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What To Do After a Minor Car Accident

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. You don't want to pay repair costs if you are not the at-fault driver. The following tips are designed to help you stay calm and know what to do after a minor car crash.

Immediately After a Car Accident

1. Check for Injuries

Some serious injuries from auto accidents are not immediately noticeable but still require medical attention. If you're not sure whether you or your passengers have accident-related injuries, call an ambulance. The emergency responders can determine whether there are bodily injuries that require medical treatment.

2. Look for Sparks or Fire

If you smell gasoline or see smoke, move away from the motor 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 way to a safe location, such as the side of the road, where you can talk to the other driver and exchange insurance information. You may also take pictures of the cars before moving them to document any evidence needed at a later time.

4. Stay Calm

It's normal to be in shock or feel angry after a motor vehicle 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. Exchange 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 to ensure you have their full name. After the accident, it'll be easier to read the information from a photo than a hastily written note.

6. Call the Police Department

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 vehicle 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. Stories have a way of changing after everyone has left the scene of the accident. You can also request the badge number of the police officer taking the accident report.

7. Take Pictures

Use the camera on your cell phone to take pictures of the accident scene, license plate number, and property damage to both cars from as many angles as possible. Make special note of skid marks or other evidence that the other driver was at fault. This will assist the insurance adjuster's investigation regarding the extent of any liability or injury claims.

8. No Roadside Negotiations

It's natural for emotions to run high right after an accident. But you don't want to promise to cover medical bills, not to pursue an insurance claim, or agree not to involve the police. You (or your auto accident 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 law enforcement is 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 of your auto insurance company is listed on your insurance card. It is best to contact insurance immediately or no more than a few days after the accident occurred. The longer you wait, the staler 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 or deductible 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. Take the following steps to settle your claim in the days and weeks after your collision:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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 coverage 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.

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