What should you do if you get into a car accident that was not your fault? This is a true story that happened to a colleague of ours. We changed some details to protect innocent people.
James was out with his friends at a fancy restaurant, and his late model Audi A4 was parked safely by the restaurant’s valet parking. Or so I thought. Over appetizers, he heard the master announce that he was looking for the owner of a black Audi. James excused himself from the table and followed the captain out and around the corner. There he saw a large Ford 350 King Ranch pickup resting on its hood, front end completely wrecked, and an apologetic 19-year-old standing beside the wreckage. He borrowed the truck from his brother and miscalculated the corner, literally driving over James’ car.
1. Police report file
A good move by James during the accident was to call the police. The police report will, in many cases, be all the information the insurance company needs to verify the facts of the accident. Without a police report, receiving a claim payment could require an investigation, more time and definitely more headaches.
The restaurant server had legally parked James’ car, so the fault lies entirely with the driver of the pickup truck that was parked on top of James’ car. What should he do? The total damage was over $6,500, and he needed a rental while his car was repaired.
2. Check with your insurance company to see if your rates will go up
James did what many people would do after an accident – he filed a claim online with his insurance company. He wanted the problem resolved as quickly as possible and thought dealing with his insurance company would speed up the process. But this was a potential mistake that could ultimately cost James if he switched to another car insurance company. This is because on some auto policies, any car accident claim you make, even for a “no-fault” car accident like this one, goes on your record. In the case of auto accident claims that are not your fault, it can be counted as $0 compensation. While some insurance companies won’t raise your premiums after a car accident in which you’re not at fault, some will, which would happen to James, if he switched companies. For this reason, you should speak with your insurance company and ask if these incidents need to be reported. If your company rates these accidents as a claim event, expect auto insurance rates to go up.
3. Get the facts about spare parts
In the case of James, no one could question who was at fault. Other driver liability insurance should cover James’ claim, including the parts and labor needed to repair his Audi, ideally to “pre-collision condition”. Here’s another common mistake people make when navigating what to do after a car accident – choosing the wrong spare parts.
Insurance companies usually offer a lifetime warranty on parts if you choose their preferred body shop. The downside is that your car will be fixed with refurbished parts or aftermarket auto parts, both of which are less desirable than new original equipment manufacturer (OEM) auto parts. OEM auto parts restore your vehicle to the best possible pre-crash condition, although sometimes they don’t come with a lifetime warranty and you may have to pay the price difference between the suggested part and the original OEM part. However, if you can find a good body shop to do the work you want with OEM auto parts, you can sometimes get a lifetime warranty.
Consider the differences:
- Reconditioned auto parts are usually salvaged from vehicles involved in another accident.
- Aftermarket auto parts are third party made imitations.
- OEM auto parts are manufactured specifically for the make and model of your vehicle.
4. You have options after a car accident
The bottom line is that the other party’s insurance company will try to convince you to choose their cheapest deal. But you do have options if you’re willing to do some of the legal work yourself. Try not to file auto accident claims with your insurance company first if you are not at fault. Find a good mechanic, insist on OEM auto parts, and get a good warranty. This way, your car will not suffer too much in the event of a car accident in which you are not at fault.