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What To Do If You Are in A Car Accident With No Damage

You were inching along on your way to work, another morning of bumper-to-bumper traffic, when you felt a sudden jolt. The car behind you took a little too long to stop and barely ran into your rear bumper. You both pulled over to the shoulder and got out of your vehicles, but you were surprised to see no apparent damage to your car. Not even a scratch. So, what do you do?

Pretend it didn't happen and go on your merry way? What if you were the at-fault driver who hit the other motorist—can you be certain they won't file a surprise (and possibly frivolous) accident claim or personal injury claim?

If you're in a car accident with no damage, knowing what to do can help you avoid unexpected hardships further down the road.

Are You Sure There's No Damage?

Even if you can't see any property damage, or it's limited to a small scratch or paint mark, there may be minor damage that has gone unnoticed. Do not leave the scene of the accident.

If you leave without getting the other driver's insurance policy number and contact information, you have forfeited your ability to file a claim with their insurance company if vehicle damage (or bodily injury) appears at a later date.

Damage That May Not Be Obvious at the Scene

The types of damages that go unnoticed after a minor car accident depend on the type of car, its initial condition, the nature of the accident, and other factors. But here are some examples:

  • Leaks: It's possible that a minor accident with no obvious damage actually results in a leaky oil pan, radiator, or some other car part that holds fluid. All it takes is a tiny rupture to create a serious car repair problem.
  • Reduced Battery Life: The impact of a car crash can sometimes knock the battery loose, agitating sediment in the battery or causing a short circuit in the lead plates, thus shortening the life of the battery. This is a minor concern, but something to consider.
  • Computer Diagnostics Delay: It may take your car's computer diagnostics system extra time to check the vehicle and report any internal damage. If there's no damage, but the check engine light is on, get it checked out before coming to a conclusion about your car's condition.
  • Alignment: Car bumpers absorb the shock of a collision. But even in the absence of visible damage, the vehicle could be out of alignment. This is rare in minor accidents with no clear damage, but still possible.

Given the possibility of unseen damage, it makes sense to exchange information with the other motorist as a precaution. It's wise to take photos and notes about the incident. You never know whether you or the other motorist will need to file a claim at a later date.

Car Accident Injuries

Even a minor fender bender can cause serious injuries, as some soft-tissue injuries (whiplash, sprains, bruises, etc.) may take a while to show symptoms. As a precaution, you should receive medical attention immediately after the accident.

Keep track of your medical bills and medical expenses related to the accident. This is useful when seeking legal advice from a personal injury lawyer. Your own insurance company or the other driver's insurance provider will likely request your medical records to verify any personal injury claims. Consult a personal injury attorney before releasing any medical information that might affect your case. Remember, some states offer greater insurance coverage protections.

For example, Florida statutes require motorists to carry personal injury protection (PIP) and property damage liability (PDL) insurance as part of their Motor Vehicle No-Fault Law. PIP covers all necessary and reasonable medical expenses up to $10,000 regardless of fault.

Calling the Police

State laws differ on whether a police report is needed after a car accident, so it is important to check your local jurisdiction. Generally, the more serious the damage, the more likely law enforcement is required. But a police officer's report can help prove your version of events during the claims process.

Should I Report a Car Accident With No Damage to My Insurance Company?

If you were in a car accident with no damage, you might think you're better off not reporting it to your auto insurance company. After all, you don't want your rates hiked if you're not filing a claim. That's a mistake. Most automobile insurance policies require you to report all accidents–major and minor–to the insurer, even if you are not the at-fault party.

The other driver may file a claim investigated by an insurance adjuster. So, it's best to share accident reports with your insurance provider. Although this is difficult to enforce, especially if there is no police report, it's usually in your best interests to do so, particularly if you live in a no-fault state (in which case, your own insurer covers vehicle damage regardless of fault).

One big exception is when you're in a one-vehicle accident involving your own fence, mailbox, or some other private property of yours. If there is no damage to the car, only to the fence or mailbox, then you're better off paying for the damage out-of-pocket and not calling your insurer (which could raise your rates).

Need Help Figuring Out What To Do? Ask for Legal Help

If you were in a car accident and believe there was no damage, you'll still want to take notes, and exchange contact information and insurance information with the other driver. If you do discover an injury or vehicle damage later, you'll be prepared.

The car insurance claims process is usually quite straightforward. But sometimes, you'll want to consult with a car accident lawyer who can provide a free case evaluation about your car accident case before creating a formal client relationship.

Get started with a review of your claim or situation by a motor vehicle accident attorney.

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