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Ask Mechanic Shop Femme: What Should I Do If I Get Into an Accident During COVID-19?

Illustration for article titled Ask Mechanic Shop Femme: What Should I Do If I Get Into an Accident During COVID-19?
Image: Matt Chesin (Unsplash)
Mechanic Shop FemmeChaya Milchtein is an automotive educator, writer, and speaker. She'll be here every other week answering all your car questions. Need to know what engine oil you need? She's got you covered. Wondering what gas your car really needs? She has an answer. Let's untangle cars together.

Getting into a car accident during the best of times is a headache but right now, it can feel like another thing in a load of crap the world has dealt to us. COVID-19 brings with it complications to an already complicated process. Here are some steps to take to simplify the process to be taken if no one is injured. Remember, significant injuries take precedence over standard operation when you’re in an accident.

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Take Photos

Getting photos of the scene of the accident can help the insurance companies in determining the cause. It can also serve you by having the information on the second vehicle in photographic form including make, model, and license plate. These photos will likely need to be sent to the insurance company once you get to that point in the process.

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Illustration for article titled Ask Mechanic Shop Femme: What Should I Do If I Get Into an Accident During COVID-19?
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Maintain a Social Distance of at Least 6ft

Social distancing requirements still apply even in the case of a car accident. They are for your own safety. Ask the driver to text you their license and insurance info as you do the same. If the police are on scene they may capture the info as well and include it in the police report you’ll get.

Is the car safe to drive?

Once you have all the information you need to determine if the car feels safe to drive. If the car is safe to drive, you can go home and decide what you want to do from there.

If only minor scratches on plastic surfaces exist, you might want to just try some touch up paint instead of fixing it up depending on the age and condition of the car. If you bumper is hanging off but could be secured and it feels safe, a bungee cord could do the job for now.

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If not, the car may have to be towed to the city lot or collision shop of your choice depending on the local regulations. Call a family member for pick up if possible to avoid close quarters with people and braking social distancing rules.

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Decide When to Do Repairs

Once you are safely home it’s time to determine the extent of damage. Can all the doors close? Are the headlight and taillights operations? Any fluids leaking? How about lights on the dashboard? If any of these things are present, it might not be something you want to wait on if you need to continue driving your car during the pandemic.

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Use your best judgement. If the bumper is scraped or some light cosmetic damage, you might decide to wait it out and tackle the repair when this is all over. If you have a broken headlight, maybe you want to replace it on your own?

Illustration for article titled Ask Mechanic Shop Femme: What Should I Do If I Get Into an Accident During COVID-19?
Image: Sharon McCutcheon (Unsplash)

Do you have the funds for your deductible?

With millions of Americans out of work and businesses closed, you need to figure out if you can afford your deductible. You might not have one but if you do, coming up with $500-$1,000 might not come easily. If repairs can’t wait you may want to ask the insurance company and position body shops if they might be able to cut you a break. They may be able to set up a payment plan, or if you are very lucky, waive the deductible in certain circumstances.

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How is the insurance company handling COVID-19?

Even if you were in an accident before and think you know the procedures, ask the adjuster before you proceed. While before, an adjuster may have come to YOU, now they may want you to email them photos of the car. If they required an estimate before repairs, they may be able to offer you a more express option to avoid extended exposure to the public. Save yourself the hassle by asking the adjuster what the process is and how to help the repairs go as smoothly as possible.

Decide Which Shop You Want To Repair The Car

Now is not the time to shop around. Most insurance companies have a network of direct repair shops. The shops in this network have an impeccable record of quality and customer service and are often your best bet when it comes to choosing a shop quickly. The direct repair shops also tend to have a lot more control on the process, often not needing to have an adjuster present in the shop. This saves you time without your car and more people handling it. Some direct repair shops offer a lifetime warranty. A simple call could get the answers to questions you need.

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Find Out How the Shop is Handling Social Distancing

Illustration for article titled Ask Mechanic Shop Femme: What Should I Do If I Get Into an Accident During COVID-19?
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Some shops are picking up the cars from your house while others have a drop box outside. You’ll want to understand what the smoothest way to drop off your car for repairs. You’ll also want to know how you’ll handle getting the rental car. Wear gloves and a mask if you have one not just to protect yourself but others as well.

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Sanitize Your Car

When the repairs are finished, your final step is to ensure your safety. Between the estimator, detailers, body technician and painter at least four people have handled your car. Don’t forget to sanitize all areas including radio controls, steering wheel, door handles and shifter.

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Chaya Milchtein is an automotive educator, freelance writer, and empowerment speaker who's made it her mission to engage and empower people in her community and beyond.

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