Fender benders may seem like minor accidents in many cases, but they are considered motor vehicle accidents and you may have a claim if damage or injuries result from the crash. Even in the case of minor accidents, drivers and others involved have certain legal liability.
This complete guide to minor accidents will cover what exactly they are, along with how to handle these seemingly minor collisions and when you may need a lawyer to help you file an accident claim.
A minor accident is typically called fender bender that happens at a low speed. In these accidents, the vehicles’ fender bender, slight to no damage may be apparent damage. Consequently, many vehicles involved in fender bender or bump require repairs to their fenders, and sometimes other parts of the motor vehicle.
Many fender benders involve rear-end collisions, sideswipes, angle hits or bumps with approximately 2.1 million of theses accident taking place each year. Despite being relatively minor physical damage accidents, they can cause serious to severe injuries that require medical treatment. Never underestimate minor fender bender accidents. Our lawyers at The Joseph Dedvukaj Firm treat them as serious as other types of accidents.
Some common causes of minor fender benders include:
Under any of these circumstances, people involved in minor fender bender accident need to know what to do following one of these seemingly minor accidents. In taking the appropriate steps after minor fender benders can help mitigate the potential damage these accidents may otherwise cause.
Immediately after a minor accident fender bender and in the hours and days afterwards, you should take the following steps:
• Stop Your Vehicle
The very first step that anyone should take when they are involved in a minor accident fender bender is to stop their vehicle. If the accident is minor and the vehicles are still operable, drivers they should pull off the roadway and find a place to safely park. After getting out of the way of other moving traffic, turn on your vehicle’s hazard lights. You will also need to turn on your emergency flashing hazard lights if you can’t move your vehicle at all following an accident to alert others on the road.
In most states, it’s illegal to drive away if you were involved in any motor vehicle accident, regardless of who was at fault. Even if nobody sustains injuries, hit-and-runs can result in serious legal consequences and hefty fines.
• Notify the Police Authorities
After ensuring you’re in a safe spot, call the local police to report the accident, regardless of whether any injuries resulted from the accident. The police can investigate and provide an opinion about who was at fault. Police will also prepare a detailed police report (UD10) that may support a car accident claim.
• Take Pictures of the Scene and Damages To Vehicles
As you wait for the police to arrive at the scene of the accident, take the time to use your mobile phone to take photos or video footage of the vehicles involved, witnesses, all drivers and everything else related to the scene of the accident, if possible. Make sure you record any and all visible damage to the vehicles involved in the collision.
• Exchange Insurance and Contact Information
Always an important step to take is to exchange information with the other motorist(s) involved in the accident. This information exchange should include both insurance information and contact details of all drivers and witnesses to accident. You can use your cell phone to take picture of driver licenses and insurance cards.
The documentation such as your driver’s license and insurance card, provide the following identifying information:
Additionally, ask for police officer names, badge numbers, and accident report numbers from any police officers who respond to the scene of the accident crash.
• Avoid Admitting Fault To Anyone
Generally, it’s best not to say too much when speaking to the other drivers after an auto accident. Even innocent apology can be misconstrued when you’re really not at fault and could lead the other driver or their insurer(s) to claim that you were at fault. Instead, you should speak only to the police and remain both factual and honest when providing the details of the accident.
• Get a Copy of the Accident Report
Police play a vital role for public safety and law enforcement in most states. Police will create a police report for an accident, particularly when it results in personal or property damage exceeding $1,000. The report might include details about the accident and the circumstances surrounding how the accident happened, along with information about witnesses if they were present when the police investigated. Whenever filing a claim or lawsuit, an official accident report can be extremely helpful to the claims adjuster handling your insurance case.
• Contact Your Insurer
Immediately after the minor car accident, regardless of the severity of the minor fender bender, contact your insurance company let them know you were in an accident. This is usually required by the terms of your car insurance policy. Your car insurance company will open up a claim and assign an adjuster to collect records to process your collision and any injury claim to present.
• Get An Estimate For Damage To Your Vehicle
Even if your vehicle has minor damage, you should get repair estimates for your vehicle. If you have your vehicle repaired without making a claim because your deductible is too high, you should keep body shop receipts. A local auto body shop can provide you with an accurate estimate and receipt. Insurance collision adjusters may also look over and take pictures of the damage and assess the severity of the impact.
• Cover Your Insurance Deductible
If you have a collision deductible, before your insurance company can start covering the costs of repairs, you may need to pay the deductible stated on your policy. However, the other party may be responsible for covering the deductible if they were at fault in a mini tort claim, in which case your insurance company may seek subrogation payment from the at fault driver’s insurance company.
• Seek Immediately Medical Attention
Even sprain or strains can seem minor after many minor fender bender crashes. However, sometimes the minor sprain or strain can later develop into something more serious like sciatica, myofascitis or herniated disc. You should seek medical attention as soon as possible following an accident. Even if you don’t believe you were injured, your symptoms could appear at a later time. Getting a doctor to perform a physical will give you the chance to receive an accurate diagnosis of any injuries, along with proper treatment plan. You’ll also document symptoms in medical records that could go a long way in supporting your claim for compensation.
All too often whiplash, and other serious and painful injuries can result from what appears to be very minor accident collision. A minor fender bender might seem innocuous, but it could later lead to severe pain or even life-threatening injuries.
• Low-Speed Accidents Can Still Cause Injuries
Regardless of the speed at impact, an accident can injure discs, nerves, tendons, muscles, bones, and ligaments. In fact, the Spine Research Institute found that a majority of injuries in car accidents result from crashes occurring at low speeds between 6-12 mph. Sometimes drivers and passengers may not feel any pain at first, but they may wake up the next morning feeling pain or pain can develop within hours or days after the incident.
• Airbags and Seat Belts Can Contribute to Injuries
Airbags and seat belts are life-saving devices in many accidents, but they can also cause injuries if they deploy suddenly. Airbags contain a nitrogen gas that rapidly inflates the airbag on impact, hitting occupants at speeds exceeding 100 miles per hour. As a result, these life saving devices can cause injury to the head, face, chest, and neck. Seat belts can cause injuries to the shoulder, chest, clavicle, hips, or stomach when an accident suddenly slings occupants into them and the accompanying pressure stresses soft tissues and the spine.
Undoubtedly, you’re better off using these safety features when they work as intended by the manufacturer, the blame for the injuries resulting from their use lies with the person who caused the accident.
• The Importance of Seeking Professional Medical Treatment
Following any type of accident including a minor fender bender, you should get an evaluation from medical professionals as soon as possible. Through a proper evaluation, a doctor can determine whether you sustained potentially serious underlying injuries even if you are experiencing no pain at the time. Cuts and bruises are often obvious signs of injury, but some injuries are not visible on the surface and don’t result in immediate pain. Further medical investigation is necessary to know your true nature and extent of the injuries.
• Other Types of Accidents
In addition to fender benders, many other types of accidents can warrant an insurance or personal injury claim.
Other types of common car accidents that can result in serious injury include:
Regardless of the type of accident you experienced, reporting your collision to law enforcement and insurers is critical. You should also seek medical treatment as soon as you can, even if you don’t appear to have sustained serious injuries immediately after the accident.
How Long Do I Have to File a Claim After a Fender Bender?
Most insurance companies require that you report your accident to them as soon as possible after any type of accident. Although reporting may not be quite the same as beginning a claim, it’s a crucial step to take. The sooner you make your insurance company aware of an accident, the more likely your claim will be processed successfully.
Additionally, Michigan law sets a statute of limitations for filing a car accident claim. A statute of limitation is a specific amount of time in which you are given to file a claim or lawsuit. The statute of limitations for filing a property damage or personal injury lawsuit is normally three years after the date of the accident.
What Happens If I File Lawsuit Too Late?
If you attempt to file a lawsuit after your Michigan’s statute of limitations has lapsed, your claim is forever barred. If you don’t file your PIP claim application for benefits within 1 year after the car accident, your auto insurance will not be obligated to pay you no-fault benefits. Although you can still contact your insurance company to report the accident, they will likely deny your claim after the statute of limitations has expired. On the other hand, if you experience pain and suspect an injury developed within the months after an accident and wish to use personal injury protection (PIP) coverage, you will have to notify your insurance company in writing within one year of the accident date. Generally, you’ll have better success if you report the accident to your insurance carrier immediately after the time of the accident.
When Should I Hire A Car Accident Attorney?
Victims and defendants involved in a minor fender bender may decide to find a local attorney to represent them in the event there is disagreement between the parties to the accident. Here are some specific circumstances when it may be in your best interests to consult with a car accident lawyer.
Always contact an attorney if:
If There’s Disagreement About Fault
If drivers can’t agree on who was at fault after a minor fender bender or other accident, they may want to take the case to court where a judge and jury ultimately determine who to believe was at fault.
Whether you are an injury victim or a defendant in a car accident case, consult with an accident attorney who may be able to advise you on your options. A lawyer can also help investigate to determine if your case is in a no-fault state, where fault doesn’t matter in accidents with minor injuries.
In some cases, you may notice police is incorrect or has contradictory information about the accident. An attorney at The Joseph Dedvukaj Firm, P.C., can perform a thorough investigate into these inaccuracies and conflicting documents to help determine which document accurately describes the accident. Discussing your claim with a lawyer, if you find that any police report contradict your version of events, as this could help you portray the most accurate picture to support your claim.
Need a Minor Accident Lawyer?
Taking the right steps following a minor fender bender or any other kind of car accident can maximize your chances of filing a successful claim for compensation. If you want to learn more about the options available to you after getting involved in a minor accident, contact us today at 248-352-2110 or toll free 1-866-HIRE-JOE speaking with a licensed car accident lawyer to discuss your case.