You’ve Been In An Auto Accident. Now What?
Auto accidents are never fun but they are a societal reality for the foreseeable future. The average person is involved in an automobile accident roughly every 7-10 years depending on the study you look at. It’s a gloomy thought but statistically speaking, it’s only a matter of time. The vast majority of accidents are fender benders and encompass no bodily injury or significant litigation. Here’s a helpful guideline to follow if you are involved in an accident in the near future.
Is everyone ok?
This is the most important question. Vehicles and property can be replaced; people’s health and well-being are what matter most. If you call us to report an accident, the first question we will always ask is “is everyone ok?” Property damage can be sorted out later.
Report your claim.
As soon as you know that everyone is ok, report your claim as soon as possible. This immediately allows the insurance company to set in motion the process that will make you whole. For instance, you will likely need a loaner car. Reporting the claim sooner than later allows the insurance company to get that done for you so you don’t miss a beat. It also allows your vehicle to be repaired or totaled in a timely manner.
Is my car totaled?
This is an important question that too few people ask. The main contributing factors that determine if your car will be totaled are the age of the vehicle, mileage, points of impact, and airbag deployment. If airbags are deployed, the vehicle is often totaled. In short, if the cost to repair your vehicle exceeds the value of the vehicle, your insurance company will deem it totaled.
Clean it out!
Assuming your vehicle is totaled, it is extremely important to clean out your vehicle. We suggest doing this even before it is towed away. Often times people have valuables they forget about in the vehicle and risk them being stolen. Make sure there is nothing in your wrecked vehicle you can’t live without.
What happens to the vehicle after it is totaled?
When your vehicle is determined to be totaled, it will be sent to a salvage yard. There may be some time before the vehicle is picked up and towed, which is a good time to make sure all your personal belongings are out of the vehicle if you haven’t already removed them.
There are situations where your vehicle is towed to a salvage yard right after the accident. In that situation, you will want to reach out to the yard for help recovering your belongings. If your vehicle is towed but your insurance company does not consider it totaled, it may be towed back to you.
What happens if my vehicle is totaled with a remaining loan balance?
Your insurance company will pay off your remaining balance, and the remaining equity goes back to you. If you have negative equity, meaning your loan exceeds the payment amount you’re receiving from your insurance company, the titled owner of the vehicle will need to pay what’s left of the remaining loan amount. This is why Auto Loan/Lease coverage (sometimes referred to as gap insurance) is so important. It covers this leftover amount when your car is totaled, but has a remaining loan amount after your claim payout is applied. Talk to your agent to discuss if you may benefit from gap insurance.
Did you have enough coverage?
Unfortunately, the time people think about their auto insurance policy limits is when it’s too late. Now may be a good time to look up your limits and make sure you and your family are protected in the event of an accident. Remember, state minimum coverages are often not nearly enough to protect you and your assets in the event of an accident.
An auto accident is a jarring time that is full of distractions and headaches. This guide aims to provide some practical steps to make your process less painful. As always, Sean, Amanda, Louis, and the rest of our team are here to serve you.