While fender benders and minor accidents rarely result in serious injury, navigating the logistics of the situation can be tricky. Here are some helpful steps to follow if you find yourself in a fender bender.
1. Make sure you and/or your passengers are not hurt
Remain calm so you can deal with the situation effectively and efficiently. Pay special attention to your head, neck, and legs for any sign of injury. If anyone in your party is hurt, call 911 for medical attention.
2. Exchange information and use careful language
Determine whether it’s safer to move your car to the side of the road or to remain where you are. Although it may be first instinct (or simple manners) to apologize to the other driver, don’t say, “I’m sorry.” Your apology could later be interpreted as an admission of guilt. Instead, ask the other driver if he or she is okay. Then, exchange your full name, address, phone number, and car insurance information.
3. Take photos and notes
Take photos of the accident scene, the positions of the cars, any damage to your car and the other car, and license plate numbers so you can recall details later. Note the make and model of the other driver’s car, the time and date of the accident, and the exact location. Ask bystanders if they’re willing to act as eyewitnesses.
4. Call your insurance company
Call your car insurance company to report the accident. If the other driver suggests you exchange money without telling your insurance companies, politely decline. Your insurance company will advise you on whether you should call the police, how to fill out a claims form, and which repair shops you can take your car to, if necessary.
5. Call the police
If injuries occurred or if your insurance company recommends it, call the police after you call your insurance company. Getting a police report of the accident can protect you and serve as evidence if the other driver claims you were at fault. Even if you only see minor scratches on your car, the actual cost of getting your bumper repaired could be much higher than you anticipate.
6. Call the DMV too, if necessary
This varies by state, but if injuries occurred or the damage to either car is above a certain threshold, you’ll likely have to report the collision to the DMV.
7. Monitor yourself closely to make sure you’re truly not injured
According to Consumer Reports, adrenaline can mask symptoms of a more serious injury, so keep a close eye on yourself in the days following the fender bender. If you have any pain or dizziness, see your doctor.