By April 10, 2012 Read More →

Are You Prepared For a Car Accident or Break Down?

I know the title to this article might seem a little strange, but I think the subject matter I am going to talk about should be on your priority list. I have been in the auto body, mechanical, storage lot and towing business all my life and many things in this realm are second nature to me but might not be on the minds of many other drivers…and I think it should be for the reasons listed below.

You might have a regular mechanic that you know and trust and can rely upon in a time of need. You might have a regular oil change place that you use and recommend to others who ask where you get your oil changed in your car.  But, do you have a body shop and wrecker service already programmed on your cell phone that you can count on 24 hours a day to help you?

Being a storage lot and wrecker service owner I have seen MANY car accidents and the havoc it plays on the lives of the accident victims.  I can honestly say I have never met anyone who was “prepared” to have a car accident.  Who would be?

From my personal experience car accidents seem to take place at the worst possible time.  The worst possible time of day and night, times of bad weather and times when the driver had something really important to attend to or was supposed to be somewhere at a particular time.  In summary, a car accident is most likely to occur when you least expect it or when you are at your worst to deal with it.

I would like to offer you some suggestions that if the event should ever happen to you.  It might alleviate some of the stress and anxiety associated with a car accident or just an unexpected break down on the side of the road.

1. Find an auto body repair shop NOW even though you don’t need one now.  Go visit their shop, ask for a tour of their facility and ask to see a work in progress vehicle and a finished vehicle to inspect their workmanship.  I loved giving tours of our shop because I knew that potential customer was going to brag about me and my shop to his friends and family…thus more potential customers for me.

Get their contact information, wrecker driver cell phone numbers and after hours phone numbers and leave them in your glove box AND your cell phone.  Make sure you have the physical address you can give to any wrecker driver if their driver is unavailable and you have to leave your car at the scene of the accident.

Make sure you tell the police officer you already have a body shop picked out and want your vehicle towed there. I say this, because you might have to be transported to a hospital and the last thing you want to worry about is where your car was taken.

2. Carry a working good flashlight in your vehicle and check it yearly.  The battery and all lights from your vehicle could be disabled from the accident and you will be thankful you have a light with you to help other people and to warn any other motor vehicle traffic on the road.

3.  Have a camera with you. There is a good chance you will need to work with a police officer and an insurance company to determine who was at fault and whose insurance will pay the claim.  Take as many pictures (or video) of the scene as you can.  I have a disposable camera in my vehicles just for this purpose.

Are there skid marks on the road surface?  Do you see beer cans in the other vehicle? Is there a traffic light or stop sign?  Who was driving the other vehicle? The angle of both vehicles as well as the point of impact on both vehicles will really help you deal with an insurance company that is trying to deny a claim…or worse, they are trying to sue you!

4. Do you have any water with you? I like to keep a gallon container (an antifreeze bottle works great) of just plain tap water with me in my vehicle.  The water can be used to refill an overheated radiator, wash a wound from a  accident until help arrives, I can drink it if I am thirsty, or can be dumped out and the bottle can be used to transport gasoline if I ran out of gas.

I also like to carry a clean towel or clean rags with me. They can be used to stop bleeding and to clean your hands and face. With most car accidents there is a large amount of sharp glass that gets thrown about inside and outside of the vehicle.

How Do you Find an Auto  Body Shop?

1. Contact your auto insurance agent for a recommendation of body shops in your area, then go and visit them in person for your walk through tour.  Your insurance company will be the one paying the shop, so I would want to use a shop that my insurance has a good working relationship with.  Doing this will also help you if there is ever a warranty issue later on down the road, since you took the vehicle to your insurance approved shop your insurance will intervene for you if needed.

2. Ask your friend and neighbors for recommendations – there is an old saying “you will tell 1-2 people about good service you receive but you will tell everyone you know when you get bad service”.  You might not get a recommendation from friends, but you will know which shops to avoid.

You might only have to deal with a body shop once in your life, and the shop knows it as well.  So there can be, ummm let’s say, no real urgency from the repair shop to go out of their way to make your experience as pleasant as possible.

3. Talk to your regular auto mechanic for recommendations. People in the industry have a gut feeling about their competitors and others in the industry. Again, even if you only hear about the “bad” shops that they would not recommend it would be worth your time in asking.

4. Don’t assume the dealership is the best place for your vehicle. The main emphasis of a new car dealer is to sell you a new car!  There are many really good dealerships that run great customer service operations but don’t just assume because they are a dealership that you will get better service or better quality of workmanship from them. I have seen the work of many dealerships, and it was substandard at best.

Dealerships also deal in much higher volume of repairs than that of  some local mom and pop type of repair shops. So you might just be another “number” to them waiting for your car to be repaired like the other 50 cars waiting to be repaired.

Other suggestions that will prove to be helpful

1. Do you have rental car allowance coverage on your car insurance policy? It is not uncommon for a repair to take 30 days from start to finish. Can you do without a vehicle for that long? Rental car allowance is pretty cheap and will be very handy if the need arises.  Tell your repair shop up front you have 30 days of coverage, and if it takes longer to repair than 30 days the SHOP will reimburse you for the additional rental car expenses.

2. After hours storage access – make sure that if your vehicle is towed to a body shop after hours that someone will be there with the wrecker driver to let them and your car into the building or a locked and protected storage lot until the insurance adjuster or you are able to get there. Your vehicle should also be “preserved” with plastic over all broken windows to keep out rain.

Storage lots charge a “preservation fee” which is the time and expense they took to protect the inside of your vehicle while it was in their custody. Your insurance company will pay them this fee, but you should make sure it was actually done.

3. Remove all personal belongings that have value before your vehicle gets removed from the accident scene.  I have been in this business long enough to know what you left behind at the scene might not be there later on.  Once the accident happens, there will be many people looking in and getting inside your vehicle to do their job.  You can’t control human nature, but you can remove the temptation.

4. Be calm and let the system do it’s job.  You or a loved one (or the other driver) might be injured and need immediate medical attention. Stay calm, do not do anything that might get you into  trouble later on. Be careful about moving anyone until professional medical attention arrives unless there is immediate danger in the present condition of that person.

The police, tow truck drivers and medical persons see these accident scenes all day long and they know what to do. You are not any different than the last accident they just attended to so screaming for attention or yelling at them will not get you anywhere…and might actually make things worse for you.

Everything you say and do will most likely be videoed by a police vehicle camera and a microphone on the police officer will record what you say.  I am not a lawyer or giving legal advice, but if you are uncertain of something it might be better to remain quiet until you are certain about what you are going to say.

I know that visiting an auto body repair shop and talking with a wrecker driver was not on your list of things to do this week, but I hope you give real consideration to what I have said. It just might come in real handy one day when you least expect it.

If you have anything to add, please leave a comment below.  Also, please share with Facebook friends and Google +1 if you don’t mind using the buttons at the top of the post. Thank you!


Austin Davis

Posted in: Auto Accidents

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