According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), more than 7 million car accidents occur each year. Of those, there are more than 2 million people injured and more than 40,000 killed. One out of every four drivers is in a car accident during their lifetime. The NHTSA estimates the financial cost of these accidents is more than $230 billion.
State Farm Insurance Company statistics indicate approximately 75 percent of all car accidents are non-injury accidents, or “fender-benders,” and involve only property damage. Most insurance companies categorize them as minor car accidents because people quickly settle and seldom sue.
Car-on-car fender benders occur at low speed and result in minor damage. The majority of these accidents occur when drivers:
- Back out of driveways
- Can’t stop at an intersection because of braking problems or inclement weather
- Drive unreasonably fast in parking lots at malls, grocery stores, schools, etc.
- Get distracted while putting on makeup, using their cell phones, tuning the radio, etc.
- Are innocently caught in chain-reaction, rear-end crashes in slow-moving traffic
- Nod off or fall asleep in bumper-to-bumper, rush-hour, or slow-moving traffic
Most people are familiar with fender-bender accident protocol. They know the basics of what to do. Yet even minor car accidents can create chaos. Bent steel, broken glass, and upset drivers can unsettle the immediate environment. As a result, it’s sometimes easy to forget what you need to do to preserve the evidence to make a proper insurance claim.
In this section, we cover proper protocol for minor car accidents. We discuss car-on-car fender benders. Most of what you find here is also applicable to single car accidents.
When a car accident happens, adrenaline, anger, and frustration can interrupt your thought processes. After all, we’re only human. No one likes to have his or her car scratched or dented. Suddenly realizing you’re late for work or you need to pick up your children from school is upsetting. Having to stand out in the middle of traffic with voyeuristic drivers rubbernecking is a very uncomfortable experience.
If it’s a fender-bender, there’s a good chance no one is hurt. That’s what’s most important. What follows are the 10 most important things to remember after a minor car accident. You might want to print this list and keep it in your glove box or console along with this accident report form.
10 Things to Remember After a Minor Accident
1. Stay calm
As someone said many years ago, “It’s only sheet metal.” That’s really all it is, although with today’s cars, there’s a lot more plastic and fiberglass. It’s really not as bad as it seems. You can use your cell phone to call work and say you were in an accident, and you’ll get there when you can. Most employers understand. If you’re married or have a partner, call them to pick up the children.
2. Anger is counterproductive
Keep your cool. If you allow yourself to get upset, you’ll forget to follow protocol. Worse, you may make yourself sick. It’s just not worth it. It’s a minor car accident with no injuries. Whether you’re responsible or not doesn’t really matter at this point.
Although you can’t control how the other driver reacts, do all you can not to escalate the affair by becoming involved in a confrontation. Tell the other driver it’s best to leave the issue of fault up to the insurance companies.
3. No apologies, please
It’s common for adrenaline to start pumping after an accident, even a minor one. Whether you’re at fault or not, don’t apologize. While your morals and instincts may tell you to, it’s better to leave any comments for your insurance company. Remember, the other driver can use anything you say as evidence against you – even in a civil case.
It’s unlikely your fender bender will ever end up in court. However, if it does, anything you say implying your own fault can be used by the other driver and his insurance company as “admissions against interests” (your interests).
4. Check for injuries
Although minor fender benders usually don’t result in injuries, it’s a good idea to make sure. Don’t hesitate to call the police or fire rescue for assistance if anyone is hurt.
5. Call the police
Even if no one has injuries, having a police officer sent to the scene is important. Unfortunately, in most cities today, there aren’t enough police available to respond to non-injury minor car accidents. Ask for one anyway. Be sure to tell the dispatcher whether the cars are slowing or stopping traffic or whether you feel the scene is dangerous. If that’s the case, they’ll certainly send at least one officer.
If the police respond, they’ll create a police report. In the report, they’ll enter the drivers’ and witnesses’ names and contact information, draw a diagram of the accident, and make a designation of who was at fault. If they issue any tickets, they note it in the report.
If the other driver was at fault, and you live in an at-fault insurance state, the police report is invaluable. Ask the officer for the service number of the report. You can pick up a copy of the report at the police station a few days after the accident for a nominal fee.
6. Off-road accidents
If the accident occurs on business property (shopping mall, grocery store, etc.), look for security personnel. They can assist while the police are on their way. Whether the police come or not, make sure you ask the security personnel to give you a copy of the incident report, and ask for a reference number for the report.
Although the incident report probably won’t indicate who was at fault, it will contain valuable information. Unfortunately, no law compels private businesses to release copies of incident reports. Only a court subpoena can do that.
7. Get the insurance information
Whether the police or security personnel are on the scene or not, make sure you exchange insurance and contact information with the other driver. Write down the driver’s full name, contact info, and the name and telephone number of his insurance company. If the driver has an insurance agent, write down her contact information as well. It’s also a good idea to look at his driver’s license. Be sure to confirm the information is current.
Do not relinquish your driver’s license to the driver. Show it to him, but don’t let him have possession of it. If he decides to hold on to it, you may have a difficult time getting it back. Write down a description of the driver’s car and the car’s license plate number.
8. Photographs and videos
Use a camera or cell phone to take photographs and a video of the accident scene, the cars, and the point of impact. If you see any beer cans or other open bottles of alcohol, photograph them. If the police or security personnel respond, be sure to bring it to their attention. If the driver takes a field sobriety test, photograph and video it (if the police permit you).
Don’t argue with the police. They don’t legally have to explain or defend their actions. Let them do their job. If you interfere, they may arrest you.
9. Look for witnesses
Even though it’s just a minor car accident, witnesses can help your insurance company, especially if the other driver later claims he was hurt. If the witnesses agree, ask them to write down their contact information and a brief statement of what they saw. There’s no law stating a witness statement must be notarized or a witness has to swear to it.
10. Contact your insurance company
When the air clears, it’s all about the insurance reimbursement. Whether you’re at fault or not, you must notify your insurance company. If you’re convinced the other driver was at fault, contact his insurance company, as well. File your claim with both insurance companies. Make sure you get a claim number for each.
How Much is Your Injury Claim Worth?
Find out now with a FREE case review from an attorney…
Visitor Questions on Car Accidents
Will the insurance company take care of this fender-bender or will we be sued? My husband was driving as a Lyft driver in North Carolina on a Saturday night. He was at a yield behind another car with a passenger in the back seat. The car in front of him started to go, so he did too. Suddenly the car in front slammed on their breaks, (I’m guessing because... Read More >>
How to determine fault in parking lot fender bender? I was in the lane after backing my car out of a parking lot, in gear to go forward, when a truck backing from the angled parking on the other side bumped me. Initially, after taking my statement, the other driver’s insurance company’s investigator set up an appointment to appraise and repair my car. The... Read More >>
Minor fender bender claim is growing out of control… I pulled into a gas station and didn’t see a vehicle as it came around a large truck. I hit the front left panel of her car in front of the tire. My car had a small scratch. I was going too fast for a parking lot, maybe close to 15/20 mph. The woman I... Read More >>
Is my husband at fault for a minor fender bender? My husband got into a very minor fender bender this morning. He was driving through downtown busy traffic just a minute after the rain had stopped and the cars in front of him had to keep slamming on their breaks due to very heavy congestion. He ended up barely scraping the car in front of... Read More >>
Charged with Leaving the Scene? Not long ago I was leaving the store in the evening with my daughter. I checked behind me, like I always do to back out of my parking space and hit a parked car. I didn’t even see it, because it was extremely dark. I would really like to say the light in that parking... Read More >>
Should I file a claim for a minor collision with only scratches? I was taking my nephews to school, taking my usual route. I turned on a small street when I saw a car coming out of the alley. I kept going and once I got about 3-4 ft to the alley another car came out going about 20 mph. I hit the brakes but since the... Read More >>
Minor incident in parking lot… Leaving a store, a friend of mine was backing out the same time as another car when they had a collision. They were driving a big truck/SUV. My friend got out and checked on the passenger. Both surveyed the cars. Everyone was okay and there was no damage. My friend gave the other driver his... Read More >>
My car was hit at a red light by truck backing out of driveway… I was stopped at a red light when a truck that was backing out of a driveway on my right side hit me. I was beeping, and he said he heard me, but he kept going. Now he is claiming that I was in the crosswalk, and that’s why he hit me. I believe that... Read More >>
Worry about fender bender? I hit a car at a red light at a very low speed – there was only a scratch on the other vehicle and no damage to mine. He was very polite and did not appear upset. In fact he was ready to let it go. I was nervous and asked if he would like... Read More >>
Insurance refusing to pay for injury from minor accident? I was at the post office on Dec 3, 2014 in a parking space when a truck passed my vehicle and struck my side view mirror and damaged it. I was injured in the accident when I reacted by twisted my body away from where the truck hit, to keep myself from getting hit. I... Read More >>
Tapped rear bumper making a right turn on red, no injuries… The other day I was involved in a minor car accident where I rear ended someone at the end of the freeway exit leading to an intersection. We were both stopped at a red light, waiting to make a right turn. The driver in front of me advanced forward and I assumed he took off.... Read More >>
Minor rear-end collision with a pregnant woman… At 7:30am I was driving and bumped into another car driven by a pregnant lady (at least 8-9 months pregnant). Both vehicles were stopped (not a traffic light or stop sign). We were both between the median trying to merge onto a 2 lane road. While both vehicles were stopped, waiting for traffic to allow... Read More >>
Insurance company saying the accident was my fault… I was traveling on Arlee Place heading East. An Auto Shop was on the right. When I saw the other car, the front half of the vehicle was inside the Auto Shop and the rear was sticking out of the shop. It was not moving at all so I proceeded driving forward. When I tried... Read More >>
I bumped into the car in front of me at a red light… This morning I pulled up at a traffic light where there was a red signal. Seconds later as I shuffled in my car seat my foot slipped off the brake and I bumped the car in front of me. Once the light turned green we both pulled aside. The owner of the car I bumped... Read More >>
Claiming pain and suffering after a minor fender bender accident? My wife was in a car accident. She was moving at normal speed and had the green light when another car who had a red stop light moved forward into the intersection, causing my wife to slow down in time to avoid any damage. Just the front license plates were scratched up. They pulled to... Read More >>
Injury in Minor Fender Bender? I was in a minor car accident where I bumped another vehicle while backing out of a parking spot. I was traveling at 2mph and bumped the vehicle on the driver’s front side. The passenger in the other vehicle (not the driver) is now claiming injury and has filed a claim with my insurance company.... Read More >>
No Police Report for Minor Parking Lot Collision… My friend was leaving a private parking lot and turning right onto the main road, when another vehicle turned into the lot while speeding and without using its turn signal, nearly missing her. I saw the vehicle and waited to back out of my parking spot until the vehicle was gone. I checked my mirrors... Read More >>
Received Demand Letter from Attorney… I was involved in a minor accident about 6 months ago in California. I gave my drivers license and insurance information to the lady at the time. She then told me that she didn’t have a drivers license or insurance and that we can just forget the accident ever happened since there was no major... Read More >>
Disputing a Claim for a Minor Fender Bender… Recently I was in a minor fender bender. My car was completely fine (no damage). The other driver’ car didn’t even have a dent, only the paint was peeling off. This happened last month and I just got a call from my insurance saying that she’s filing a claim, stating she has a back problem.... Read More >>
Found a Note on My Windshield Saying I Hit Their Bumper… Someone left a note on my car window saying I hit and cracked his bumper. I don’t even know who he is or the kind of car he drives that I supposedly hit. I would have felt it if I’d hit his bumper and I did not. I was in the store shopping and found... Read More >>
Settlement for Minor Car Damage? I was at a stop when a car rear ended me at 35 mph. My car had little damage (approx $1,400) but the other car was totaled. I went to the doctor and the x-rays came back negative. I am a little sore, but all in all I think I should be okay. How much... Read More >>
Minor Vehicle Damage but No Auto Insurance… I took my cousin’s car without asking and hit another vehicle from behind. There was only very minor damage. I thought I had insurance but mom had removed me from the policy without my knowledge. I want to assume responsibility for the minor damage. What can be done so my cousin won’t have to pay,... Read More >>
Can a Minor Rear End Bump Cause Serious Injury? I rear ended a vehicle that was stopped in a sudden traffic backup. There was virtually no damage to either car. However, he filed a claim and was paid $500 by my insurance company. He had tried to contact me by telephone, but I didn’t return his calls, thinking he was trying to shake me... Read More >>
Rear ender causes fender damage… I was in a rear ender caused by the vehicle behind me. The light ahead was red and I began to slow down, but the car behind me did not and ran into my fender causing damage. What or who’s insurance would cover the damage that resulted from the collision? Thanks. Read More >>
Low Speed Car Crash Causes Back Injury… My wife and I were stopped at a yield sign due to traffic when we were in a low speed car crash – another driver rear ended us. He was cited for unsafe driving and admitted he was not looking. His car impacted ours at 16 mph. The insurance co took 100% responsibility for the... Read More >>
Auto Collision but No Damage? Last week while driving on the freeway in Cypress, TX I bumped the car in front of me VERY slightly. The driver of the car I hit motioned me to pull over to the side so that he could examine his car. He took the info on my license and insurance. There was absolutely no... Read More >>