A fender bender can happen anyplace and anywhere. Hundreds of them happen each day in the Phoenix area. Many people do not think of fender benders as serious accidents. However, there should be no such thing as an unserious accident in your mind. The aftermath of every crash requires work on your part.
After an accident, some may wonder whether they need to report the accident to their insurance company. The plain answer to this question is that you must report the crash to the insurance company, even if there was little damage. The legal process exists for your protection.
Why You Need to Report Every Car Accident
Regardless of what you may think about the accident, there are some definite risks to not reporting it to your insurance company.
Here are a few things that can happen:
- It may be tougher for you if you try to file a claim in the future if your insurance company is unaware of it.
- You are far more vulnerable if the other driver reports the accident, and their insurance company seeks to blame you for the crash.
- Your insurance company may drop your coverage because the terms of your policy require you to report all accidents to them.
- You avoid making missteps on your own that can complicate your legal or financial future.
Always Have a Police Report From the Accident
Besides reporting the accident to the insurance company, you may also have a legal obligation to call the police from the accident scene. Many states have laws that require you to obtain a police report if there is any damage to the car or injuries.
Always err on the side of caution and call the police to the scene. While a police report may not be official evidence in a civil court case, it can be helpful during the insurance company claims process.
Not thinking of a fender bender as an accident may complicate your legal picture. Always err on the side of caution and do what is necessary to protect yourself. It may take some extra work, but reporting an accident falls under the heading of “better safe than sorry.” Always go through official channels and work through the insurance company.
Even Small Accidents Can Cause Big Damage to Your Car
The way manufacturers build cars today can mean that you should take nothing for granted in an accident. Fender benders may not be as minor as you think. First, the cost of vehicle bodywork has skyrocketed with inflation. These days, cars use expensive computers and systems. Some of these systems may rely on sensors and other complicated devices in the fender.
For example, many cars now have backup cameras and blindspot warning systems. These options can cost thousands of dollars to fix. Even what you may think is a minor accident can cost you thousands of dollars in damages.
Besides damages to complicated systems, fender benders can hurt your car’s frame.
In addition to the damage to the bumper, your car can sustain:
- Alignment issues
- Suspension problems
- Damage to the hood and doors
- Mechanical damage, including problems with the transmission that can cost you thousands of dollars to fix
What You Should Do After Any Car Accident
One requirement of any successful claim or lawsuit is that you suffered an injury. Of course, the word “injury” includes physical harm. The term is far broader than just physical injury. Any property damage is also considered an injury.
Do two things after any car accident:
- Get checked out by a doctor to diagnose, document, and treat your injuries.
- Call an experienced lawyer and discuss your accident with them. A lawyer can help you determine whether you have a possible legal claim.
Whiplash: A Silent but Serious Injury
When another driver hits you from behind, always take the time to ensure that you are ok after the crash. The most common injury in a rear-end accident is whiplash. When another car hits the back of yours when you are stopped or going slowly, it unleashes a large amount of force. Your head and neck can snap forward when the rest of your body stays still.
While whiplawhipsh sounds like a common injury, it can have uncommon effects on a victim. Whiplash can cause neck and back injuries that can remain with you for months and years. Even surgery may not completely fix the physical damage caused by whiplash. Sometimes, whiplash can even cause traumatic brain injury when the brain has moved inside your head. Accident victims can sustain a concussion or even permanent brain damage.
Your Injuries Can Take Days or Weeks to Show Symptoms
The problem with whiplash injuries is they are not always immediately apparent after the accident. You may think that you are fine and do nothing, only to start experiencing symptoms weeks, or even months, after the accident. According to one researcher, some accident victims can take up to five weeks after the accident to begin to identify their injuries.
The best thing to do is to see a doctor, especially when driving the front car. The doctor will examine you and determine whether you have suffered injuries. If you suffered injuries, the physician will provide you with the medical records to demonstrate your injuries and prescribe a course of treatment.
The longer you wait to see a doctor, the more difficult it will be to show a connection between your car accident and your injury. Causation is a required element of every personal injury claim, and insurance companies love to deny claims for this reason. They know full well that the driver who strikes another car in a fender bender is presumed to be at fault. Therefore, they will do everything that they can to get out of paying damages. Not being vigilant about your health after an accident gives them the ammunition they need.
Always Call an Attorney to Learn More About Your Legal Options
Some people may think that their car accident was too minor to call an attorney. If you emerge from an accident without a scratch, and nothing whatsoever happened to your car, that may be closer to reality. However, if you suffered damages to your property or body, you may have a legal claim for financial compensation. Never make the mistake of deciding on your own what may constitute a good case. You can be leaving money on the table that you are legally due.
Always talk to an experienced attorney who will take the time to review your case. After asking you questions and reviewing the facts, your attorney might determine that you may not have a viable case. However, let an experienced lawyer reach that conclusion after applying their experience to the matter. If you try to make the call on your own, you can be leaving money on the table.
Besides, it does not cost you anything to speak to an attorney. All personal injury lawyers offer free consultations to prospective clients. An attorney works on a contingency basis, meaning they only receive payment if you receive money. If they accept your case, it is an indication that you at least have a chance of receiving some financial compensation.
An insurance company may label an accident that is far more serious as “just a fender bender.” This represents their attempt to get out of paying you what you legally deserve about your crash. Even though the reality may be far different, the insurance company often creates a different reality to serve their interests. An accident is as serious as the extent of your damages. It may not even take much of a hit to your car to cause you physical injuries and extensive damage to your property.
Liability for a Fender Bender Accident
A fender bender is the same as any rear-end car crash. The presumption is that the trailing car that strikes the front car is the one who is at fault for the crash.
The crash may happen because:
- One driver followed too closely behind the other
- The rear driver was distracted because they looked down at their phone
- One driver backed out into traffic, and the other driver failed to notice them
Rear-end accidents should not happen. Usually, one of the two drivers is at fault for the crash. In some instances, the two drivers may share responsibility for the crash. The issue can be even more complex when your fender bender was the result of a multi-car crash. Then, there may be multiple claims against the same liability insurance policy. You will be fighting for your share of the policy coverage, which is limited to a per accident basis.
When the Front Driver Can Cause a Fender Bender
Even though there is a presumption of fault at play, it does not mean that it is ironclad. There are times when the front driver is at fault for the crash.
The usual circumstances that lead to the front driver’s liability are:
- They came to a sudden stop in front of the rear driver
- They cut off the rear driver with little to no warning
At the same time, the rear driver will, more often than not, cause the accident. In most cases, you may not even need to prove what the rear driver was doing at the time of the crash because there is a presumption of fault from the mere fact they hit the car in front of them.
However, it is a heavy lift to show that the front driver caused the crash. You will need witnesses and strong evidence for an insurance company or jury to depart from the usual rules. This means you need an experienced attorney handling your case so they can provide evidence to support the front driver’s liability.
What An Attorney Will Do in Your Car Accident Case
After a fender bender, your attorney will go to work to gather the evidence that they can use to prove your claim. They will take pictures, speak with experts, and interview witnesses to see what happened. At the same time, your lawyer will ensure that you understand your legal options and can make the most effective decisions in your case.
Not every single fender bender is as clear-cut as it seems regarding liability. Whatever happened, expect an insurance company to try to blame you for the crash, regardless of who hit whom. An attorney can protect your legal interests from the games that insurance companies play.
In addition, your attorney will work to negotiate the settlement with the other driver’s car insurance. They will not let the insurance company minimize your injuries to save themselves money. Insurance companies have many tricks, especially in fender bender cases. They do not take these accidents seriously, even though you demonstrate serious injuries and losses.
Your car accident attorney will also advise you against settling your case for too little when settlement offers are low and unreasonable. If the insurance company did not offer enough money, your attorney can reject the settlement offer on your behalf and counter with a more realistic estimate of your damages. Not having a lawyer will cost you far more money than you think you may save from handing a case on your own.
In conclusion, never assume that you have no options following a fender bender. If someone else hurts you, you have important legal rights, so talk to a car accident attorney. Many people recover compensation for their losses following a fender bender, and if someone else is liable, their insurance should cover your damages. Seek a legal consultation regarding your rights today.
Abels & Annes
100 N LaSalle St #1710
Chicago, IL 60602