Getting in a fender bender is often a matter of bad luck, not bad driving. Parking lots and driveways are prime locations for these slow-moving collisions. Fortunately, personal injuries are less common in a minor car accident and the insurance claims are often quick to resolve.
Even a minor car accident is unexpected and stressful. A small amount of damage to your car can be expensive and you don't want to be paying repair costs if it's not your fault. The following tips are designed to help you stay calm and know what to do after a minor car accident.
Immediately After a Car Accident
1. Check for Injuries
If you're not sure whether you or your passengers are injured, call an ambulance. Some injuries from auto accidents are not immediately noticeable.
2. Look for Sparks or Fire
If you smell gasoline or see smoke, move away from the vehicle. Be aware that when airbags are deployed, it's normal to see dust in the air.
3. Don't Block Traffic
If the accident is minor, move your car out of the road to a safe location where you can talk to the other driver.
4. Stay Calm
It's normal to be in shock or angry after an accident. It's important to stay in control of your emotions. Don't blame the other driver and, in order to limit your legal liability, don't apologize for being involved in the accident.
5. Get Contact Information
Exchange phone numbers, email addresses, and insurance policy information with the other driver(s) and witnesses involved in the accident. It's a good idea to use the camera on your cell phone to take an image of the other driver's license and insurance card. After the accident, it'll be easier to read the information from a photo than a hastily written note.
6. Call the Police
It's important to have the police report made while it's fresh in everyone's mind. Many states have laws requiring the police to be called if someone is injured or the damage is over a certain value. Your insurance company may also require a police report. If you were not at fault, this report is important to you because stories have a way of changing after everyone has left the scene.
7. Take Pictures
Use the camera on your cell phone to take pictures of the accident scene and the damage to both cars from as many angles as possible. Make special note of skid marks or other evidence the other driver was at fault.
8. No Roadside Negotiations
It's natural for emotions to run high right after an accident. But you don't want to promise not to pursue an insurance claim or agree not to involve the police. You (or your attorney) can negotiate with the other driver or their insurance company at a later, more convenient time.
9. Don't Leave
Never leave the scene of an accident before you exchange contact information with the other driver(s). If police are on their way, you need to wait for them to arrive. If you leave too soon, criminal charges can be brought against you for being involved in a hit-and-run incident.
10. Call Your Insurance Provider
Report all accidents to your car insurance carrier even if it was not your fault. The phone number is listed on your insurance card. It is best to contact insurance immediately or no more than a few days after the accident has occurred. The longer you wait, the more stale the evidence can become. Additionally, some insurance companies require that a claim be made within a reasonable amount of time following the accident.
Minor Accident Follow-Up
Your car insurance rates will not automatically go up because you were in a minor collision. Factors such as fault and the value of the damage will affect how your carrier handles the accident. In the days and weeks after your collision, take the following steps to settle your claim.
- Contact the police or highway patrol office and obtain a copy of the accident report for your records. A report may not always be available, as the police may sometimes fail to show up at the time of the accident
- Once you have estimated your damages, file an insurance claim against the other driver. It is best to file a concurrent claim with your own insurance company as well.
- If you carry uninsured or underinsured motorist insurance, you may want to take advantage of your own policy benefits if the other driver's insurance proves inadequate.
Even if there is no damage to any of the cars involved in the minor traffic collision, it's still a good idea to call your insurance carrier and let them know what happened. This way, if the other driver's story changes over time, you'll have some evidence supporting your record of events.
Talk to an Attorney About Your Auto Accident Claim
Handling even a minor fender bender can be time consuming. Your life was busy before the accident, and now you need to deal with the insurance company and schedule car repairs. An experienced car accident attorney can help you with the heavy lifting involved in processing your claim.