While fender benders are often characterized as minor, they are still motor vehicle accidents. This means it’s possible to file a claim with insurance companies to recover for any damages.
Many insurance policies require individuals to report any accident, including fender benders.
If you don’t know what constitutes a fender bender or what steps you can take following such an accident, this article is for you.
What Is A Fender Bender?
A fender bender is a term for a car accident that occurs at lower speeds, typically involving less damage than high speed vehicle accidents. These accidents get their name “fender bender” because they describe the limited damage that often occurs.
Though fender benders are less severe, those involved in fender bender accidents should treat them like legitimate car accidents, as they can still cause costly injuries and vehicle damage.
What Causes A Fender Bender Accident?
Many different circumstances can contribute to a fender bender accident, though there are some more common ones.
For example, a fender bender is more likely if a motorist follows too closely through a neighborhood and the driver in front of them needs to stop suddenly.
Another common scenario for fender benders involves a vehicle backing out of a parking space and getting hit by another vehicle that fails to notice them.
Additionally, distracted drivers may unintentionally hit parked vehicles in various circumstances.
Regardless of how the accident took place, drivers should understand how to handle these accidents and gather sufficient evidence to support their claims. Even if damage initially seems minor and no one appears to have sustained injuries at the time of the accident, fender bender accident victims cannot always identify the full extent of property damage or injuries until some time has passed. This is why individuals must protect themselves immediately after fender bender accidents.
What To Do Following A Fender Bender Accident
After a fender bender, drivers can take certain actions to protect their health and legal rights. These include the following:
Fender benders frequently startle drivers and their passengers. To make it easier to assess the damages and take the necessary steps after the accident occurs, calm yourself and react rationally. Check to ensure your passengers are safe and unharmed. Specifically, check to see if anyone is suffering from any neck or back pain, which could indicate whiplash injuries. If you find that anyone in the vehicle has sustained injuries, call for emergency medical services and avoid movement until help arrives.
Keep A Lookout For Nearby Hazards
Drivers often want to exit the vehicle immediately after a fender bender to examine the vehicle’s exterior and confront the other driver. However, you first need to check for any potential hazards remaining on the road.
Check your rearview and side-view mirrors, and look around you before getting out of the vehicle. Otherwise, you may step into oncoming traffic or other hazards.
A fender bender may happen in the middle of the road, in which case drivers should pull their vehicles over to the side of the road if possible. Drivers should then switch on their hazard lights and check for potential hazards again before exiting the vehicle.
Contact The Police
If a fender bender results in any serious injuries or damages, the next step is to notify the authorities. It is often a good idea to call the police regardless of the seriousness of the accident, as this can come with several key benefits. For instance, the police can also serve as a mediator between you and the other driver. (When you deal with an aggressive driver, you want the police there!)
Police can also make the area safer after an accident by controlling traffic and preventing further accidents. Finally, the police will produce an accident report. This report can be a vital piece of evidence to support a future insurance claim or lawsuit.
In some cases, the police might not respond to the scene of a fender bender, particularly if the accident doesn’t result in any injuries or deaths, but it is in your best interest to contact them.
Collect Contact And Insurance Information From The Other Driver
After checking to ensure everyone in your vehicle is safe and contacting the authorities, exchange information with the other driver.
Details to exchange include:
- Phone number or email address
- Physical address
- Insurance company name and the specific policy number
If the other driver attempts to accuse you or assign fault for the accident, simply avoid the issue and reassert your request for basic contact and insurance information. To keep your legal rights protected, do not talk about fault for the accident until you have had a chance to consult an auto accident lawyer.
Collect Any Evidence To Support A Claim Or Lawsuit
Although the full extent of damage to your vehicle might not be immediately apparent after a fender bender, check for any visible damage to your vehicle. This could be limited to, well, a bent fender. However, it may also include leaking fluids, smoke, dents, engine noises, or the smell of gasoline. Get away from a vehicle with such leaks, as you could otherwise sustain further injuries from a fire suddenly sparking up.
Be sure to take note of all details you observe, including how the accident occurred, when it occurred, where it took place, and the condition of the road at the time of the accident.
To help support your case when filing a claim or lawsuit, take photos or videos of the scene, including footage of the general area, vehicle damage, and your visible injuries.
Contact Your Insurer
Once you have handled matters at the accident scene and sought any necessary medical treatment, you can begin filing a claim with your insurance company.
Drivers often want to avoid dealing with insurers for minor accidents such as fender benders, but working with insurers can help prepare for any unanticipated damages or injuries that might appear later.
Keep in mind that insurers are likely to attempt to reach the lowest settlement possible or deny the claim entirely, which is why you should consider working with a car accident attorney to help. This is true even for fender benders!
In certain cases, insurers can help educate policyholders on the steps to take to receive coverage for a fender bender. For example, they may inform a policyholder about the conditions of their policy, their deductible, and where they can take their vehicle for repairs.
Potential Hidden Vehicle Damages Resulting From Fender Benders
Fender benders may seem minor at first, but even seemingly minor impacts can cause more serious damage to your vehicle. These potential damages include:
Damage To The Vehicle’s Frame
A fender bender accident could cause different types of damage to your vehicle’s frame, including alignment issues, suspension problems, and damage to the hood, trunk, and doors. Signs of alignment problems could include unstable steering, vibrations or shudders, uneven tire wear, or noises heard while steering.
You may find that certain doors don’t properly latch or that your trunk or hood does not seal closed, allowing moisture to enter the vehicle. If the vehicle doesn’t run as smoothly when driving over bumps or rougher terrain, this could also indicate a suspension problem. These damages can be expensive to repair.
Fender benders involving rear-end collisions can also cause damage to the vehicle’s mechanics. Transmission damage commonly follows these accidents, as all-wheel-drive (AWD) and rear-wheel-drive (RWD) vehicles have transmission components in the rear. Signs of transmission damage may include leaking fluids or problems with shifting gears or accelerating.
Electrical System Damage
In addition to frame and mechanical damage, fender benders may result in damage to the vehicle’s electrical system. Bumpers often contain sensors and wiring to power vehicle proximity detection or backup camera systems, along with other devices. Even a seemingly minor rear-end incident could seriously damage advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS).
Other electrical components that could sustain damage in a fender bender include head, brake, and taillights, airbag deployment systems, and battery connections. If the vehicle’s battery dies soon after a fender bender, this could indicate that the accident damaged the wiring.
To avoid the headache of dealing with these or other damages at a later point after a fender bender, get the vehicle’s undercarriage checked. Taking the vehicle in for repairs as soon as possible after an accident can help identify any underlying damage you may have missed.
How Minor Fender Benders Can Result In Serious Injuries
Not only can fender benders cause unexpectedly serious damage to vehicles, but they can also cause serious injuries to drivers and passengers.
Even low-speed collisions can injure ligaments, muscles, tendons, and bones via impact the body is incapable of withstanding. Symptoms, aches, and pains don’t show up immediately, either. In fact, the Spine Research Institute of San Diego found that many accident victims take up to five weeks to identify their injuries.
Many fender benders jolted victims’ heads forward and backward or side-to-side, causing soft-tissue and whiplash injuries. Whiplash entails strains or sprains of the muscles, tendons, or ligaments supporting the neck’s cervical spine.
Immediately after an accident, injury victims might not feel pain, due to the trauma of the incident and resulting chemicals that the body pumps, including adrenaline. However, over time, pain can develop that makes underlying injuries more apparent. This delay in symptoms could signal dangerous or even fatal injuries.
Injuries Resulting From Seat Belts
While seat belts can help save a person’s life in an accident, injury victims could sustain injuries from seat belt trauma, including soft tissue or spinal damage, as the body presses against the restraint. Seat belts can also injure the lungs, heart, and other organs upon impact, even in minor fender benders. Unless the seatbelts malfunctioned, you would still probably pursue your claim against the at-fault driver who caused your crash because that person, not the seat belt, bears liability for your personal injury.
Airbags Can Cause Injuries
Many people mistakenly believe that airbags cannot hurt you. However, airbags contain nitrogen gas that rapidly expands the airbag even at low-speed impact, which typically comes like more of a punch to the motorist than you would expect. Like seat belts, airbags help save lives, but they can also injure you while doing so, particularly to the head and neck. As with seat belts, in most cases, the fault for injuries sustained when an airbag deploys belongs with the liable driver who caused the accident.
Signs Of Internal Injuries Could Develop Over Time
Fender benders could cause injuries that you don’t immediately notice, even when an accident causes a collection of injuries. In the days or weeks following an accident, victims may begin to experience severe pain due to injuries involving soft tissues, the spine, or certain organs. If victims fail to seek attention for these injuries, they could develop into something more serious and result in permanent damage.
You should monitor your body for pain and other symptoms following any vehicle accident, even a fender bender.
Symptoms that may indicate a serious underlying internal injury could include:
- Vision problems
- Abdominal pain
- Muscle stiffness
- Soreness or stiffness in the neck or back
- Shortness of breath
- Confusion or dizziness
- Problems with urination or bleeding
- Numbness or weakness in the limbs
Any of these symptoms could warrant immediate treatment, in which case medical professionals may be able to identify and diagnose one or more injuries.
Seeking quick treatment and generating medical records can also help support an accident claim or lawsuit. Medical records prove the extent of injuries that resulted from a fender bender and allow you to recover compensation quicker.
If you delay in identifying these injuries, insurers or defendants may claim that the accident didn’t even cause them.
Treat Fender Benders As Seriously As Any Car Accident
Fender benders can be serious, regardless of how minor they may first seem.
Prevention is the best cure. Following a fender bender, always take the necessary steps to assess your property damages and injuries, seek medical attention, and begin your claim process. Ignoring the accident could lead to complications that become increasingly difficult to handle later.
If you were in a fender bender and want to learn more about your options, consult a car accident attorney for advice on how to handle your unique case.
Since starting his firm in 1999, Stewart J. Guss has had the honor of representing clients from all over the world, helping them recover from even the most catastrophic injuries.
Today, thanks to a strong belief in those values of compassion, respect, and approachability, the firm has grown to employ over 120 legal professionals in numerous offices across 4 states, with nationwide reach.