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What To Do After A Minor Car Accident

Many people find themselves involved in a car accident at some point in their lifetime. In most cases, these accidents are minor and do not result in serious damage or injuries. These kinds of crashes often have more to do with bad luck than bad driving, but even the smallest collision can have a big impact on a person’s life. When someone fails to take the necessary steps after a minor crash, they risk serious damage to their health, their car and a painful hit to their wallet. By taking the proper precautions to ensure one’s vehicle and health are taken care of, the effects of a minor accident can stay minimal.

Initial Steps

Immediately after being involved in a wreck, it’s important to check for injuries. While it’s easy to be shaken up and stressed about the collision, taking a moment to breathe and check in with oneself is critical. Adrenaline can prevent many injuries from being felt in the immediate aftermath of a crash, so be sure to stay attuned to your body’s needs while at the scene of the accident and in the days following the wreck. Those injured in car accidents should seek medical treatment as soon as possible.

After checking for injuries, be sure to look for fire or sparks. If you see smoke, smell gas or see sparks, move away from the vehicle. With that in mind, it is normal to see dust floating in the air after airbags have deployed. Most minor accidents occur in parking lots, but if vehicles are blocking traffic, it’s a good idea to move them out of the way. Ensure you’re in a safe location before talking with the other driver.

When you speak to them, be sure to keep your emotions in check. Avoid outright blaming them for the crash but do not offer apologies, either. Stay calm and collect their full name, phone number, license plate and insurance information. Many find their handwriting is a mess in stressful situations, so take advantage of your smartphone and snap quick photos of insurance cards rather than try to read your unsteady handwriting later.

Involving Law Enforcement

After a minor fender bender, it may seem unnecessary to call police to the scene. No matter how small the wreck, though, it’s always a good idea to inform the authorities of the incident. Allow them to make the judgment call on whether or not they need to come to the scene of the accident.

Even if their presence is ultimately deemed unnecessary, you’ll never regret reporting the accident. In fact, many states require the police to be called if someone is injured. Your insurance company may also require an official police report to move forward with the car accident settlement process.

Minor vs. Serious Accidents

While major accidents might grab headlines, small collisions are far more common. They happen so frequently, in fact, that most people will likely find themselves in a minor accident at one point or another. There is no clear, defined line separating a serious car accident from a minor one, which is often what makes it so difficult to determine what steps to take next. Shrugging off scratched paint and a sore neck might be a person’s first instinct, but do so and you risk shouldering the financial damage from the wreck alone. Neck pain, back pain, dizziness and headaches all seem like minor annoyances but can indicate a serious case of delayed onset whiplash with long-term effects.

Because symptoms of whiplash do not always occur immediately after a wreck, victims of minor car accidents may assume they walked away from the collision without a scratch. It is often not until later that they understand the extent of the damage done. By then, the victim may have missed their chance to report their accident to police, alert their insurance company of the incident or hold the other driver responsible for the damage done.

Seeking Legal Help

Many involved in minor collisions do not see the need to seek the help of a car accident attorney. They see a consultation with a lawyer as an annoying, unnecessary task on their endless to-do list that is easy to put off or cancel altogether. The reality is that a quick discussion with an attorney can ensure your rights are protected and that you get your life back on track as soon as possible. A lawyer can truly make your life easier by handling the insurance company and helping you get the money you need to complete car repairs.

Even if you are unsure if you need representation, a quick chat with an attorney can clarify your legal rights and get you answers to questions you might have about the wreck. Many personal injury attorneys offer free, no-risk consultations for accident victims. Even those who suffered relatively minor injuries can benefit from a conversation with a lawyer.

In the event that you have been associated with a minor accident or a mishap that you feel was moderately inconsequential, you might ask oneself whether it will benefit you to take the time and push to call a lawyer. Indeed, even a minor auto crash is startling and distressing. Nobody ever anticipates getting involved in a collision, so when it happens, it may leave you confused and unsure what the next steps should be. Even though the accident may seem minor, injuries can still occur and property damage may be present. It is always a good idea to file a police report and contact an attorney shortly after the incident occurs. Neglecting to contact an attorney can result in many repercussions including the loss of significant compensation that may be owed to you.

Do You Need To Call The Police After A Minor Auto Accident?

After being involved in a minor accident, you may think to yourself that the accident is too insignificant to involve the police. You might evaluate both cars and notice there is not much damage other than a dent or a scratch. Be that as it may, no matter how minor the accident may be, you should always document a report with the police for your protection and for insurance purposes. It is most likely that your insurance company will require a copy of the police report. In the event that you were not at fault, this report is essential to you since information tends to change or be forgotten once time has passed after the accident. The police will determine weather or not they need to arrive at the scene or just take the report over the phone.

How much will my auto insurance go up after a minor accident?

Every insurance company is different with their own price, premiums and services offered. Surcharge amounts vary depending on the company. Some insurance agencies even forgive your first accident and some agencies waive the mishap if the collision caused little to no damage. Not only do premiums differ from company to company, they also differ from state to state.  In California, the average rate after one at-fault auto accident of claims worth $2,000 or more increase by 92% and in Hawaii your insurance rate will go up 12%. As you can see each state varies significantly.

How long does a fender bender stay on your record?

No matter the size of the collision, if you are to blame for the accident, you will receive a traffic violation as well as an increase in insurance rates. However, these setbacks will eventually be expunged from your record after 3 years from when the ticket was issued. Ultimately, your insurance rates will go back down once the ticket has been removed from your record. However, there are some insurance companies that will forgive your violation as long as you have not received one within recent years.  There are other options when it comes to receiving traffic violations that give you the opportunity to remove the ticket from your record. Some alternative options include community service or traffic school. You may also ask for mitigation although the violation will not be excluded from your record. This will simply allow you to plead guilty and explain the situation as to why you received the ticket. This allows the fine to possibly be reduced however, it may also stay the same. You also have the option to challenge the infraction if you believe you were wrongfully ticketed for the violation.

Minor Car Accidents Can Lead To Major Injuries

It is estimated there are millions of minor car accidents per year. Some minor car accidents could involve little property damage, but you still could have injuries. But how do you know if it is really a minor car accident?

Sometimes the damage to your car could appear to be cosmetic. You could think that the repair will be inexpensive or even a do it yourself project. This is common thinking, and for many, everything works out fine.

But there are accidents that appeared to be minor that actually involve more serious damages. It is possible that the force of the accident damaged the frame or axle. This is actually a major repair job but may not be something you notice immediately.

Even if the accident does involve minor property damage, you and the passengers in the car may feel fine after the accident. So, all is well, right? Not always. Some injuries take time to make themselves apparent, such as concussions and whiplash, which are often occur together in rear end car accidents.

Generally, if the accident involves a few hundred dollars of property damage and injuries that heal on their own after a few days or a week, it is a minor car accident. But it still is a good idea to have your car examined by a professional to ensure that there is not more serious damage that is not obvious.

Also, you should definitely be checked out by a physician even if you think you have minor or no injuries. If you need to file a car accident claim or lawsuit later, you will be in a stronger position if you were looked over immediately after the crash.

Can a lawyer turn down my case if it was a minor car accident?

If you were in a minor car accident, you may want to have a personal injury attorney or small claims attorney review the case. Most attorneys in this area of the law will review your case at no charge to determine if there is a case.

There are some factors that could case the lawyer to turn down your case. The most common reasons are:

  • How the accident happened. For another person to be held liable for damages and/or injuries, they had to breach their legal duty of care and that led to your injuries. You will need to show that the other driver was at least 50% responsible in most states for there to be a possible case.
  • Injuries are too minor. For a case to be worth the attorney’s time and effort, there must be enough injuries and damages involved. How bad you are hurt is a critical factor in whether there is a personal injury claim that is valid. The attorney will also consider the costs of developing evidence to prove the case. If you have minor injuries and proving them is going to be expensive, the attorney may turn down the case.
  • Is the case economically viable? Most personal injury attorneys work on a contingency basis. So, the attorney must make a careful business decision about whether or not the case is worth it. If attorneys spend many hours on the case and there turns out to be little settlement, or you lose the case outright, the attorney may not get paid at all.

While minor car accident cases may nor may not require the services of an attorney, it still is a good idea to have your case reviewed at no charge by a licensed attorney. Please use our website to find a qualified personal injury attorney in your state.

About Jeffrey Fabian
Jeff Fabian is an attorney, writer, and entrepreneur who has held jobs at large firms as  well as owning his own firm. While studying law at the University of Maryland, he also held an intern Position at the Maryland Department of Highway Safety, an experience that he draws from when writing about the many auto accidents that can occur on the highway. When not writing about the law, Jeff enjoys running ultramarathons and coastal South Carolina living.