What Should I Do After a Fender Bender?
Posted on June 6, 2019 in Auto Accidents
Not all car accidents reflect the horrible catastrophes that action movies and car accident PSAs portray. Some accidents are minor, causing minimal damage. In fact, many of these “fender bender” type situations occur at low speeds, like when backing out of a parking lot and rear-ending another car. Though minor accidents don’t cause as much damage as severe collisions, you should address them in a similar manner.
Report the Accident
If either individual requires emergency medical care, call the police and request these services. If neither party sustained injury, you must still call the police. Oregon law states that those involved in a car accident must notify the police. Leaving the scene if property damage or other injuries are sustained counts as a hit-and-run.
After law enforcement arrives, they will create report of the incident. Remember that this is the first form of evidence a claimant can use for their insurance or personal injury claim. Several days after the accident, go to your local police station and request a copy of the police report.
Oregon requires drivers to report their accident within 72 hours if it meets the following criteria. However, minor collisions rarely cause damage this severe.
- Vehicle or property damage over $2,500
- Towing services needed to relocate damaged vehicles
- Injury or death of any associated drivers/pedestrians
Though most fender benders don’t meet the cost-related criteria in terms of damages, it is possible that accidents involving pedestrians could cause moderate injury. In these cases, the DMV report is necessary.
While waiting for law enforcement to arrive, exchange information with the involved parties. Ask for:
- Basic contact information
- Their vehicles identification number (VIN)
- Their insurance information
Exchanging information is essential to contacting the other driver’s insurance company. Gathering as much information as you can from the associated party acts as a sort of insurance that you’ll be in contact in the future.
Though you might forget in the midst of dealing with law enforcement and exchanging information, try to remember to gather accident-related evidence. This means taking pictures of both cars within the accident scene, photographing vehicular damage, and checking for witnesses. If any witnesses did see the incident, ask for their contact information. From a legal standpoint, witness testimony could help you during the claims process, especially when seeking a personal injury lawsuit.
Write Your Account of the Incident
While the accident is still fresh in your mind, write down a detailed account of what happened from your perspective. Try to be as meticulous as possible in your account. Recording your experience is useful because it will not only help explain the situation to a potential lawyer, but it also prevents you from giving false statements. Memory is faulty, making it extremely easy to accidentally forget certain details or add new details by mistake. Writing down what happened allows you to give the same, solid account in any context.
Treat Your Injuries
Minor injuries can occur in fender benders depending on the context. Drivers who jolt to a stop might still sustain a concussion or fracture a few small bones. If an accident caused injury, treat them at a medical facility. Documenting your injuries in this way will help if you choose to pursue a personal injury claim. Medical records are one solid form of evidence when proving that an accident caused bodily damage.
Contact Your Insurance Company
Most auto insurance companies establish their own deadlines for reporting accidents, though many state that drivers must report within a reasonable amount of time. This is extremely ambiguous, so a common rule-of-thumb is to contact your insurance provider as soon as you are well enough to do so. Insurance companies are rarely kind, so making sure you remain a responsible client, even after an accident, will prevent the company from dismissing your case.
With Oregon being a fault-based state, your insurance company will use the police report, your account, and other circumstantial evidence to determine what fault percentage you possess. If you possess less than 50%, your insurance company will launch an insurance claim with the other driver’s insurance company. If you are at fault, you will likely exhaust liability coverage to address damages associated with the accident and the other driver’s medical bills.
Fender benders can be more stressful than damaging, but you must still follow the same sequence of steps as if you were involved in a more damaging accident. If you did sustain injury during a fender bender, you can recover for these damages through your insurance claim or through a personal injury lawsuit.