Even a minor accident or fender bender can completely derail your day. You may end up delayed at the scene of the accident and, in some cases, with more serious injuries than you realize. Determining whether your fender bender counts as an accident and what you should do about it can help you move forward with a claim for compensation for any injuries sustained in that accident. If you suffered injuries in a fender bender and need legal assistance dealing with your claim, contact our Chicago car accident attorney as soon as possible.
Fender Bender: The Definition
A fender bender includes any minor car accident that does not cause serious, obvious damage beyond, for example, a few dents or a damaged fender, which gives the fender bender its name. Fender benders usually mean low-speed collisions: a car that rolls forward a little too far at a red light or stop sign, or a minor sideswipe in which the two vehicles suffer primarily cosmetic damage, for example.
Do Fender Benders Count as an Accident?
Fender benders do count as minor automobile accidents if any damage occurs. A fender bender may cause more serious damage than you think. You may want to treat any minor accident, including a fender bender, as a serious incident until you can get more information about the results of the accident.
Can You File an Insurance Claim for a Fender Bender?
When someone else’s negligence causes even a minor accident, you may have the right to file a claim for any damage you sustained as a direct result of the accident. Sometimes, that damage may turn out more extensive than you anticipated. You should always carefully evaluate the damages associated with the accident to determine whether you may need to file a claim.
Vehicle Damage May Turn Out More Extensive Than Anticipated
After a fender bender, you may assume that your vehicle sustained relatively minor damage and that, as a result, you should not have to worry about filing a claim or taking care of repairs. However, even cosmetic damage can feel incredibly frustrating when dealing with your vehicle, and you may want to take care of any repairs.
The liable party’s insurance company will have to take care of any repairs associated with the accident, even in the case of a fender bender. Those repairs may end up costing more than you think. Modern cars often bend or dent quickly to absorb the force of an accident and prevent it from causing unnecessary injury to vehicle occupants.
Unfortunately, that can mean that even a minor collision causes serious vehicle damage, and repairs can add up faster than you think.
Dent repair, for example, can cost as little as $50, or as much as $2,500, depending on where the dent occurs on the vehicle and what it takes to pull it out. Repairing a few minor scratches in the paint may only set you back $100 to $200, or it may cost as much as $3,500 if you need an extensive scratch repair on your vehicle.
Before you assume that you can easily take care of repairs on your own, you may want to have a professional look over the damage to the car to determine whether it may cost more than you anticipated to get your vehicle back to its former condition.
The party that caused your accident legally bears liability for vehicle repairs and you have the right to have your vehicle returned to good condition after an accident.
You May Suffer Unexpected Injuries
A fender bender does not seem as though it should cause substantial injuries. After all, a fender bender may involve relatively minor force. However, in the days that follow, you may discover more extensive injuries than you anticipated. Whiplash often occurs after even a minor accident. Whiplash injuries can cause significant pain, stiffness, and difficulty turning your head. In some cases, whiplash may even turn into a chronic problem that causes ongoing pain and limitations.
In addition, you may suffer extensive bruising, small lacerations from flying items or broken glass, or even muscle strains and sprains related to a fender bender.
What Should You Do After a Fender Bender?
After a fender bender, you may have many questions about your next steps. Should you report the accident? What should you do if your injuries turn out more extensive than you initially thought?
Report the accident within ten days.
Even if you initially chose not to contact the police about your accident, you should file a report within ten days of the accident. Filing a police report helps establish exactly when the accident took place. That report can prove essential if you later choose to pursue compensation for any damages you sustained during the accident.
You should have exchanged information with the liable driver at the scene of the accident, including name, address, and insurance information. You should also have collected information about the vehicle involved in the accident, including the license plate number and make and model of the vehicle. You can use that information to file your police report after the accident.
Get an estimate for repairs to your vehicle.
If you do not know if you want to move forward with an insurance claim, start by getting an estimate for repairs to your vehicle. You may discover that it costs relatively little to take care of scratches and dings to your vehicle and that you prefer to take care of it yourself, or you may decide that you do not want to take care of repairs at this time.
However, keep in mind that you have the right to repairs to your vehicle, and you have the right to pursue those repairs through the liable driver’s insurance company.
While you should have a reputable repairman look at the vehicle and determine how much it will cost to take care of repairs, you should not have the shop take care of repairs now if you intend to move forward with an insurance claim. If you take care of repairs before the insurance company or one of its qualified shops has a chance to review the damage, the insurance company may deny the claim.
Make sure you did not sustain any injuries.
You may have walked away from the fender bender, assuming that you suffered no injuries and have no medical needs to worry about. However, in the days after the accident, you may discover that you sustained more serious injuries than initially thought. You may have lingering soreness that does not go away, or you may notice back or neck pain that you did not suffer from before the accident. You may also discover that the accident made existing pain and conditions worse.
If you notice any pain after the accident, have your condition checked out by a medical professional. You can go to urgent care or make an appointment with your doctor. If you notice sharp pain that does not seem to resolve or any signs of serious injury, including confusion or disorientation, visit an emergency room or urgent care center immediately to rule out serious injuries.
If you sustain injuries in the fender bender, keep track of all medical records. Start with the initial visit to your doctor.
Report the accident to the insurance company.
If you suffered only property damage in the fender bender, you might choose to deal with the insurance company yourself. Once the insurance company receives an estimate for the cost of repairs to your vehicle, the insurance company will usually approve those repairs. The insurance company may pay you directly, or you may have the insurance company pay the repair shop to take care of the vehicle.
You have the right to choose where you take care of any repairs to your vehicle, though the insurance company can insist that a professional of its choosing provide an estimate.
You should also report the incident to your insurance company, since your policy may require that you report all accidents. Your insurance representative can let you know what you need to provide your insurance company after the accident.
Do You Need a Lawyer After a Fender Bender?
In many cases, you can handle a fender bender yourself without using a lawyer to aid in your claim. However, as your claim unfolds, you may discover that you need a lawyer to help you deal with the accident’s aftermath. You should contact a lawyer if:
You suffered injuries in the fender bender.
In some cases, it can prove more difficult to file a claim for relatively minor accidents and injuries than it does to file a claim for extensive injuries associated with an accident. The insurance company often tries to prove that you could not have sustained those injuries in the fender bender, especially since you may not have medical records from immediately after the accident that will establish your injuries.
Any time you suffer injuries in an accident, you should have a lawyer manage your injury claim.
You have trouble getting the insurance company to accept liability.
The insurance company may try to prove that the driver it covers did not cause your accident and that, as a result, it should not have to pay out for the accident. If you have any trouble getting the insurance company to accept liability, working with a lawyer can make it easier to establish liability and get compensation.
You have trouble getting the insurance company to pay out.
Even with clear evidence of liability for the accident, you may have a hard time getting the insurance company to issue payment. Getting payment may be easier in the case of some fender benders, since the insurance company may not want to put substantial resources into the case. However, in some cases, you may have more trouble than anticipated dealing with the insurance company and getting compensation.
You have questions about your rights or the claim process.
If you have any questions about your rights after a fender bender, an attorney can help answer those questions and give you more information about your next steps. You may feel more confident about dealing with your claim after you speak with an attorney.
Do You Need Legal Assistance After a Fender Bender?
If you suffered injuries in a fender bender or need legal assistance dealing with your claim, contact an attorney as soon as possible.