What Happens When I Get in an Accident: Comprehensive Guide

Getting into an accident is something we hope never happens, but can be an unpredictable event. It can cause a lot of issues and stress, and can be an overwhelming experience. One of the best things you can do is know what needs to happen, and what will happen. This will allow you to plan accordingly, which is necessary in today’s busy and face-paced world. In this blog, we will help to walk you through the steps you need to follow, and how Heritage Collision & Auto Body can help you.


1. Stay Calm and Assess the Situation

The first thing you need to do is stay as calm as you can. This will ensure safety for you and others. Check yourself for injuries and then check on others in the car with you, or anyone else who may have been involved with the collision. If any injuries are present, be sure to call emergency services. The next thing you should try to do is move your vehicle off to the side of the road to prevent any further accidents.

2. Document the Scene / Exchange Information

One of the most vital things you can do is document the scene. You can use your phone’s camera to take photos of the accident scene. Be sure to include the vehicle’s damage, skid marks, road conditions, and any traffic signs or signals in the area. These pictures can be used for a few reasons, but the biggest one is for insurance claims and potential legal purposes.

You will also need to exchange information if there is another vehicle involved in the accident. Gather details such as names, addresses, phone numbers, drivers license numbers, license plates numbers, and insurance information.

3. Who to Contact Now?

There may be two separate places you need to contact now. The first will be law enforcement, if necessary. Depending on the severity of the accident, and your jurisdiction’s rules, you may need to contact the police to file an accident report. This is never a bad idea, as it can be essential for insurance claims and potential legal actions.

You will also need to contact your insurance company about the accident, as soon as possible. Provide them with accurate details and any photos you took of the scene.

4. Picking an Auto Body Shop to Tow your Car

One of the biggest misconceptions about an insurance claim is that the company requires you to send your vehicle to one of their selected shops. That is NOT true in Pennsylvania. You, as an individual can select whatever auto body shop you prefer to have your vehicle towed to. This way, you can ensure that you are getting the care for your car that you want.

Here at Heritage Collision & Auto Body, we work with ALL insurance companies, as well as ALL makes and models. When you have your vehicle brought in or towed to us, we will work closely with your insurance to make the best decision for your vehicle.

5. Getting an Estimate

Once your car has made it to Heritage, we perform an estimate. What this means is that we take a thorough look around the car and begin to estimate the cost of repairs. We will then come to an estimated cost to fix the vehicle, and will relay this information to your insurance company.

One of two things can happen here. The first one is that the insurance company decides to total the car. The reason insurance will total a vehicle is because the cost of the repair required outweighs what the vehicle is worth. An example would be that if a car is worth $9,000, and the repairs will cost $6,000, the insurance company will most likely total the vehicle. If the cost of repair is in the ballpark of 60% – 80% of what the car is worth, it will typically be totaled. The second thing that would happen is that insurance approves of the estimate and Heritage is given the go ahead to start ordering parts.

6. Ordering Parts

Once Heritage gets the go ahead to start making repairs to the vehicle, we begin working right away. Because we did the estimate, we have a good understanding of the work that will be done. We will order parts as quickly as possible, as they can take quite some time to be delivered.

7. Vehicle Repair Starts

Once the parts arrive at the shop, Heritage starts the process of repairing your vehicle. Typically that will begin with a tear down of the damaged parts, and any surrounding parts that need to be removed to get access to the repair area. While your vehicle is torn down, we will also do a very thorough inspection of any underlying damage that may have occurred and wasn’t able to be seen during the original estimate. This is known as a supplement, or supplemental damage.

Some common repairs that Heritage performs can include, but are not limited to:

  • Front & Rear Bumpers
  • Fenders
  • Doors
  • Hoods
  • Truck Bed Sides

Here is a summarized example of our typical repair process:

Order new parts → Take off damaged & surrounding parts → Test fit new parts →
New parts go through refinishing process → New parts are installed onto vehicle

A lot of work will go into vehicle repairs, and every situation is different and circumstantial.

8. Vehicle Gets Post-Diagnostic Scan / Test Driven / Detailed

One thing that Heritage prides themselves on is their attention to detail. There is a diagnostic system utilized to scan and read the computer system in the vehicle. This is done to see if there is any internal damage caused by the collision. Heritage scans the vehicle once it arrives at the shop, and also once they are finished to check the work that they did. Next, Heritage test drives the vehicle to ensure that there was nothing missed, as a test drive may trigger something that was missed originally. Once the test drive is completed, the vehicle is scanned one last time to ensure that the shop did everything that was needed. Heritage will also take the time to do a simple detail of the vehicle, at no charge to you. We try our best to “leave it better than we found it.”

9. Customer Pick-Up

Now it is time to pick up your vehicle! You will receive a call from Heritage informing you that the work is complete and your vehicle is ready to go!

As mentioned earlier, a lot of work will go into vehicle repairs and every situation is different. All insurance companies handle claims differently, vehicle makes and models vary, some parts take longer to come in, etc. With so many variants, one thing is for sure and that is that Heritage Collision & Auto Body does their best to repair your vehicle to pre-accident condition and get you back on the road!


If you or someone you know has been in an accident, contact us to see how we can help.