcycle exceeds a certain percentage of the insurance company’s estimates of its worth, your car or bike is considered a total loss or “totaled”. Instead of covering the cost of repairs, the insurance company will pay you the car or bike’s actual cash value, minus any deductible you have with your coverage.

Don’t Have Insurance?

  1. Keep the police case number with you at all times.
  2. Consider another mode of transportation until yours has been repaired
    or you get a new vehicle or bike.
  3. Renting a car? Read our article Renting a Car for tips.

Car, Bike or Motorcycle Repairs

  • With no insurance, repairing your car or bike is up to you.
  • If you retain an attorney, do not have your car repaired until the attorney inspects the damages. Confirm next steps with your attorney.
  • Get an estimate for full repairs and replacement of all damage, etc. from the repair shop you choose, or that you and your attorney agree upon.
  • Keep the receipts. All of this information should be recorded in your accident file.

Thank You …

A special thank you to the industry professionals, lawyers, insurance agents, first responders and people who gave us their time, insight and real-life advice.