My first and foremost advice is to go through insurance. I have been involved in two car accidents. In both cases, I was the victim, and in both cases, the parties who hit me did not want to go through insurance. What does that mean anyway?
Well, when you are involved in a car accident, there are some very important things you have to do at the moment (after pulling over to the side and after checking that every party involved is safe, of course). Get their full name, their driver’s license number, the license plate number of the car that hit you, the make, model, year, and color of that same car, their insurance company, their policy number, and their contact information. Note the date, the time, and the place of the accident, and how the accident happened. Camera phones and digital cameras come in handy. Take pictures of the damage on your car, their car, and the overall accident. If there are any witnesses, get their contact information as well. If need be, call the police or 911. At the very least, get their full name, their phone number, and the license plate number of their car. Call your insurance provider that same day and report the accident. This is going through the insurance.
On the first accident I was involved in, a Ford 250 hit my Toyota Corolla. There was a domino effect. I was the first one hit and the two cars in front of me collected damage as well. The driver did not want to go through insurance because he was driving a company truck and did not want to get fired. I was fine with that and so was the second driver hit, but the last driver wanted to go through insurance. So we all went through insurance. An estimator came to my house, took pictures of my car, gave me the name of a possible auto body shop, and left. The insurance took care of the bill and the bill for a rental car.
There is less hassle and headache if you go through the insurance companies and so I will reiterate my advice. Go through insurance.
Not going through insurance means not reporting the accident to them. This means you have to settle everything yourself. Get the same information I wrote about above, even if you’re not going to use it. This is to protect you. If you just get the name and phone number of the driver, he or she could lie to you and you will be stuck either with a damaged car or a humongous bill.
On the second accident, the driver who hit me insisted on not going through insurance. I said fine. The driver suggested that I get two estimates for the damage and he will pay the lower one. I asked if he would like to come with me so he can hear first hand what the estimates were, and he said he could not because he was working. I said fine, and so I spent a whole Saturday afternoon getting estimates. When I told him the lowest one, it was too expensive for him and he arranged to come with me to an auto body shop he knows of to get another estimate. I said fine again even though it means I’m going to have to miss work and that I wasted awhole afternoon.
The estimate at that body shop turned out to be significantly lower than the ones I received, but they needed two days to fix it (as to the ones I went to only needed one afternoon). I agreed to take my car to that shop, but I need a replacement. He said he would give me $50 to rent a car for two days, and told me that it was a fair price. Well it was, but only if I rent a car at the airport. Who’s going to bring me to the airport? I also couldn’t rent a car myself because I wasn’t old enough. None of my family and friends was available. None was willing to leave their credit card number to the car rental. Was the driver willing to do that? After all, he’s paying the bill. No, he wasn’t. I told him the situation and he told me I was giving him headaches. Then he started telling me that he was being fair, and if I call my insurance they would tell me he’s being fair. He also said if I call the police, they would tell me he’s being fair. He then said that he called his insurance and they told him he’s being fair. Plus, he claims that his coworkers and family members say he’s being fair.
Fair? Insurance? Police? Well, if he wanted me to call the insurance in the first place, neither one of us will have headaches. Finally, I told him to give me the cash to pay the bill. He suggested a time and a meeting place and I agreed. He was an hour late in meeting me, and I missed my friend’s graduation because he was late, but at least I got the cash. How long did it take that auto body shop to fix my car? Four days.
Skip the migraine and call your insurance. If you’re too nice of a person like me, I suggest you toughen up. Get a backbone. In any case, when you get estimates, get two to three. If the other party wants more estimates, buckle down. Tell him or her that either they go with the lowest estimate or you’re calling insurace. If you want, call your insurance anyway, and let them know what’s going on. Tell them that you’re trying to settle it without going through the companies, but ask for their advice. You already know my advice: go through insurance.