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If you drive a lot, it’s likely you’ll occasionally pass a car accident scene. How many times have you seen the police talking to the drivers and thought to yourself, Glad that’s not me!
However, even the safest of drivers can find themselves involved in a minor car accident, and statistically, your turn will almost certainly come. In fact, the average person will get into three to four car accidents in their lifetime.
There is no legal definition for a minor car accident, but it will usually be an accident that occurred at low speed and resulted in minor damage and injuries. The most common minor car accidents are those that occur in parking lots and at stop signs and may result in a broken headlight/taillight, bumper dent, or a cracked windshield.
There are several things you can do to keep yourself safe and protected, even after a small car accident. Read on to find out the five steps you should take after a minor car accident.
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Step 1: Pull Over
If your accident took place in a location where you can safely pull over, you should carefully move to the side of the road. This will help keep you safe and avoid blocking traffic. Of course, if you were injured at all, your health and safety is most important and should be looked after first. Turn your hazard lights on so that other motorists can easily see your car.
Step 2: Check For Injuries
Take notice if you or any of your passengers are injured. If you can, check to see if the other driver is okay. If anyone involved in the minor car accident is noticeably injured, call 911.
While signs of injury will alert you to seek help right away, remember that some injuries are not always immediately identifiable. For example, you might not notice injuries like whiplash, neck or back pain, or a concussion until days or weeks after the accident.
Whiplash is a soft-tissue injury that occurs when a sudden stop causes your head to jerk, resulting in neck pain. A sudden stop could also result in a concussion. A concussion can be obvious if you become immediately disoriented or pass out. However, there are several signs of a concussion that will not be as clear, including:
- Blurry vision
- Trouble sleeping
- Confused thinking
You might also feel sore or suffer from aches and pains hours or days after your accident. You should check with your doctor to see if over-the-counter pain medication can help, or if you should schedule an appointment for a formal check-up.
Step 3: Call The Police And Gather Evidence
If no one at the scene of your accident is injured, you should consider whether it’s necessary to call the police.
If they can respond, a police report may help you later, when you talk to your insurance provider. The officer on scene will usually talk to everyone involved, as well as any potential witnesses, and detail the facts of the accident according to their observations in a police report.
Your insurance will normally ask for the police report, which may or may not state which driver was at fault for the accident. You should take down the name, badge number of the responding police officer, and police report number in case you need to get in touch with the officer later or need help getting a copy of the police report for yourself.
Although it would not be considered a minor car accident, you must also call the police if the collision resulted in death or injuries. This is a legal requirement in every state.
If your car accident results in property damage, you must usually call the police if the damage is more than $1,000. This amount will change depending on where you live so you should check with your state’s division of motor vehicles.
For example, if you live in Texas, you must contact the police for property damage more than $1,000; however, in Colorado an accident should be reported if there is any property damage (no dollar amount limit). Additionally, in Tennessee an accident should be reported if there is property damage worth more than $50, yet in Ohio all accidents regardless of whether there is property damage must be reported. You can see by these state examples that even a “minor” car accident can result in the need for a police response and report.
When wondering what else to do after a minor car accident, remember that the police report is not the only piece of evidence you should collect. Other information you may want to have includes:
- Name and contact information of everyone involved, including witnesses
- The make and model of each car
- Pictures of damage to your car and other cars involved, street signs, traffic lights, and bodily injuries
- Miscellaneous details like road conditions, skid marks, and debris from accident
If your car accident does not result in death or injury, or there is no property damage, you may decide not to call the police. This may work best if you and the other driver agree to handle the accident yourselves. There may be a risk however, if down the line, the other driver disputes what happened in the accident. Even if you don’t contact the police, do make sure to collect as much of the information listed above as possible.
Step 4: Exchange Insurance Information And Contact Your Provider
Similar to deciding whether to call the police, you will also need to determine whether you should notify your insurance provider.
If you decide to contact insurance, you will need to exchange information with the other driver. You’ll want to get the company name and policy number to provide the details to your own insurance provider. It is also a good idea to take a picture of the other driver’s insurance card so that you can refer to it later if necessary.
Contacting your insurance company might be the last thing you want to deal with but it’s important to do for two major reasons. First, if the damage to your car was more severe than you originally thought, or the other driver claims serious damage occurred to their car, your insurance provider may not honor your policy and provide coverage if you did not report the accident when it occurred. This scenario applies to bodily injuries as well.
Second, if you do not inform your insurance provider of a car accident, it may be within its rights to terminate your coverage. In fact, some states like New York requirereporting accidents not only to your insurance provider, but also your state’s division of motor vehicles (DMV).
If you worry that contacting your insurance may cause your rates to increase, you may want to discuss with the other driver the option of paying for any damage out of pocket. An easier scenario is one where there is no other driver involved. Let’s say you ran into a sign and broke a headlight. This is a case where you wouldn’t need to contact your insurance and could pay for the damage yourself.
Paying for damages out of pocket may also provide good financial flexibility as it will allow you to pay for repairs on your own time. You will also get the benefit of taking your time to collect several estimates and not feel any pressure from an insurance provider to settle.
As you can see, there are advantages and disadvantages of contacting your insurance provider. However, remember that even if you decide not to contact your insurance, you should get the other driver’s contact information in case they wind up responsible for paying for your repairs.
Finally, if dealing with your insurance provider causes you stress or is too much for you to handle, you may consider getting a lawyer to help you navigate the aftermath of your minor car accident.
Step 5: Contact A Lawyer
While deciding what to do after a minor car accident, many people considergetting a lawyer to help them through the process. A lawyer can help you deal with your insurance provider and can help you collect damages. For example, if your bodily injuries are worse than first believed, your lawyer could help you get compensation for your present and future medical expenses.
You may also need help getting compensated for damage to your car. Minor car repairs can often be more expensive than you would think, and a lawyer can help negotiate with your insurance to cover the cost. A lawyer may also make sure you are fairly compensated if you had a new or luxury car that was damaged, as the car’s value will depreciate as a result of the accident.
Get The Support You Need After A Car Accident
Dealing with a minor car accident can not only be nerve-wracking but also time consuming. An experienced lawyer can provide the additional support you need. Don’t hesitate to get online help here.
Legal Disclaimer: This article contains general legal information but does not constitute professional legal advice for your particular situation and should not be interpreted as creating an attorney-client relationship. If you have legal questions, you should seek the advice of an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.