4 Steps to Follow When You Get in a Fender Bender
Don’t surrender or lose your temper when a fender bender has rendered you injured!
…Did we lose you already with that tongue-twister? No? Great! Because we have some vital information that could help you.
Car accidents, no matter how minor, leave you feeling shook. With all the stress and shock swirling around in your head, it’s hard to know exactly what to do after a fender bender.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) reports over 6 million traffic accidents each year in the United States, with 40% of them involving rear-end collisions. In fact, the National Safety Commission estimates that a rear-end collision happens every eight seconds. With stats like that, everyone is bound to get in a fender bender eventually.
What is a fender bender? Fender benders commonly occur in intersections, parking lots, or even drive-thrus. These mishaps usually involve being rear-ended and warping the bumper, fender, or frame of your car, hence the name. But don’t let that cute name fool you. Fender benders can seem unimportant compared to the more tragic car accidents you may see on the highway, but they’re not just an inconvenience that makes you run a little late for work.
They can have hidden complications and serious consequences for both your body and your vehicle.
Below you’ll find important info related to these risks, plus recommendations on what to do in a fender bender.
1. Determine Liability
Determining liability means figuring out who to blame for a car accident and why they were legally at fault.
The person who hit you is probably eager to dodge hefty insurance rates, which go up after an accident. They may try to offer you cash in exchange for agreeing not to file a claim against them.
We all want to see the best in people, but let’s be real: it’s not wise to trust a total stranger who just hit your car. You should always call the police. You should always exchange insurance information, and use your phone to snap pictures of their license plate, license, and the damages.
If you are in a fender bender with a commercial vehicle, the company that owns the vehicle may be responsible for your damages.
Additionally, rideshare companies often have insurance, so if you’re in a fender bender with an Uber or a Lyft, you can seek compensation.
If the other driver fled the scene or you cannot get in touch with them, there’s still help available. Consult a car accident attorney to learn about your options.
Don’t let someone else’s carelessness leave you in pain after a car accident.
2. Get Checked for Physical Injuries
Even if you walk away from the scene of the accident feeling fine, you need to be evaluated by a doctor. Aches and pains might take days to appear, but they could follow you for the rest of your life if they’re not treated properly and promptly.
Common injuries after a fender bender include:
- Wrist or arm injury: When your hands are on your steering wheel – where they should be! – your wrists and arms absorb a lot of the impact of a fender bender. Wrist and arm injuries may need surgery or physical therapy and may prevent you from returning to work or doing the things you love.
- Airbag injury: If your airbags deploy, they may end up harming you in their attempt to protect you. Sometimes the force of an airbag can even break bones!
- Brain injury: Traumatic brain injuries can happen in the blink of an eye, but their impact on your life can be devastating. Severe cases of whiplash can actually cause your brain to hit the interior of your skull. You may also hit your head on your steering wheel or dashboard.
- Back injury: The impact of a car accident can cause your spine to compress or misalign, which can get severely painful. You may even be left temporarily bedridden.
- Soft tissue injury: Sometimes called “whiplash,” these are the most common injuries in fender benders. They’re also more serious than you think. Many soft tissue injuries require medical attention, physical therapy, and visits to a chiropractor to alleviate the pain.
The good news is that rear-end settlements can be substantial, especially when injuries are involved.
3. Evaluate Property Damage
When you get into a minor accident, you might think you can skip the auto shop. You may assume your accident will be labeled “low impact,” or the damage to your car can be dismissed as “cosmetic” or “superficial.”
However, serious vehicle damage could result from a fender bender – meaning you could be stuck in serious trouble.
Just like how you could underestimate your physical damage after an accident, you may think you only have a scratched bumper or cracked taillight when you actually have a car with alignment issues, frame damage, or axle problems that could cost thousands to fix.
If someone backed into the front of your car, you likely have damage to your grille. (Grille damage accounts for more than 20% of all auto accident damage.) Control arm bushings or joints could also be damaged.
Delicate electrical components are often knocked out of whack in fender benders too, causing problems with your wiring or battery. You could also face damage to your trunk or trunk latch or issues with your transmission or suspension.
Alignment problems can cause uneven tire tread wear, requiring a costly set of replacements. Your axis caster angle or tire camber could be thrown off. If you’re car-savvy enough to know what this means and how to fix it, good for you. But many drivers aren’t so lucky – and the person who hit them could be miles down the road before they notice the true extent of the damages.
Underlying issues like these not only cost you money, they put you and your passengers in danger. With so many potential hidden concerns, you can’t know for sure until you get your car checked out by a professional.
When it comes to car trouble, prevention is the cure. A tiny bit of damage can snowball into a major complication if you don’t catch it in time.
Insurance companies also have time limits for reporting accidents. Err on the side of caution and call in your claim as soon as the fender bender happens, because, by the time the body shop gives you an estimate for your repairs, it may be too late to file your insurance claim.
Don’t gamble with your life.
Have your car – and yourself! – thoroughly checked out after a fender bender. (By a mechanic and a doctor, respectively. Unless you’re a cyborg. Then you just need the one.)
If you’re worried about paying for these services or feeling overwhelmed by the complicated process of filing an insurance claim, we can help. In fact, many collision repair shops work directly with lawyers and insurance companies. Which brings us to our next step…
4. Consult A Car Accident Attorney
Many people hesitate to get a lawyer involved in their case, but remember: just because you have a meeting with a car accident lawyer doesn’t mean you have to hire one! Many car accident attorneys offer 100% free case evaluations. The advice they provide can be crucial. You might not know all of your options, but it’s their job to!
Know your rights and make an informed decision about your next steps.