Having your car towed away is an easy decision following a severe accident, but what should you do after a minor collision? If the impact hasn't disabled your vehicle, then it can be tempting to drive away and save the immediate costs of a tow. Fender benders can be frustrating, especially when a relatively small amount of damage forces you to lose hours from your day. Even if a collision seems minor, however, taking the right steps to evaluate the damage after an accident is essential both for your safety and to avoid causing additional damage to your vehicle. Follow these tips to ensure that your accident doesn't lead to even costlier problems in the future.
Always Get a Police Report
Police reports are vital for even very minor accidents. Do not hesitate to call 911 in any case where it appears that an accident has resulted in injuries. In other cases, use the non-emergency police hotline to report the incident. Only take pictures of the accident if it is safe to leave your car to do so. Unless your car has been disabled, never stop on the highway or directly in the flow of traffic. Instead, move your vehicle to a safe location on the side of the road and urge any other involved drivers to do the same. Take pictures of the damage once you are safely away from traffic, and then wait for a police officer to arrive. Do not leave your car running while you wait.
Look for Immediate Signs of Trouble
While taking pictures, look for signs of disabling damage. If possible, shine a light under the car to check for leaking fluids or parts that are hanging down and making contact with the road. Any indication that your vehicle is leaking fluids means that the collision damage was severe enough to disable your vehicle. If you believe that the leaking fluid may be gasoline, then inform the police officer on the scene immediately and stay away from your car. While it is not dangerous to remain near a vehicle that is leaking coolant, oil, or a fluid other than gasoline, you should not attempt to turn it on or drive it.
Check for Major Body Damage
Once you are sure it is safe to be near your car, check for signs of body damage. Open and close all of the doors and check the trunk and hood. If panels seem misaligned or if your doors will not open and close properly, then it is likely that your car has suffered structural damage. While this does not necessarily mean that your car is undrivable, it is generally a bad idea to operate any structurally compromised vehicle. Not only can this cause your vehicle to handle poorly, but it can also reduce your car's ability to survive another collision.
Get An Estimate
Whether you choose to drive your car away or have it towed, you should always have an auto collision repair shop, such as Collisions Plus Performance, provide a damage estimate as soon as possible following an accident. The sooner you have this estimate performed, the less likely you will be to cause more damage by driving a car that has been compromised either structurally or mechanically. Once you have an estimate in hand, you will be better able to make an informed decision about how to proceed with repairs to get your car back on the road.