How to Handle a Fender Bender
Any car accident can be a stressful and expensive ordeal, even a seemingly mild fender-bender. If you or a loved one recently had a minor car accident you may wonder about the best way to resolve the situation. While you and the other driver may be able to come to a mutual agreement as to how to settle the matter, you must still make sure to do so legally and take your insurance policy into account.
If in doubt, hiring an experienced Phoenix car accident lawyer can help streamline a car accident case.
Handling a Minor Accident on Your Own
Every state has different laws pertaining to car accidents. In fault-based states, drivers involved in an accident must determine fault for the accident and an injured driver would file a claim against the at-fault driver’s insurance policy to recover his or her losses. This is the standard method for securing a recover from a car accident in any fault-based system. In a no-fault state, drivers must file claims against their own auto insurance policies unless their damages meet specific criteria.
While another driver may offer to pay for your repairs out of pocket to avoid the hassle of insurance, it is very important to check your auto insurance policy before agreeing to any such arrangement. Your auto insurance carrier likely requires you to report any accident regardless of whether you need to file a claim for coverage. Failure to report an accident as required by your auto insurance policy could lead to the company denying coverage in the future for violating your policy contract.
Recovering Your Losses
If your minor accident involved minimal damages and no injuries, you could very likely settle the issue with the at-fault driver or file an insurance claim for coverage. If you need to file against your own claim, it is highly unlikely the insurance carrier will increase your premium rate if you did not cause the accident.
A minor car accident typically only causes cosmetic damage to a vehicle, shattering a headlight or taillight and denting body panels. Drivers rarely suffer physical injuries from minor car accidents, but injuries are possible. In many cases, a driver may suffer worsened symptoms from a preexisting medical issue such as a recent surgery or previous injury. In this case, the at-fault driver would be responsible for the injured driver’s worsened symptoms.
Best Practices for Handling a Minor Car Accident
After a minor car accident, taking the appropriate steps can protect you from legal penalties, insurance rate hikes, and other economic losses. For example, every state has different requirements for reporting traffic accidents. Most states require drivers to report any accident that causes death, bodily injury, or significant property damage. It can be difficult to estimate the cost of property damage after an accident. For example, a broken headlight on one model of car may only cost $100 to repair, but similar damage on another model of vehicle could cost $500.
Ultimately, if you are unsure whether you need to report a minor accident to the police, it is always best to err on the side of caution and do so. Filing a report means the police will visit the accident scene, investigate, and compile a report of their findings. This police report will be invaluable to a future insurance claim or lawsuit.
After any accident, take some time to record as much as possible from the accident scene. Take photos of the damage to your vehicle, the positions of the vehicles after the accident, and any injuries you sustained. These photos could be crucial to future insurance claim or lawsuit. A minor car accident may only entail a few hundred dollars in repairs and very minor injuries, but if there is any room for doubt as to how to recover your losses, speak with a personal injury attorney as soon as possible.