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What Do I Do If I’m in a Car Accident? (A Guide to Fender Benders)

According to, an accident is an unfortunate incident that happens unexpectedly and unintentionally, typically resulting in damage or injury.

And when the unfortunate, unexpected, and unintentional happens, we’re left feeling uncertain and unprepared.

What do we do next? Who do I need to call? What information do I need? 

Questions swirl around in our heads.

Accidents are not our norm. Not something we deal with every day. So it’s no wonder that we don’t always have clarity about what steps we need to take.

As an insurance agent, I’m all too familiar with accidents and often talk with my clients on the phone right after they’ve been in a fender bender. After a few minutes on the phone, I can walk them through what they need to do and what they can expect.

But why wait until you’re in an accident? Why not have a plan in place before an accident happens?

To help you feel more prepared, I’ve outlined the information you need to know if you’re in an accident and the steps you need to take. Here’s a look at:

  1. Who do you need to call if you’re involved in an auto accident?
  2. What should you do if your vehicle is not driveable after an auto accident?
  3. What should you do if your car is driveable after an auto accident? 
  4. Is it a good idea to seek medical attention after every auto accident?
  5. Will your insurance cover a rental car if your car is not driveable after an accident?


1. Who do you need to call if you’re involved in an auto accident?

If anyone is injured or if any of the vehicles is not driveable, you need to call 911 first. By calling 911, you’ll make sure that the police are notified and that an ambulance will be dispatched to the accident site. 

After that important call, we recommend calling your insurance agent if the accident is during the workday. Your agent will help you navigate communication with the insurance company.

Your agent should also review your coverages so you know what coverage your policy offers for towing. Your policy will outline how far the vehicle can be towed without you being charged extra. 

Because your agent has experience with auto accidents, they can reassure you of the process and outline what to expect. Your insurance agent should support you when you have an accident.

If you have an accident outside of the workweek, you’ll need to call the number listed on your insurance card. You will speak with a representative directly from your insurance company. This representative will help you start the ball rolling with your insurance claim.

Then, on Monday, you’ll want to check in with your insurance agent so that they can help you throughout your claims experience.


2.  What should you do if your vehicle is not driveable after an auto accident?

If your vehicle is not driveable, the police generally take care of getting a tow truck to remove your vehicle from the accident scene.

When Your Vehicle Is Towed

If your car is not driveable, your vehicle will be towed to a nearby auto body shop. 

You can, however, specify that your car is taken to a body shop of your choosing. You can request a body shop if you prefer. 

However, you should note that you may have to pay extra to have it taken to your preferred mechanic. 

Your auto insurance policy will only pay to have it towed within a particular radius of the accident. After that, you’re responsible for paying for any extra miles the car is towed.

Before the tow truck removes your vehicle, you should gather up any valuables from your car. If your car is totaled, you will have the opportunity later to clean out your vehicle thoroughly. 

However, it’s best to get any personal items that you value from the car before it is towed.

Working with the Adjuster

The insurance company will send an adjuster to the body shop to evaluate your vehicle. The adjuster will determine if your car is repairable or if the insurance company wants to “total” your vehicle, 

The adjuster should examine your car within two or three days of your accident. 

If Your Vehicle Is Totaled

If your vehicle is “totaled,” you’ll have a few days to remove any personal belongings in your vehicle. 

The insurance company will also need your vehicle’s title. If you own your car outright, you must sign the title over to the insurance company.

If a bank or lender holds the title, they will release the title to the insurance company once they receive payment for the vehicle.  

If you don’t want your vehicle to be totaled, the insurance company may allow you to buy it from them at a discounted rate. (Occasionally, someone may want to keep a totaled vehicle for sentimental reasons, make the repairs themselves, or donate the vehicle to a charity or school like a vocational school.)

Getting Paid for Your Totaled Vehicle

Once your vehicle has been totaled, the insurance company will send you a check for your car within a week to ten days.

If you don’t own your car outright but have a loan, the insurance company will make the check payable to both you and your bank or lender.


3. What should you do if your vehicle is driveable after an auto accident? 

If your vehicle is driveable after an accident, the police will not likely come to file a report.  Because of this, it is crucial that you thoroughly document the accident.

Exchange Information

You will need to exchange your information with anyone else involved in the accident. You will need to collect their address, phone number, insurance information, and vehicle information.

You’ll also need to document the location and time of the accident and the weather conditions. Take note of any adverse conditions like rain, snow, sleet, fog, etc.

You will also need to document damage to your car or other vehicles. Write down where there is damage to the cars. Take photos of all the cars.  

If there are witnesses to the accident, get their names and numbers as well. The insurance companies may need to speak with them.

Informing Your Insurance Company

At Baily Insurance, we always recommend calling your insurance agent to discuss the next steps before letting your insurance company know that you’ve had an accident. 

Our agents act as a liaison between our clients and the insurance company. 

If your accident is on the weekend or during the evening, you will need to call the insurance company directly to let them know about your accident. You can find your insurance company’s number on your insurance card. 

Working with the Adjuster

Once your insurance company has been informed, they will dispatch an adjuster to inspect the damage to your vehicle. 

The adjuster will schedule a time and place to look at your car. You can request that they come to your home, work, or other location that works best for you.

The adjuster will estimate what it will cost to repair your car. You can take your vehicle to the body shop or mechanic of your choosing. 

Most insurance companies have repair shops that they prefer. If you opt for those shops, you’ll likely have a warranty on the work done to your vehicle.

The insurance company will either cut you a check to pay the garage. They may, however, make the check payable directly to the garage.

If you have a loan on your vehicle, the check will be made payable to you and the loan institution.


4. Do you always need medical attention after an auto accident?

One common question my customers ask is, “Do I need to go to the emergency room and get checked out?”

Get checked out if you have any doubts or questions about your medical well-being!

Often, after an accident, adrenaline can mask pain. You may not “feel” injured right after your accident, even though you are.

If an ambulance comes to the accident scene, let them look you over. They will file a report that you can access if you need further treatment days or weeks after your accident.

If you feel like you want to have a medical professional examine you after an accident, don’t hesitate to go to the ER, Urgent Care, or your primary care doctor. 

Your medical coverage on your auto insurance policy will be used for your treatments resulting from a car accident. This medical coverage is always the primary insurance covering you after an accident.

Even if your accident is someone else’s fault, your auto insurance policy’s medical coverage will be used first. Your medical bills are submitted to the other insured’s auto insurance medical coverage only after your medical coverage pays out to the limit.

If you are at fault for the accident, and you reach the limit on your auto policy’s medical coverage, your personal health insurance will kick in to cover your medical costs.

So how much medical coverage do you need to carry on your auto insurance policy in Pennsylvania? According to the law, Pennsylvania only requires that you have a $5,000 limit. 

Many clients increase their medical liability coverage to $10,000 or even $100,000 since medical bills can quickly add up after an accident.

You can even purchase extraordinary medical liability coverage for up to $1,000,000. 


5. Will your insurance cover a rental car if your car is not driveable after an accident?

Your insurance policy may cover a rental car if your car is not driveable after an accident. Rental car coverage is not standard on a policy. You have to pay a little extra to have this added to your policy.

If you’re not sure if you have rental coverage, a quick call to your insurance agent can answer that question.  Your insurance agent can review your policy, but they can not assign a rental car for you.

Once your claim is filed with your insurance company, your adjuster will help you arrange your rental vehicle. They will find a rental company located close to you.

Your insurance company will pay the rental car company directly. 

If you did not purchase rental coverage when you bought your insurance policy, you will be on your own in terms of a rental. You will have to pay the expense out of your pocket.


Are You Looking for a Trusted Insurance Advisor?

Are you looking for an insurance agent to help you with your insurance needs? Do you feel confident that your current insurance program is designed with all the protection you need and want?

For many, insurance is confusing. Many people have questions about what they are buying and aren’t sure they’ll be covered if something happens. 

At Baily Insurance Agency, we do more than sell insurance. We strive to serve our clients with integrity. For us, insurance is more than a paycheck; it’s an opportunity to help others make important decisions that can have enormous consequences.

If you are looking for an insurance agent to advise you and assist you with your insurance needs or problems, please reach out to our team. Our team partners with our clients, working together to ensure that they have the protection they need for the things that matter most.

Let us know that you’d like to start this conversation by filling out the form below or calling us at 724-627-6121. We’re looking forward to hearing from you!


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